Statistic by Mary Banker

What comes to mind when you hear the word “Sports”? Different people have different ideas, feelings and thoughts when asked about their favorite team, their own experience, what they think of certain coaches or athletes…the opinions never stop.  It’s why we have so many media sources focused on all aspects of the sports world.

I grew up playing sports and watching sports. I was paid to coach sports and talk about sports. But this still doesn’t hit the meaning of sports for me as an individual. For me, sports saved me from becoming a negative statistic.

I grew up in a single parent home without a father that was involved in my life. I have a phenomenal mother who raised me but she could not do it alone. I have been headstrong my entire life and I like to challenge things…if you ask my mother I would challenge every single thing out of her mouth. And I like to negotiate, I’m sure this was exhausting with nobody to back her up. I was born to play sports – stubborn, driven, and over the top competitive.

Did you know that girls who grow up without fathers are at higher risk for becoming sexually promiscuous or abusing drugs or alcohol? They are five times more likely to live in poverty, more likely to become victims of abusive relationships or falling victim to predators who capitalize on their lack of emotional stability. Sports and physical activity have been proven to prevent girls and women from falling into these unhealthy patterns. And that is where Girls in the Game comes into play, literally.

According to the True Sport Report;  ‘Young women engaged in sport are less likely to be overweight or obese, depressed, smoke, use illicit drugs, or have unwanted teen pregnancies… Suicide and sexual victimization also is lower in girls and young women engaged in sport.’ If you have ever been part of a team you know the feeling you have, one of autonomy, belonging, support, and a place where you learn and grow.

Girls in the Game provides a safe place for girls to not only learn new sports but to learn about themselves and to belong. Our participants learn how to be active, to play and to take care of themselves not only physically but mentally as well.  A strong sense of belonging is a benefit of being on a team or being a part of something greater than yourself. It provides feelings of pride, accountability, support, worth and love. I feel a bit like a broken record but I have never been a part of any other program like Girls in the Game.

How did I not become a statistic? Because of sports. Because of physical activity. Because of people seeing in me things I didn’t see in myself just yet. According to the U.S. Census, today 1 in 4 children under the age of 18 — a total of about 17.4 million — are being raised without a father. These statistics scream the need for Girls in the Game and other programs that invest in our youth to help keep them from falling into the negative statistical data category.

Together we can do so much so let’s choose that. I wake up daily and know how blessed I am to have had those coaches and those teammates, and now I get to give back the way people gave to me by being a part of Girls in the Game. One day at a time, one interaction at a time, we are changing the game.


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