Social Media Rally For Girls Sports Today

Dec. 8, 2010 Pop-Quiz from our partner org, San Mateo Starlings Volleyball, serving low-income and minority girls age 12-18:

Did you know that girls who participate in sports are:

…”92% less likely to use drugs, 80% less likely to have an unwanted pregnancy, far more likely to graduate from high school and attend college, and far less likely to suffer from childhood obesity that can lead to diabetes, hypertension, depression, respiratory ailments and even death?”

And that’s just for starters in terms of trackable benefits for teens and society as a whole…Today, National Women’s Law Center is rallying for girls sports in a massive blog fest asking “What Did YOU Win By Playing?” With a newsy 8 pp pdf titled, “She’ll Win More Than A Game.” (and recently, NYTimes’ health blogger Tara Parker-Pope backed it up with this story, “As Girls Become Women, Sports Pay Dividends”) NWLC has asked for personal stories spinning off the “what did you win” question, so I interviewed some of our inner circle teens, including my own daughter. MY reply would simply be, “I wish I knew, because it wasn’t offered to me in high school…instead I went the leadership route.”

Organized sports like girls’ volleyball, basketball, and softball didn’t exist at my school, which my 15-year old daughter finds unfathomable. In Hawaii, where many of us were outdoorsy water rats, we took our athletic prowess to the beach, literally. Fast forward to Title IX’s impact on sports today…

Girls sports can literally be  GameChangers. (as evidenced by the Nike teaming with Ashoka ChangeMakers) and as you can see in this NYT Feb 15, 2010 article citing data from a few years earlier on both genders, there are differences state by state enabling better tracking of Title IX impact over time. (love this Q&A on myths vs facts about Title IX too)

On the personal stories front, our own Shaping Youth Board of Directors VP and Treasurer Liz Mayta  has a gazillion of them, citing evidence of obvious, palpable, life-shifting experiences with her Starlings Volleyball team, deferring unwanted behavior in favor of healthy channels.

She cited stats to back up her fledgling Starlings San Mateo team, “Starlings’ high school graduation rates are almost double the national average for minorities (e.g. in ’06, 95% of their 200 seniors graduated, 80% went on to college, 61% received athletic and academic scholarships)

“Starlings USA has been around over a decade but our San Mateo division is pretty new, and expanding fast. There’s a high demand for a club team that gives girls the opportunity to play in otherwise unaffordable ‘elite club teams’ which can be untouchable for many, even with some financial aid.  We like to say Starlings gives these girls a chance to soar.”

As for my own personal stories, my daughter (at left) has an unyielding passion for volleyball which quickly became her self-identity, even though she’d never played a team sport AT ALL until middle school.

Now, she plays volleyball year round for the high school team, and despite the financial strain, she has started playing on a ‘power’ club team post-season (we don’t qualify for aid, but consider the cost/benefit analysis a mental and physical health investment for her).

In fact, after watching Olympic Gold medalists Kerri Walsh/Misty May as a beach duo, she decided to try it for some sporadic summer fun too…Point being, axing the high school team sport with any budgetary cutbacks would have a monumental impact, yet Title IX continues to battle to keep girls’ sports, since they’re often the first to go amidst educational/economic turbulence.

In keeping with NWLC and Women Talk Sports Network sharing of personal stories about how girls’ sports has shaped girls’ worlds, I tossed some interview questions to a few teens in my own close knit circles, with sports ranging from high school team sports to rowing/crew, gymnastics and other sports rarely supported in public schools. Random responses, local high school teens:

Shaping Youth, Amy Jussel: What if cutbacks in funding or Title IX reallocation of resources suddenly whacked your sport of choice? And…

What has girls sports done for you, pro or con? Or do you play at all?

Volleyball is the place I go to have a ‘safe zone’ where I can fully focus and put my head in the game and lose all of the drama and distractions.” (yep, you can bet who that one is 😉

“My sport is rowing, and they don’t have it at school, but I can say that when I had to give it up because of all the practices and time sinks, I felt a little lost…It’s like I’m a ‘nothing’ now.”

“I play basketball year-round and love it, but gotta say, coaches can make or break a player’s game. If they run you down and get in your face it’s just not worth it to take that kind of abuse, so I’d say girls’ sports experiences are as good or as bad as the people they have involved with the game. We  end up with volunteers or teachers who don’t have ‘real’ experience sometimes…and that can turn positive into negative.”

“People always say girls sports don’t matter as much as football because people don’t come to the games…I could care less if people come or not, I just want to be out there playing my game. Why does everything have to be about profit?”

“I think team sports goes way beyond the game…I say hi to people in the halls that I have zero in common with outside of the team; we’ve earned respect for each other through effort in the game, rather than who’s popular or how they dress…that may not sound important, but it IS.”

“I don’t play any sports but wish I did. I’m just no good at it. I skateboard, but it’s not like there’s a team for that.”

“I like the fact that any size or shape can surprise you…it’s not like only tall skinny girls can slam dunk a ball or run fast playing soccer.”

“It’s about ability and agility. I remember playing against one girl who looked tiny and whoa, she jumped straight up in a vertical lift…teaches you not to judge.”

“I dunno, I was in gymnastics and kept getting hurt, which makes me think that’s why we don’t have a gymnastics team at our school…the liability. I know they used to have a team here, if they still did, I’d do it for sure.”

“Yah, why can guys can ram their heads together and everyone’s okay with it, but if female athletes get hurt the sport goes away? If they cut my sport I’d say ‘what makes them any better’ and fight to save it.””At our school, girls have the option to play on a boys team if there’s no girls team available. So girls CAN be on the football team if they try out and withstand the conditioning, I just don’t know any who want to. The policy is fair, but it would be even better if girls had their own opportunities…I’ve always wanted to play LaCrosse. But I hear people get hurt and public schools don’t want the risk. Almost seems like a private school for access kind of thing. I don’t really know how they decide what sports to offer.”

“At our school they turn girls sports into ‘clubs’ —there’s no support for athletics that are more individual. Co-ed teams like golf, tennis and waterpolo are becoming big because of shared costs, so maybe it’s all about the money. Or the fact that girls and guys wanna hang out together on a team.”

“To me girls sports is a way to prove yourself beyond the cliques. Even the brainiacs see how you can perform in a clench and treat you differently in class sometimes…it shifts respect.”

“I think the training to stay focused and not get distracted helps me in other areas, same with losses or beating myself up about stuff…the team is all in it together and they won’t let you tear yourself down, so I’ve learned how to cope with foulups better, or as my mom says, it “builds resiliency.”

I could go on with more quotes and stories, but want to push ‘publish’ and get it into the mix today, but one thing I DO want to shoutout loudly as a recurring theme:

Many of these girls wish their team sports didn’t have to be so intense in ‘all or nothing’ game play…

They’ve talked a lot about the stresses of ‘recruitment’ at the collegiate level and the parent pressure to perform for ‘scholarships’ if they can dribble a basketball or break a time record for speed…In essence, they’d like to ‘have a life’ and not be solely responsible for representing their entire gender for equity across the board; and instead have more equitable funding allocations, opportunities, less seriousness and more FUN.

Sounds reasonable to me. You?

Sound off in the comments below about your girls’ sports experience (pro or con) for a chance to win a FREE copy of “A Chance to Fly” Essays, Poems and Art from Starlings Girls’ Volleyball Clubs, USA.

Finally, don’t miss this video I found from Bowdoin titled “Participating in Athletics=Higher Self Esteem. (can’t snag an embed code so DO visit their site to see it, as these girls echo many of the feelings described by the teens I just spoke with at the high school level) Also, this is a solid Katie Couric blurb about Title IX importance (again, embed code disabled, but worthy minute of your time)

Have a story? Share it today…It’s a fun way to use media to reach massive mindshare on the importance of girls’ sports. Sign up to post with NWLC here.

And use the power of media for positive change…

I created this Animoto video for our board member Liz to use for internal/nonprofit funding pitches for San Mateo Starlings, just to give you a feel for middle school girls sports empowerment. (music credit: KT Tunstall)



  1. Great post, Amy. I put a Title IX thread in my new book, which comes out in January. And thanks for spreading the word on this campaign. I wouldn’t have known about it otherwise!

  2. Very nice,Amy. I am glad to see this post , and glad for your daughter and rest of the inner circle girls 😉 they sure are lucky , even thought I am 25 year boy , I don’t have chance of participating in any sport team for 6 years now , i am so yearning for it , and it do change your character and mood being with others playing the game 😉

  3. @Debra…was great to see your Pink Locker Society listed on the NWLC site, will read/comment on your post and am eager to hear about your new book too! 🙂 I’ll be linking to ALL of the participants in part two of this post, recapping the preteen impact (middle school level)

    @Edmond, I hear ya; at age 25 it gets harder to find a niche group to play sports with (my bro, nephews, etc. all use the local YMCA for pick up games, bball leagues and intramurals as they “miss it” big time.) Any chance that might work for you? (guess it depends on the sport, but sometimes even Community Colleges host league teams and adult play?)

    Thanks to all for taking the time to comment. Joy juice to hear from ya..which reminds me, I have a couple of FREECYCLING books involving sports/YA etc that are coming up in the freebie gifts to readers this Dec if any of you are interested…One is called “Young Runners” by Marc Bloom about sports safety and young bods…

    Here’s the post on it.

    Thanks again!

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