Light of Possibility
“In this moment, there is plenty of time. In this moment, you are precisely as you should be. In this moment, there is infinite possibility.”
Girls and women in sport meet barriers head on personally and professionally as they navigate the worldly view of what women should or should not be.
We, “women” want to play too!
As young and seasoned women we face various barriers as we pursue opportunities to participate in sport and careers in sport.
My energies for this week’s post comes from my love for sport and recreation as a participant and a professional.
This week our Sport Management department at Elon University is hosting the inaugural Promise of Possibility conference to celebrate girls and women in sport. The event is a collaborative effort hosted by Elon Sport Management, WINS, and Elon Athletics. We will have amazing women throughout the entire day meeting with students in classes and participating in panel and round table discussions.
Girls Just Wanna Participate
In regards to participation you can find numerous articles and research regarding barriers faced by women pursuing opportunities to participate. The Women’s Sports Foundation and the Women’s Sport and Fitness Foundation are two organizations that are studying participation from a North American and global perspective. The work by these organizations share some of the following barriers faced:
Women across the globe are facing various barriers to gain access to opportunities for participation in sport and recreation.
Even as a young child I have had people tell me how I should look, what I should do, what I shouldn’t do, how I should do it when it came to participating in sport...ok you get the point. Yes when it comes to being a woman who wants to play and pursue a career in sport - it’s not always that easy.
I can remember when I was thirteen participating in my first kata (shadow fighting) at an Isshin-Ryu karate tournament. I was competing against all males (five to be exact). Well, I won first place!!! And what did the guy who won second place say to me. No, no, no it wasn’t you were awesome you kicked butt, it was, “uh, yeah I hurt my ankle I probably would have gotten first place if I didn’t hurt it last week.” Pshhhhh, suck it up a girl beat you, but it wasn’t about the winning as much as it was the preparation getting to that point and then me second guessing that maybe I didn’t deserve first place. .
When I was a dancer at a young age the teachers always commented on my size, oh Cara you’ve really trimmed down this year. Would if they had focused on building my self-confidence and focused more on how I improved on a certain dance move, instead of my weight?
I have dated people who were concerned about me going to the gym and not supportive of my fitness goals...Bye! Sometimes familial influence or those closest to us can deter us from participating.
Girls Just Wanna Career
In regards to pursuing a career in sport and recreation, there are articles that share barriers in professional sport arenas and college athletics. My colleague Mila Padgett and I are finalizing a research article that explores women who work in campus recreation.
Various articles, websites and blogs such as,
Women and the Labyrinth of Leadership, Femeconomy, and Light Navigating the Labyrinth share barriers faced by women who are navigating their way through the sport and recreation industry:
When I was younger, many times I would laugh off any experiences that made me feel uncomfortable or made me feel like a lesser citizen around male counterparts by either acting like one of the guys and contributing their behavior to the ole boys will be boys attitude. The sad part is it would be at the detriment of lowering my own self-confidence and my male peers not seeing me as someone who had relevant skills as a leader.
I can remember during my first faculty job over 10 years ago I had a young son who I was weening from breast feeding, finishing my dissertation, commuting 30 minutes back and forth to work and just learning how to navigate faculty life. I had a male colleague in a position of power tell me, “Oh, you’ll probably be just like my wife and not finish your Ph.D.” Don't worry he ignited a fire in me and I’ve had my doctorate now for ten years.
I share the above story because our words and organizational culture can either support or hinder the development of women as professionals in the sport industry.
Colleagues and friends, men and women who support our girls’ and women’s participation in sport and the pursuits of careers...I applaud you! Thank you.
I ask each of us to think about the young girls and women in our lives. How will we support these women, young and seasoned to participate and pursue careers in sport .
May she dwell in the light of possibility.
To all of you girls and women who are participating and pursuing a career in sports, here is a quote I would like to share with you.
“The most important thing is to be honest about yourself. Secrets weigh heavy and it’s when you try to keep everything to yourself that it becomes a burden. You waste energy agonizing when you could be living your life and realizing your dreams.
With so much love for all of you, get out there and shine your light of possibility bright!