Many of us have heard the statement that girls play with Barbies and boys play sports. For a long time, this misconception was instilled in many girls, discouraging them from engaging in sports. Even today, most professional sports leagues focus on men rather than women, greatly impacting the pay discrepancy. For example, the maximum salary of women in the WNBA is $109,500 whereas for the NBA is $16.407 million. In fact, ESPN and Turner Sports pay the NBA a combined $2.6bn annually to televise the NBA, whereas ESPN pays the WNBA only $12m annually for rights fees. How does that empower girls to join sports? Well, unfortunately, it doesn’t. By the time girls reach 14, they’re twice as likely to drop out of sports compared to boys (1). According to the Women’s Sports Foundation, there are a number of reasons why this happens. Many of it revolves around a lack of support, stigma and decreased access to quality training. What that basically means is that it’s time for our society to start shifting its attitudes about women in sport, and start empowering them to showcase their success in this field.
The 18-year-old girl and the road to the NFL
A great example of a woman who has fought this stigma is Becca Longo, an 18-year-old kicker from Arizona, who has become the first woman to earn a football scholarship at the Division II level or higher. Longo started playing football competitively in her sophomore year, with the intention of playing as a kicker in college. Sending video highlights to college coaches, she started to secure her role as a serious football player.
Unfortunately, not everyone embraces this decision and this talented teenager has faced her fair share of doubters too. “I’ve heard people say that I’m just a publicity stunt, that I don’t deserve this chance,” Longo told the Bleacher Report. “I don’t let that bother me. I just need to stay true to who I am — and stay true to what I’ve learned and keep improving — and I’ll be just fine. I really believe that. I really do.”
Despite the stigma, Becca’s passion for this sport, hard work ethic and persistence is what allowed her to earn this prestigious position. “She’s kind of put herself out there to let everyone know she wants to do this,” Adams State head football coach Timm Rosenbach told CNN. “If she’s able to compete at a level we think she’s able to compete at, we should afford her that opportunity to do that.”
Future sportswoman: never give up!
Having this sort of support from peers is a determining factor in whether someone wants to continue in their sport of choice. As such, mothers are encouraged to support their daughter’s decisions to participate in sports and to let them know that no sport is selective to men only. Women like Becca Longo are challenging these misconceptions each day and letting other girls know that if you try hard enough, you can succeed. “I’m going to go in, I’m going to be ready to compete,” Longo said. “I’m not one to back down to anybody.” Hoping for a day that all girls interested in sports can say the same thing.
Girls drop-out at different rates depending on where they live. Sabo, D. and Veliz, P. (2008). Go Out and Play: Youth Sports in America. East Meadow, NY: Women’s Sports Foundation.