Why We Celebrate National Girls and Women in Sports Day

Besides being an acronym I can never remember how to spell, National Girls and Women in Sports Day (#NGWSD) means to me: YES, girls and women can play sports; YES, girls and women can excel in sports; and YES, it’s productive and vital for us to promote sports and athletics for our girls at home.

Just as they do for boys, sports promote heathy living. They foster a sense of competition. And yes, despite the cliché, sports also build character – whether in teaching about hard work; or teamwork; or social interaction; or how to win with grace or lose with dignity. Those all are lessons in life. They benefit all of our children, whether boys or girls.

When the WNBA was established in 1997, there was not a girl in America that grew up with women’s pro basketball as an aspiration, the same as many boys (myself included) who grew up with dreams of playing pro sports.

“Why had girls not been playing sports all along?”

Why? Pro basketball with shoe and TV contracts did not exist prior to the WNBA. Even Tamika Catchings, whose dad actually played in the NBA, grew up without dreams of a women’s pro sports league. The WNBA did not exist until she was a freshman in college.

I’m not as old as my 15-year old stepdaughter likes to tell me every day, but yes, I do remember times in my own childhood in the 1970s that sports participation among girls was discouraged, or at least not commonplace. As a kid, I noticed and I never understood. My dad was a high school coach. He coached boys and girls teams, alike. “Why had girls not been playing sports all along?”

Now, of course, girls do play! Participation numbers for girls youth sports grow each year in probably every mainstream sport, most notably basketball, volleyball, softball, swimming, gymnastics, track & field, even golf. On the college and professional level, we see revenues rising just as we see the level of talent increase with every year that goes by.

It’s productive and vital for us to promote sports and athletics for our girls at home.

As we celebrate #NGWSD in 2017, I’ll share a particular moment that I enjoyed only two weeks ago at Brownsburg High School. It was a Tuesday evening in which the Bulldogs had their own “advance celebration” of girls in sports!

That 15-year old is now on the swim team. The beauty of her participation, in particular, is that she just wants to participate! She enjoys sports and we love that she competes. She just wants to play, we give her every opportunity, and we see the benefits daily – whether at home or in the pool! Maddie is a fairly average athlete, to be honest, but she is determined and engaging, and truly enjoys both the interaction and competition. Over the years, she has participated in basketball, softball, cross country, rugby and now swimming. Talented or not, the kid has never shied away from a challenge, and that is a learning point, itself. Bravo, Maddie!

I attended a home swim meet that Tuesday night and watched 20-plus races, with Maddie competing in four of them. She didn’t win any of her races, but she beat a few kids in various races and she consistently lowered her best times. She’s only considered swimming “her sport” for the past three months, so we are thankful for every victory, large or small.

After the meet, my wife and I waited for her in an unusually crowded hallway, just outside the gymnasium where the Bulldogs girls basketball team was preparing to play Avon, its local rival. While we waited, I was pleased to cross paths with several of Maddie’s former basketball teammates, from several years ago when I had helped coach her youth teams. Some of those girls have advanced to high school JV and reserve teams, and I was pleased to chat with a few of them before the varsity game began.

My wife and Maddie and I didn’t stay for the basketball game, but of course I follow them and other school accounts on Twitter. From home that night, I learned the Bulldogs had won a double-overtime thriller with a desperation 3-point shot at the buzzer. What a game! Go Bulldogs!

I was thankful, too, for the former WISH-TV cameraman who now is a BHS TV instructor. Adam Good, who I follow on Twitter, provided this exciting highlight of the game-winning shot!

That Tuesday night in Brownsburg provided a social gathering point for kids and families surrounding a pair of girls sports events.

In tiny Kiowa, Colo., on the same night, my 14- and 17-year old nieces won a 48-31 game for their Class A high school with enrollment of less than 100. Their dad and their mom (my brother-in-law and sister) are their coaches. Their team is currently ranked in the top five in the state, with aspirations of competing for a state title.

Those moments I encountered in Brownsburg surely take place every week in hallways, gymnasiums and natatoriums in every state of our great country. And from Indianapolis to Kiowa and all around America, girls from big and small schools compete annually for conference, regional or state championships in a variety of sports.

That is why we celebrate National Girls and Women in Sports Day.