By age 17, 51% of girls who participate in sport quit because they feel they don’t belong. But we also know that girls are twice as likely to have confidence on and off the field if they play sports regularly.
Ahead of the FIFA Women’s World Cup in France we caught up with U.S. soccer stars Lindsey Horan and Emily Sonnett of the Portland Thorns and adidas rising stars Lauren Body (merchandising), Madison Ornstil (basketball sports marketing) and Alex English (hockey design) to talk about the importance of accessibility and visibility for women and girls in sport.
Sport creates confidence
Going into kindergarten I’d introduce myself and say I’m a hockey player. People would say ‘I didn’t know girls played hockey.’ Well, they do – I’m right here to prove it.
I made my mom be my soccer coach when I was younger because I was so scared and shy. I got more and more confident and put everything into it. I could express myself on the soccer field. That was my home.
I was a dancer for 20 years of my life. I just remember being on stage and all the energy I got from competing and being in a team environment. It felt like the first time real discipline was in my life and that’s translated to my everyday life.
I wanted to become better so I wanted to play with boys and prove myself. That challenged me because I was shy and not as confident as I wanted to be.
That set the tone for the rest of my life and the decisions I have made throughout my career.
Women need visibility
When we were younger, we didn’t have YouTube or Instagram. Now, using social media can make us so accessible to people – it’s going to be huge if you use that tool correctly.
Leading up to a World Cup, we’re more accessible because all the women’s national games are on TV but what about the club scene? How are we supposed to get more popular if they’re not going to play it on TV? I have to tell my parents every week how to watch our game.
It’s not just about having it on TV, but WHY am I going to watch it on TV? What’s crazy is that people will say negative things about women in sport when they’ve never even put themselves in a position to watch. That’s where my passion lives, in shifting that narrative.
Changing the narrative
We’re not telling enough stories. It’s all about what’s trending. It’s important to tell the hard stories, the true stories of what you go through day-to-day because it’s so raw and it’s so real and not enough people are doing it.
We train to be champions, but that type of narrative does mess with our minds, too. We work out but we’re not going to look like the yogis.
I want to be in shape for me as I identify as an athlete, not as Instagram tells me to or others validate me. It’s a big issue, especially when you’re not getting your confidence from scoring two goals or making a good pass.
Believe in your purpose
Don’t quit. Don’t listen when people tell you can’t do something. At the end of the day, nobody knows what you’re capable of doing. Hell, you don’t even know what you’re capable of doing.
Always come back to your core and your purpose and your passion.
There are going to be so many people that are going to make you fall out of love with your sport. You have to find that place in your heart that you don’t let that happen. Don’t let anyone make you fall out of love with whatever sport you’re passionate about or whatever you’re doing in life.
It’s okay to be uncomfortable, not be good enough, and to want to quit. It’s okay to ruffle some feathers. I’m not going to compromise myself for anyone else. I’m going to trust my own process and eventually I’m going to get where I want to be.