February 5th is National Girls and Women in Sports Day, a day set aside to celebrate and encourage the involvement of females in sports, so more women can emerge as leaders in sports and life. Sports are much more than just a game or just a competition. Sports are an opportunity to learn more about yourself and develop skills that will benefit you in and out of competition.
In celebration of National Girls and Women in Sports Day, we asked members of our women’s goalball team to share their experiences in sports and how they use their love for sports to enact change. Here’s what they had to say…
“Discovering adaptive sports, and more specifically goalball changed my entire life. I grew up loving sports and always being frustrated I couldn’t compete at the level of intensity I wanted too. I watched both my brothers compete in sports all year long and was always jealous of them. I tried soccer and couldn’t track the ball, which you can imagine was frustrating. I did track and cheerleading, which were both fun in their own ways. However, I really wanted to compete in a contact sport.
“When I discovered goalball at 15 everything changed. Honestly, I didn’t love the sport at first. I was really unsure of the whole concept of throwing my body on the ground. However, after some practice and my first tournament, I was hooked. What drew me to goalball was that for the first time in my life, my vision wasn’t a barrier or limitation and I was on an equal playing field with all of the other athletes. I was able to be an athlete first, not having to compensate for my vision loss. This was an empowering feeling and I became obsessed with the game.
“Being a part of a sport and on a team has shaped me into the person I am today. Through goalball, I have learned success, failure, frustration, hard work, determination, drive, teamwork, confidence, and accomplishment. Through sports, I was able to grow my identity into an athlete and improve my confidence in having a disability. I saw others in the sport as role models, helping me become more comfortable and accepting of my disability.
“Goalball has meant everything to me, and my biggest regret is not learning about it sooner. Therefore, it is my goal to spread knowledge, education and awareness on adaptive sports and the Paralympics. I want all children, with any type of disability to be aware of the various sports opportunities out there for them. It can simply be for recreation, or you could be like me and have dreams of making the National team and winning a Paralympic medal.
“Regardless of the level of your commitment, sports are an amazing opportunity that all individuals should have equal access too. I use my social media platforms to advocate and spread this message and create awareness by posting about the tournaments I attend, and the training I do. Often when someone is blind or visually impaired, it is thought sports and physical activity is off the table for them. I want to be a role model and demonstrate that this is not the case. Someone with a disability can do the same things as an able-bodied individual with some adaptations and accommodations. I want to change how disability and sport are viewed and never have a student sitting out of a PE class because the teacher doesn’t know what to do with them. Sports changed my life, and I want to change others’ lives through sports.”
“Sports has always been a big part of my life. It’s the one constant thing that brings me so much joy. With that said, some days it brings me pain and agony. Very similar to life itself, but I keep on striving. However, I don’t know where I would be without sports. It’s my outlet to express myself. Throughout my years, I’ve been privileged enough to participate in track and field, wrestling, and currently, goalball. I am very grateful for each experience.”
“Sports has positively changed my life and helped me become the person I am today. Sports helped me build self-confidence, character, work ethic, emotional intelligence and so many other characteristics as I have gone from a recreational athlete to five-time Paralympian in two sports. My sports career has provided me with several female role models that mentored me into becoming the woman I am today. I am thankful for those female athletes and coaches who made a difference in my life, which then inspired me to make a difference in the lives of other blind athletes.
“At the 2008 Paralympics in Beijing, China, everything came together for the USA women’s goalball team as we stood atop the podium with our gold medals. In a sold-out arena in Beijing, we beat the home country to claim the gold medal in a thrilling back-and-forth game. I was the starting center during that gold medal game and before that game started, I knew my life had changed no matter the outcome. I had finally figured out how to harness my emotions while playing and use them to positively push myself to be the best center on the court. When I walked on the court, I felt like a different athlete. The confidence I had in myself and my team was oozing out of me. Many goals were scored in that game for both teams but in the last minute, my teammate and one of my best friends scored the go-ahead goal to help us clinch the gold medal. After my experience at the Paralympics in 2008, I felt much more confident about who I was and wanted to be. That experience helped me see the type of footprint I wanted to leave in the sport of goalball.
“Being a five-time Paralympic athlete, participating in a residential goalball program, a mom, wife, and professional, I hope to have inspired female athletes to pursue their dreams both on and off the court. Whenever the opportunity arises to coach at a clinic or give a presentation about goalball to blind and visually impaired individuals, I make every effort to be there so I can share my journey.
“It brings me great joy to see young blind athletes playing goalball and other sports. My hope is that they all have dreams of representing Team USA at the Paralympic Games. I know when I was 15 years old and found out about the Paralympic Games through goalball, that was my dream…. Go USA!!!”
“Sports has always appealed to me. I always wanted to be part of a team with my own jersey number. Working with others to be more than what we could be alone, is what sports meant to me. For example, getting to put on the red, white and blue is so surreal. My teammates and I get the honor of representing the greatest country in the world, and we play for every single person in the U.S., whether they’ve heard of goalball or not. Sports has taken me all over the world and helped me meet and form bonds with people I otherwise might have never met. Sports have always been more than just wins and losses.
“I’m not sure if I’ve inspired the next generation, but I’ve taught goalball at camps like Camp Abilities in Georgia. I try to be an athlete who is open to sharing what I’ve learned to whoever wants to listen.”
History of the Celebration from Women’s Sports Foundation
The Women’s Sports Foundation was established in 1974 to advance the lives of women and girls through sports and physical activity. February 5, 2020, marks the 34th Annual National Girls & Women in Sports Day (NGWSD). This celebration inspires girls and women to play and be active, to realize their full power. The confidence, strength and character gained through sports participation are the very tools girls and women need to become strong leaders in sports and life.
Join us in Celebrating National Girls and Women in Sports Day February 5th, 2020!