A Girl’s First True Love

I met my first true love at five years old.

My mother threw some cleats and some shin guards on me and shoved me out on a soccer field where I ran around like a lunatic and smashed into other five-year old girls and boys. I was in love — truly, madly, deeply—almost immediately. From that moment on, playing sports would be my passion.

I dabbled in gymnastics, but was too tall. I swung a bat a few times as a softball player, but was too fidgety. I took a few dance classes, but was not exactly graceful. I karate-chopped a few imaginary beings, but was too deadly. Ultimately, I picked up a basketball for the first time in eighth grade and tried out for my middle school basketball team.

Who knew that stepping out on that field at five and stepping into that gym eight years later would turn into awards and accolades on high school varsity teams in two different sports, opportunities to travel all over the United States, a move across the country to California, a full athletic scholarship and free college education, life-long friendships, and unbelievable experiences I will never forget?

I honestly don’t know what my life would be like if I never had the opportunity to play sports. I couldn’t imagine a better way to grow up and a better way to discover who I was as a friend, daughter, student, teammate, and ultimately as a woman.

Female athletes: In honor of National Girls and Women in Sports Day (NGWSD) yesterday, I hope you take a few minutes to step back in time to recall the smell of the brand new jerseys for the first time, to recall the sound of the basketball taking its first bounce on the court, to recall the weight of the bat as it swings for the first time, and to recall the distinct sound you heard when the crowd first roared for you.

Whatever your sport was, I hope you remember those first moments when you fell in love with it. Then I hope you remember to never forget the women who paved the way for us. Thank you to all of the pioneers. Thank you for your passion, your dedication, your strength. And thank you, most importantly, for giving girls everywhere the opportunity to truly fall in love.

Every day should be National Girls and Women in Sports Day.

National Girls and Women in Sports Day (NGWSD) began in 1987 as a day to remember Olympic volleyball player Flo Hyman for her athletic achievements and her work to assure equality for women’s sports. Hyman died of Marfan’s Syndrome in 1986 while competing in a volleyball tournament in Japan. Since that time, NGWSD has evolved into a day to acknowledge the past and recognize current sports achievements, the positive influence of sports participation, and the continuing struggle for equality and access for women in sports.
By Carey Noakes
Associate Board Member