Reaching the Sidelines by Jess Larson

Competition is a driving force in sports, careers and our everyday lives. Take inventory of your own life; did your Thanksgiving family football game get a bit heated this past weekend? Does board game night descend into disagreements that require multiple rule-book consultations? Ever find yourself gloating when your sports team won?

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Receiving our instructions for the scavenger hunt

Our staff is no different. It is comprised of former high school and collegiate athletes, and a lot of our staff continues to play intramural sports or continues to challenge themselves in the fitness world. Our annual staff event, a scavenger hunt around Union Park, has a history of becoming rather heated which lead to the creation of the “walking or speed-walking only rule” this year.

So it might seem a bit incongruous that such a highly competitive group of people is running a non-competitive girls’ sports program.

Personally, I love a bit of cutthroat competition. Rugby, soccer, football, dodgeball, if there’s another team to beat, I am all in and may end up bleeding by the end of the game. But when I walk into our program sites as a guest coach, and my mentality shifts. Girls in the Game strives to create a safe, inclusive space for all girls to be athletes. From the confident future basketball star to the girl that normally hides in the back of PE class, we get them running around, trying new skills, and playing their hearts out.

An inclusive, non-competitive program is an opportunity to bring in those that normally relegate themselves to the sidelines. We’ve all known or been that girl during PE class: unsure, hesitant, and self-conscious about our own abilities. Girls in the Game is the chance for any girl to jump in and play without the normal insecurities of not being good enough or having to make the team roster. That isn’t to say we don’t keep score; learning how to fail and try again is another essential lesson we teach our young athletes. Rather, through creating a safe, supportive environment where winning is not the only focus, we are able to get all of our girls participating and actually having fun whether they win or lose!YWCA 11.2 (4)

As Nike co-founder Bill Bowerman once said, “If you have a body, you’re an athlete.” This is a philosophy we wholeheartedly embrace at Girls in the Game, as well as one of the reasons we teach up to 25 different sports. Our program gives girls the opportunity to learn which sport works best for them, and many times, our coaches learn new sports right alongside participants. From the traditional soccer, basketball, and football to the non-traditional, yoga, dance, golf, or lacrosse, there is a way for all girls to be active when you create an environment of learning, encouragement, support, and growth.

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Athletes of the Day!

In the end, even this highly competitive staff sees how essential our non-competitive atmosphere is for creating a safe environment. No matter their athletic ability, we have a place for all girls on our team. Do we hope that some of our participants will go on to compete in high school, college, and beyond? Of course we do! But more than anything we want to help girls find their own confidence so they are in the middle of the game instead of hiding on the sidelines.

Want to learn more? Check us out on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and at our website.

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