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​The Power of the Woman Athlete: BlogHer and SheKnows Media

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The Power of the Woman Athlete

Winning Women at Blog Her 17

At the recent BlogHer conference, Donna Orender moderated a panel about the important role of women athletes in inspiring and empowering women and girls.

Given our mission at Poppy Sport is empowering women through sport, we were groupies in the front row, thrilled to see this topic front and center at a national level.

There were some inspiring women in the panel line up:

  • Donna Orender:  Founder of Generation W, a platform connecting women and girls

  • Gabrielle Reece: Pro-volleyball player and first Nike endorsed woman athlete Gabrielle Reece

  • Laurie Hernandez: 2016 Rio Olympic medal winning gymnast

  • Jessi Miley-Dyer: Women's Commissioner of the World Surf League

  • Dani Rylan: Founder and Commissioner of the National Women's Hockey League

Are you an athlete? The heart of an athlete

That was the question first posed by Donna Orender to the audience. A few of us raised our hands. I threw mine up and gave a woo hoo.

Not thrown off by the lack of hands Donna went on to add that she played in the NBA not because she was 6ft and statuesque, but because she had the heart of an athlete. The kind of heart that is determined, focused, embracing, strong, and the kind that doesn’t shy from hard work.

She then posed the question again; do you consider yourself and athlete now? The majority threw up their hands.

How sport influences self esteem

Each of the athletes in the panel shared a commonality to their experiences being involved in sport. 

Self esteem.

The self-esteem was brought on by being strong, passionate and involved in something bigger than themselves. 

Whether it was a team or an individual sport, it didn’t matter.

Sport can shape girls with life lessons and in a world of oversaturated media, every girl needs more insight at a younger age to discover who they are, their strengths and their fortitude.

Peak Performance

We can all use what we know as athletes to be peak performers in other aspects of our lives. It’s well documented that athletes have a specific insight into long term work. You can be a high performing athlete without a work ethic that leads you there.

When we encourage girls to stay the long course and be part of an athletic journey, we are showing them the way to a stronger life and growing into women they can respect.

‘You don’t have to act like a man to be a badass woman’

Decades ago, women were written off as men-wannabe’s if you were an athlete. 

The moderator Donna Orender agreed. 

Using the example of the NBA, she commented yes, male NBA athletes are amazing and should be celebrated for their talent and strength. Just like WNBA athletes should also be celebrated not compared with the NBA stars. 

Every gender of athlete deserves the merit of being celebrated for how they are.

Gabrielle Reece had a great comment about women not needing to act like men. 

'As women, we are blessed with not only power, but femininity, love and strength. She reminded everyone that you don’t have to be act like a man to be a badass woman.'

Pressure is a privilege

Billie Jean King made these words famous when she declared ‘pressure is a privilege.’ This phrase came up a lot at BlogHer. I liked to think of it as the unofficial motto of the weekend.

Serena Williams (yes, that Serena Williams) mentioned it too in her session where she talked about her career.

As athletes we have all had a moment where we question our sanity as we’re on a start line or feeling overwhelmed by the endeavor we have taken on.

It serves us to remind ourselves that we are privileged to be in these situations; and amongst those who push us to challenge who we are. 

These are experiences that women a generation ago never had the chance to experience.

From now on, I am owning this phrase as my mantra before every race.

How we inspire young girls

Every time we lace up the running shoes, take a girl to watch pro women athletes, we are inspiring them.

Olympic medal winner Laurie Hernadez dreamt of becoming a gymnast after she watched a performance on television.

If you cannot see it, you cannot dream it. This is especially true of lesser-covered sports like surfing.

So we challenge you to expose as many girls in your life to as many sports as possible.

This very weekend I am going to watch a ski jumping competition (in July, I know!), because why not?! Do some research, find some sports – be it live or on You Tube, and let them see women in action.

Using Social Media for Good

Social media gets a bad reputation a lot of the time. But let's focus on how it can help.  Girls now have access to amazing roll models that can inspire them every day.  Celebrate that with them.  Allow them (if age appropriate) to engage in real conversations with their sports idols as a means of aspiration and you never know, they might answer back.  

Even as an adult, seeing real time how my own sports idols work their tails off to be where they are, has allowed me to see that they 'suffer' just as much as I do; they just do it faster.  

Sport as the game of life

As women, every one of us can all learn from sport. The main takeaway from the panel was that women are strong; women are really powerful.  

And the more we talk about the strength of women, the more we champion us and our peers, the better chance we all have of leading the next generation on every level.

Cheers!

Melanie

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