You were born a daughter.
You looked up to your mother.
You looked up to your father.
You looked up at everyone.
You wanted to be a princess.
You thought you were a princess.
You wanted to own a horse.
You wanted to be a horse.
You wanted your brother to be a horse.
You wanted to wear pink.
You never wanted to wear pink.
You wanted to be a Veterinarian.
You wanted to be President.
You wanted to be the President’s Veterinarian.
You were picked last for the team.
You were the best one on the team.
You refused to be on the team.
You wanted to be good in algebra.
You hid during algebra.
You wanted the boys to notice you.
You were afraid the boys would notice you.
You started to get acne.
You started to get breasts.
You started to get acne that was bigger than your breasts.
You wouldn’t wear a bra.
You couldn’t wait to wear a bra.
You couldn’t fit into a bra.
You didn’t like the way you looked.
You didn’t like the way your parents looked.
You didn’t want to grow up.
You had your first best friend.
You had your first date.
You had your second best friend.
You had your second first date.
You spent hours on the telephone.
You got kissed.
You got to kiss back.
You went to the prom.
You didn’t go to the prom.
You went to the prom with the wrong person.
You spent hours on the telephone.
You fell in love.
You fell in love.
You fell in love.
You lost your best friend.
You lost your other best friend.
You really fell in love.
You became a steady girlfriend.
You became a significant other.
YOU BECAME SIGNIFICANT TO YOURSELF.
Sooner or later, you start taking yourself seriously. You know when you need a break. You know when you need a rest. You know what to get worked up about and what to get rid of. And you know when it’s time to take care of yourself, for yourself. To do something that makes you stronger, faster, more complete. Because you know it’s never too late to have a life. And never too late to change one.
JUST DO IT.
This is probably one of my favorite Nike ads ever. Over the course of 8 pages, you watch a young girl grow into a woman, only it isn’t the same girl and in each frame she is playing a different sport. On the first page she is probably 11, a few years younger than I was when I first saw the ad. She is standing in a field at dawn. She looks happy, but perhaps a little unsure of herself. The next page shows a strong, graceful runner who looks to be around 15. It is a profile shot on a peaceful road and the girl is running by herself. Her stride is long and she looks fast, confident, powerful and happy. Her feet aren’t even touching the ground. That shot is my favorite. Over the next four pages you see four more girls, each a little older than the one before. She is doing aerobics (this was after all, the early 90’s), power-walking with a girlfriend, rowing solo in a skull across a river, and jumping rope. The last page of the ad shows a woman, who looks to be in her early 30’s, standing confidently in the same field. Of course because it is, after all, an ad, there are shots of the shoes she’d wear doing all of these activities creatively placed throughout.
I LOVED this ad as a young girl. It spoke to me in a lot of ways. I liked what it said, the way it looked and the way it made me feel. It validated some of the seemingly contradictory feelings I had growing up. While I never wished my brother was a horse, I remember feeling so many of the same things. Seeing them all there in print made the awkwardness I sometimes felt growing up seem normal, endearing even. I related to the girl in the ad and I looked forward to turning into the woman on the last page. She embodied how I wanted to feel. She looked fit and strong, smart and confident – comfortable in her own skin. Like she could smoke you in the mile, kill it in the board room, and work it at a cocktail party in her fab little back dress and Louboutins.
I still love this ad and am motivated by it. It still speaks to me. It reminds me that I’m still the same silly girl that spoke a little too fast, giggled when I got in trouble and loved the feeling I got after completing a task that made me feel strong. Only now I’m just a little older, some days wiser, but never immune to being reminded that nothing makes me feel more on top of the world than a butt-kicking workout.
So today, on a day when we celebrate girls and women in sports, let us recommit ourselves to making images of athletic, active girls and women prominent in our society – and tangible, visible role models. We need to put a premium on the messages we are sending out to our youth instead of filling up our media with images of women with an unattainable, unhealthy body-type that girls are harming themselves in order to achieve. And it shouldn’t stop there. On a local level, we can all play a part. Let’s remember how important we can be in the life of a young girl in helping her feel at home in her own skin. It certainly doesn’t have to be through sports. Nurturing a passion in a child is important regardless, but especially at a time when a young woman’s body begins to change shape, her hormones go haywire and we live in a society where a slew of unrealistic, mixed messages are sent out every day about how a woman “should” look, feel or act, providing her with the opportunity to feel strong, confident and accomplished in her own skin, is invaluable. Take a young girl in your life to a local high school or college women’s basketball or softball game, buy her a ball or a glove, or take her out for a run. Watch a women’s professional sporting event on TV together, or chose a local woman’s team to follow in the newspaper. BE the change you wish to see.
Athletics, at all levels, is one of the most effective avenues available where girls can develop and nurture self-discipline, initiative, confidence, and leadership skills, among others. Participation in organized sport builds necessary communication and cooperation skills that play a key role at home, at work and in society as a whole. There is a need for increased opportunities for girls to participate in and pursue physical activity at the community and scholastic level to increase their health and well-being on a daily basis so that they are able to develop not only key life-building tools, but lifelong fitness habits at an early age. If a simple 8-page Nike ad that adorned my wall in high school, and now sits in a binder filled with other inspirational, motivational clippings, could do so much for me that I am sitting here twenty years later still talking about, imagine what opportunities you could foster in a young girl or woman in your life to be involved and inspired by sports; to feel good in and about her body. In the theme of this year’s celebration, “Play, Believe, Achieve.” The potential is unlimited.
For more information on National Girls and Women in Sports Day, please visit: