Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Rally for Girls' Sports is today: My story

Rally for Girls’ Sports DayThe National Women's Law Center is hosting a Rally for Girls' Sports today, something I'm really happy to take part in. According to the Center's site, "Across the web, bloggers, tweeters and Facebook users are raising their voices in celebration of the far-reaching benefits of athletics participation for girls." If you're on Twitter, you can follow conversation there with the hashtag #Rally4Girls. The Center is compiling blog posts and stories here, which will be updated throughout the day.

I'd like to share my story of participating in sports when I was younger. Except what I took part in isn't a recognized sport, per se: I was on my school's dance team. From sixth grade through my senior year of high school, I danced at pep rallies, football games, basketball games and took part in numerous parades and competition. It was a lot of time and work, especially all through high school. We worked with the marching band in high school, so we attended every marching band practice and band camp. We attended dance camp every summer. Our team wasn't seasonal, as many sports are -- it lasted all year, even over the summer, with practices, performances and competitions. And yes, we competed. We competed as part of the marching band, and we competed at dance events all over our state and beyond.

And I loved every single second of it all.

Being part of this team defined my teenage years probably more than any other singular experience. I was able to spend hours and hours with such a great group of girls (about 30-40 of them, depending on the year) who were so dedicated to what we were doing and to each other. We did have tryouts for the team, so not everyone who wanted to take part could (unlike when I ran track in junior high school and anyone who wanted to could be part of the team, even me who can't run for anything), but even with having tryouts we ended up with a pretty diverse group of girls ... and that was so great for me, a white girl who grew up in a fairly white neighborhood. It instantly broadened my mind and my experiences.

That was hardly the only benefit of being on this team, though. I learned what making a commitment means. I learned about being a leader -- I was an officer my junior year and captain of the team my senior year -- and how different people respond to different kinds of encouragement and criticism. I was active, all the time. Practicing dance four to five times a week for months on end kept me healthy and flexible (oh, to have the flexibility now that I had then!). The competitions kept me motivated; I always wanted us to win, as did all the other girls, and that helped drive us even when we were exhausted. But even when we didn't win, we were learning that sometimes you have to just tip your hat to the team that did, because they deserved it.

Being part of the team even motivated me in other areas of my life. I had a job from the time I was 15 until I graduated, and of course I had homework. Juggling the team, work and school wasn't always a walk in the park, but I made it work and in the process learned about time management and prioritizing.

But the best part of it was the camaraderie. The girls on the team became my best friends. How could they not? We did things together like spend 21 hours on a bus on our way to a week-long trip Florida, where we competed, marched in the Citrus Bowl parade, marched through Epcot, spent an entire day at Disney World and spent New Year's Eve together at Sea World. And then spent another 20 hours on a bus on the way home. Some of the girls were on the team with me from sixth grade on, and others only for a year or two. I met so many great people this way, people who I might never have had class with or people from other grades I might never have hung out with otherwise. Example: When I was a senior, one of my favorite teammates was a sophomore -- what were the chances I would have been friends with her without being teammates?

I am really grateful for my experience. At the time, I thought it was "normal." But now, all these years later, I realize just how many people did not have good high school experiences. I was lucky. I did. And it was because of the dance team and people on it. I know that a dance team isn't considered a "proper" sport, but I do think my experiences translate to what many girls on "proper" sports teams go through. I can't even imagine what my high school experience would have been like if I hadn't been part of that team. And all of this is to say that every girl deserves that experiences, should she want it. It can be life changing.

The National Women's Law Center has all kinds of resources about Title IX. (For those unfamiliar with Title IX, it was passed in 1972 and it states "No person in the United States shall, on the basis of sex, be excluded from participation in, be denied the benefits of, or be subjected to discrimination under any education program or activity receiving Federal financial assistance.") I would especially recommend checking out their article "Debunking the Myths About Title IX and Athletics." And it's not too late to take part in Rally for Girls' Sports; you can sign up here.


Anonymous said...

I had many of the same experiences by playing in the school orchestra. Many people had these experiences in band, orchestra, drama, dance troops and other arts.

My point is that dance is an art, not a sport. It stands alone, without having to be subordinate to a sports team, relegated to cheering someone else on.

Dance is a wonderful thing, but it is not a sport. It is an art.

Now, if you mean by dance troop a cheer leading squad, then no, this is not a sport. It does not stand alone as part of the school sports system. People generally do not show up on Friday night to watch the cheer leading squad, unless their kid is on it. People show up for a football or basketball game. Cheer leading is on the side, so to speak.

An interesting point is that these cheer leaders never showed up for the girls sports team when I was in school. Is it the same now?

While you received benifits from your experiences, please don't call it a sport. This denigrates all of women's sports.

Dancer and musician,

Rosie said...

I didn't call it a sport. But even if I had, I completely fail to see how that would "denigrate" all of women's sports. What our team was like is much closer to a sport than it was an art. You can take my word on that or not, but you can't tell me what my experience was.


Anonymous said...

I did not say what your experience was. I only said that dancing is not a sport.

You can disagree, but a court has ruled that cheer leading is not a sport in relation to Title IX.

Dancer and musician,

Rosie said...

Let me be clearer: I played sports AND was on a dance team. So it's not like I'm talking out of my ass when I say they're comparable. I don't care what a court ruled about cheerleading, nor do I care how many times you tell me "dancing isn't a sport." The entire point of my post, which you seemed to have entirely missed, is that these experiences were good for me, and that I hope every girl has a chance to experience something similar in school. Which, you know, would be more possible if more schools were in compliance with Title IX.

Anonymous said...

I did not miss that these experiences were good for you. I'm glad they were. The problem with calling cheer leading a sport is that schools will replace long standing, undisputed sports with cheer leading.

The court case I mentioned was because Quinnipiac University tried to replace volley ball with cheer leading so it could save money and still be in compliance with Title IX. I also think the male athletic the director considers cheer leading less threatening because it originates from girls on the side lines cheering the boys on the field. The court didn't look on this as an improvement in Title IX compliance. I'm sure Quinnipiac's volley ball team didn't look on this as an improvement because they sued the university.

The level of athleticism does not make an activity a sport. It requires competition with consistent rules, a recruiting program, play-offs, among other things which competitive cheer leading does not have. Since Title IX states that women should have an athletic experience that is genuine and equivalent to that of men, this excludes cheer leading.

I'm a strong supporter of Title IX. That is why I don't think cheer leading is a sport. Maybe in the future it can be worked into some kind of format making it a legitimate sport, but now it isn't even considered an emerging sport.

Dancer and musician

PS I also participated in sports (karate, brown belt and running).


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