Sport was always such an important and large part of my childhood. From the time I can remember, I was chasing my older sister and her friends around through the woods, thinking it was so cool that I got to participate even though I was younger. Cross country skiing was our family sport, and it was a unique one for me to grow up in because boys and girls always were treated the same. We didn’t have a “boys” team and a “girls” team. We just had a team and even though it was an individual sport, we had some serious pride of where we were from and who we were representing. That changed a bit when I went to college (we had a men’s and a women’s team), but I still went for runs and other training sessions with the men’s team and we both relied upon each other to perform well in the overall team competitions. In fact, the overall team competition often mattered to us more than the individual result.
My college team at the University of Vermont. We all had a blast, together.
Putting girls in sports gives them confidence. If you do any sort of research, that fact is backed up by a lot of studies. Last year, Robby, our kids and the rest of my family (including my mom, dad, sister, brother-in-law, niece, and nephew) went to the Bill Koch Festival for the first time since we had kids. The Festival brings together kids ages 4-13 from across New England to race and play on cross country skis. Last year, there were over 450 kids! We had three generations of our family there and lots of others did as well. It was a giant reunion with the added bonus that it was an incredible playground for kids. Our daughter, Svea, had skis on her feet for a solid 5 hours each day. We used to attend the Bill Koch Festival every year growing up. It’s all about having fun on skis. Yes, for sure, there was racing, but the days were full of games, obstacle courses and speed traps. One of the coolest things I saw as a change from when I was growing up was that the boys and girls started together. Two kids started at the same time and sometimes a boy started with a girl or a boy behind a girl and it was awesome to see! I have commented a few times recently about Lauren Fleshman’s book, Good for a Girl. Her research shows that “there are no sex-based performance advantages in sport among children.” Up until the age of 12, girls have the ability to compete with boys. So, why not have the girls start with the boys when they are so young? It made me happy to see the starting line with mixed genders and it brought me back to the days of racing my best friend, Jake, down the hills growing up. We used to have a competition for how many times we would fall in a season. If we fell in a race, it would count as double. I never thought back then about the fact that he was a boy, he was just my good friend and we had lots of fun together. Fast forward to my post athletic professional career, I looked at my male co-workers as I used to look at my male teammates – just another part of the team and I was just as qualified to be there.
Sport is so good for confidence, and I am grateful for it. I recognize I was privileged to grow up in such a supportive environment. Books like Good For a Girl and seeing more businesses led by women will help lift girls everywhere. Happy Women Led Wednesday and I hope you all get some special time outside on this upcoming long weekend.
A few notes/call outs:
1) Cassie Abel, the founder of Wild Rye is also the woman behind Women Led Wednesday. Check out their mountain bike and lifestyle clothing! They are also a B-Corp!
2) Check out the Women Led Wednesday site to find other woman led businesses and to find some pretty staggering facts about women in business and the challenges we face.
3) Follow Rachel Cohen, Brooke Goudy, Annie Davis, Angharad Porteous, Rachel Joyce, Gabriela Hydle, Sara Headley, Laura Wilson and Gretchen Powers on social media! They are all part of the main image in this blog and have been supporting Bivo in such positive ways!