REACH by Mary Banker

I am competitive. Ask anyone who has played sports with me or has worked with me (or has lived with me, I’m sure my brother has some stories). I see things a little different and I like to set lofty goals. People tend to think I’m a bit out there but I don’t mind.

When I started coaching at University of Chicago I was given a list of athletes to recruit, I took one look at their times and threw the list away. I researched, made a new list and gave it to the *head coach. The athletes I planned on recruiting ran 3 to 4 second faster in the 100 hurdles than the original list. I was essentially recruiting conference champions and potential All-Americans. Guess what? Two years later, the team I recruited, along with the head coach, took 4th in the nation.

The first triathlon I ever did I decided I wanted to win, to which my coach (same *head coach mentioned above) said; ‘Why don’t you just go have some fun and see where you end up?’ I got third place by six seconds because I got stuck behind someone walking during one of the transitions. This still makes me mad.

I hate losing and I love being challenged, so it’s a no brainer that I thrive in competitive sport environments. I was a three sport high school athlete, ran track in college, coached collegiate track…during this time I was all-conference, All-American and won a national title as a coach. That is all fine and great for me and girls like me but it begs the question, what about the girl like my younger sister who had a growth spurt and wasn’t coordinated like I was? What does she do? Where does she go? I’ll tell you.  Usually on the sidelines or feeling completely excluded from sports and physical activity.

When I first met Girls in the Game it was through a founding board member, Kevin Krebs. I went to Field of Dreams (our annual gala) and fell in love. I became a student of Girls in the Game. I wanted to know everything, about the programs, who worked there, who was their audience, and most importantly in my mind, where did I fit into this amazing organization? I learned Girls in the Game was an all-girl environment and I understood why that was beneficial but the next part threw me for a loop. Girls in the Game was also a non-competitive environment. What? Why?

And then I read our evaluation results and research and learned that because of this all-girl, non-competitive environment Girls in the Game reaches more obese and overweight girls over other programs. There it was, our REACH. All girls from all different walks, from all different talent levels, together realizing who they are on the inside, through sports, fitness, nutrition and leadership education. Every girl needs to play and every girl needs to learn her self-worth.

Sports psychology research has shown that girls gain confidence and self-esteem through participation in sport and physical activity. A positive team sport experience may mediate the risks of low social acceptance and dissatisfaction with one’s body.

Read the sentence above again, ‘sport and physical activity’. That is the key, not every single girl is going to be an All-American but every single girl needs to learn her worth and have the chance to play and be active. As I write this I think about my younger sister. She was not athletic but she loved to play. I watched her struggle with her self-worth as she grew up and it was heart breaking. She would have benefited from Girls in the Game. I would have too. Two completely different girls, with different interests, but the same needs. This speaks volumes about Girls in the Game’s reach.

There are girls out there waiting to hear their own voice for the first time, to accomplish a goal for the first time, to learn a new sport for the first time and I can’t wait for them to experience that with all of us at Girls in the Game by their side. I am delighted that my competitive spirit and lofty goal setting is being used in a place where the return on the investment cannot be measured because reaching every type of girl is priceless.

*The head coach at University of Chicago is a competitive man and one of the best coaches in the business, in no way should my over ambitious recruiting or triathlon goal make him seem otherwise.

SHAMLESS PLUG; JOIN US FOR OUR SKYLINE SOIREE OCTOBER 1ST from 6PM-9PM at Guaranteed Rate’s rooftop, 100% of the money raised is going directly to Girls in the Game. As you can imagine I have a lofty goal for the amount of people who will attend and the money we will raise to continue Girls in the Game’s amazing programs.  

To get involved or donate visit; girlsinthegame.org

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