Reflecting on National Women and Girls in Sports Month
One thing that always bothered Chantal Celestin, Customer Success Manager at LeagueApps, as a girl in sports was the phrase “you’re good for a girl.”
“I’m sure I was just as good, or better, than the boy next to me,” says Chantal. “I truly believe that notion is starting to fade, and there’s more of a focus on the improvement of gender equality in sports.”
As a woman, I’m very lucky to work in an environment where women are constantly lifted up and celebrated every day of the year. This February specifically, LeagueApps took extra time to highlight and celebrate the amazing women in our company and how their involvement in youth sports led them to who they are today for National Women and Girls in Sports Month. This allowed us to learn many lessons from one another; lessons that each of us took away from participating in youth sports.
Women in Sports at LeagueApps
For me, playing youth sports taught me to remain confident in the wake of failure. I’ll never forget the overwhelming urge to quit basketball when I didn’t make my middle school team, but getting back out there on the court meant challenging the voices in my head that told me I couldn’t do it. Had I not gone back out there, I never would have gone on to play varsity and developed some of the lessons (and friendships) that I would carry with me for the rest of my life.
“Sports taught me incredible lessons about teamwork, perseverance, hard work, dedication, and how to learn from my mistakes, ” says Morgan Fuller Kolsrud, Customer Success Manager.
Kelsey Grambeu, Mid-Market Program Manager, counts youth sports as the reason she is resilient, adaptable, and empathetic.
“I learned to lead by example, and that your actions speak far greater than words,” she says. “That the team as a whole is stronger than any one individual. And that there is no greater satisfaction than leaving everything you’ve got out on the court, on the field, and in life, and walking away with no regrets.”
For many of us, youth sports were a way to connect with members of our family and spend extra time together. Ericka Norberg, Sales Operations Analyst, reflects on seeing her dad at every meet, rain or shine, weekday or weekend—despite living in a different state than her. Jamie Hancock, Program Director of People Operations, says she’ll never take for granted the support her parents gave her throughout her soccer career (even when her dad was telling her she could do better!).
Overcoming Challenges as Girls in Sports
It’s abundantly clear that women have to work tirelessly to be taken seriously in sports, and still face challenges surrounding equal pay, opportunity, and recognition every day.
“There were fewer offerings and less budget put towards sports for the girls than there were for boys,” Kara Lawson, Senior Product Marketing Manager says of her childhood. “I’ve always felt and experienced that women’s sports are not taken as seriously as men’s sports, whether on the professional level or not. It was typical to see sons pushed into sports more than daughters.”
Girls drop out of sports at twice the rate of boys in middle school, and when they do so, they miss out on all of the lessons and opportunities that follow them throughout their lives.
“All my programs were underfunded. We always got gear that was of lesser quality than what the boys got. We were never assigned the highest quality coaches,” says Ashlyn Heller, Senior Copywriter. “At my high school, our coach was the art teacher (who had no experience with coaching soccer) while the men got a former professional English player. We always got worse practice times and game times than the men. Our fan section was always half the size of the mens despite having a better record. The list goes on.”
The inequalities of women in sports are not limited to just the field. Among sports commentators, only 17.2% of them are women.
“It was always tough having conversations about sports with men growing up, ” says Melissa Macaluso, Senior Customer Success Manager. “It was normal to be talked over or have my opinions belittled because the version of the sport I was playing was the ‘women’s version.’”
There’s hope that things are improving, though.
Women’s Sports saw a huge win just a few weeks ago when the US Women’s National Soccer team settled their class action equal pay lawsuit against the U.S. Soccer Federation for $24 million. This means the players will receive $22 million, and U.S. Soccer will pay an additional $2 million to benefit the players in their post-career goals and charitable efforts related to women’s and girls soccer. Similarly, the WNBA just received its largest-ever capital raise of $75 million.
During a LeagueApps Q&A with the 1999 Women’s National Soccer Team co-captains, Jessica Scannapieco, Enterprise Business Development, had the opportunity to ask one of her role models Julie Foudy—who is now a reporter for ESPN and LeagueApps investor—how women in the industry should approach the need for more access to women’s sports on TV.
“The good news is, when I first came to ESPN, it was all men in the production group, all men as directors, all men on the upper levels and C-Suites. Two years ago when I was covering the 2019 World Cup, I was in Bristol on set for SportsCenter. Two female anchors were my co-hosts. I had a director in my ear who was a woman, I had a producer in my ear who was a woman. I had all women camera people,” explained Julie. “Before we were about to go live I was like, ‘stop! Stop! Look around, you guys! Everyone on set is a woman! That has never happened to me at ESPN before!’ So, that is changing slowly. Those are the decision-makers… Getting women in those positions, as well as familizaring men with the fact that women play and there’s an audience for it, it takes time and a lot of frustration, but I do feel like we’re at this beautiful tipping point.”
Our Advice to Young Girls in Sports
According to The Girls’ Index, “…girls who are involved in sports are 14 percent more likely to believe they are smart enough for their dream career and 13 percent more likely to be considering a career in math and/or science.”
At a company where the majority of women have participated in sports at one point or another—whether just as children, through high school, or even on the collegiate level—we are walking success stories of how playing sports builds confident, hard working, strong, and intelligent women. Our advice to young girls who are not sure they want to continue with sports can be boiled down to two words: Keep playing.
“Never give up, remember who you are, and treasure the time you spend doing what you love. The impacts of sports you play will carry on into who you become as an adult and how you affect those around you,” says Ericka. “The memories you make and the lessons you learn are things that you will have forever and may just help you get through the toughest days.”
Ashlyn suggests bringing your authentic self to sports every day, because you’ll be rewarded for it in the lessons you learn about friendship, leadership, and yourself.
Some other important advice the Ladies of LeagueApps offer to girls playing sports today:
- Growth happens when you step out of your comfort zone.
- The journey is far greater than any one destination.
- Appreciate the small moments, for one day you’ll look back and realize they were the big ones.
- Even if you are not the most talented one on the team, perseverance will pay off.
- Keep going.
- Be true to yourself, believe in yourself, and don’t let anyone else’s opinion of you, your sport, or your journey discourage you from chasing your dreams.
- Don’t forget to have fun.
- Society puts a lot of pressure on being the best, but just go out there and enjoy the moment.
- Play against girls, play against boys, play against people who are older than you. You might not always win, but there is always something to learn.
- Don’t be afraid to try new sports, go to new places, and meet new people.
“Looking back, I realized I had just internalized that boys’ and men’s sports were the default. Things have come a long way in the last 20-25 years, but that doesn’t mean we’re on equal footing yet,” says Jamie.
Onward and upward, ladies.