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.

Addressing the crowd.

Sport creates confidence

AE:

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.

LH:

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.

LB:

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.

LH:

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

ES:

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.

LH:

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.

MO:

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.

A group picture with adidas employees and soccer players Emily Sonnett and Lindsey Horan. girls in sport, empowerment, diversity, Womens World Cup
It's important to know how to treat your audience.

Changing the narrative

AE:

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.

ES:

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.

MO:

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.

Five women sitting in a circle and having a conversation. girls in sport, Lindsey Horan, Emily Sonnett, diversity, empowerment, soccer, Womens World Cup
Getting the conversation going.

Believe in your purpose

LB:

Always come back to your core and your purpose and your passion.

LH:

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.

MO:

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.

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by Deirdre Kuit 19.06.2019
I'd like to comment on this paragraph:

"Women need visibility

{...}but what about the club scene? How are we supposed to get more popular {...}"

How about involving your fanbase / our customers, and making the official merchandise available for purchase? And by that, I dont mean a rip off of the men's official jersey (we are selling girls shirts of the bigger teams, like Bayern and Real Madid, but they are just girls fits of the men shirt: Real Madrid still resist to create a women's team, for crying out loud). But a proper copy of the girls team jersey. So for "my" club, Ajax, with ABN-AMRO as main sponsor, instead of Ziggo who's sponsoring the men's team only.

I for sure would wear the Ajax women's team with pride. Not just to support my club, but also in support of girls in sports!
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by Diane Kim 29.09.2019
Fully agreed on this article. Would like to request more girl’s active wear not in pink color but in functional consider their needs. Lack of products to choose is another reason why girl’s feel like they are not belong in. I’m facing this problem with my my daughter in teens who love all kinds of exercise.
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