Sometimes I have a real GUILT TRIP about the amount of time, money, and emotional investment I make in triathlon. I am certain that there is a fair amount of the general population that thinks one of 2 things:
1. “Seriously, does that woman just need an expensive, consuming hobby?” (to which the answer is NO and YES, possibly)
2. “What do we care about some almost middle-aged lady doing sport?” (Hold up, I am getting to that…)
On the treadmill this morning (the day my Friday run becomes an outside run will be the most GLORIOUS day of my life this spring!), I had my headphones off and was checking my cadence when I instead heard one middle-aged man call out another middle aged man in the weight machines section of the gym. The first man must have been complaining about soreness, workouts, the cold, or something of the sort to the second man. Then the second man goes, “Oh, stop acting like a girl!”
EXCUSE ME? What did that man say? (In the first man’s defense, he was offended. Not offended like me, who took most of my self-control not to jump off the ‘mill and punch the dude. Show him how a GIRL acts.)
What is it about women and sports? WHY does inequity still exist in 2014? Why do stereotypes continue to exist for women being serious athletes?
Sochi 2014 will be the first year that women will be allowed to participate in ski-jumping. As far as sources can date, women have participated in ski jumping since the late 1800s or early 1900s. So now, over 100 years after the first recorded women’s jump, we are just now getting around to adding it? And since we have finally added women’s ski jumping, what about Nordic combined? We already have both races separate (x-country skiing and jumping in one event, for those not in the know)…why not Nordic combined?
Women have the same goals, drive, and passion to pursue sport. In fact, many have shown themselves to continue to be passionate for sport long after their ship was supposed to have sailed (try telling that to a woman!), and in particular I think of Olympians Dara Torres and Janet Evans mostly due to my swimming background. In my personal experience, I played on the University of Michigan women’s water polo team while women’s water polo was on the cusp of NCAA sanctioning. We were a club team, but that was a very important role that we played despite the fact that no one will probably ever know we existed. However, the USA gold medal team of 2012 was anchored by a goalie that used to stroll the sidelines of our practices as a mere teenager after school. I am sure that this early influence was not lost on her; otherwise, where would she have been when women’s water polo became a varsity sport in 2001?
While more opportunities exist for women to compete at the highest levels than ever before, many stereotypes continue to exist for women and girls. Women have an important role to fill as lifelong ambassadors of sports- creating a more equitable playing field for the next generation. As a fitness professional, I feel a responsibility to continue to both make sure that my girls include fitness and activity as part of their lifestyle. As a mother of girls and an athletic competitor, I feel a responsibility to make sure that my girls have even better opportunities than I did to compete at the highest level at which they choose to achieve. The strongest way to live out that commitment is to be a role model to those girls every day of my life.
It thrills me that triathlon became an NCAA sanctioned sport for women this year. It validates my own work in the field, as well as that of my friends all the way up to professional competitors. My heart sang when my oldest daughter told me she wanted to compete in her first triathlon this summer. However, if she told me that she wanted to start Nordic combined, you can bet your bottom dollar I would be there making sure that there were opportunities for her to act like a GIRL and compete to her heart’s content.