Girls In Sport by Coach Kelly Morrone

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Why are sports so important for young girls?

Answer: One word.


Why are sports so important for women at the collegiate level?

Answer: One word.


Discussion: Growing up the youngest of three children, I learned very quickly about the term "survive and advance." You often hear this when it comes to March Madness, or any other post-season tournament championship settings. You just have to survive the game that you are currently in, and advance into the next one. Critics, fans, participants, and coaches just say this popular term as a nod to understanding how hard a particular competition is. If you are the person or team that has survived, it means on that day your preparation, focus, discipline, training, and most importantly your confidence out matched that of your opponent. 

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What place does this term have when it comes to a family structure, school setting, or the workplace? Think of all of the different stages in a girl's life. As I look back I often wonder how I survived my youth without any major personal traumas. I'd like to say my journey has been pretty typical. But, as I've navigated through the sports world from a very young age until now, I realized that I had a weapon that many of my peers never had, CONFIDENCE. That confidence made me capable of always advancing. However, that wasn’t the case for all young women.

I wanted to do what my older siblings were doing, I wanted to do what their friends were doing. They, naturally, didn't want me to because I wasn't as fast as they were, or as big as they were, or as skilled as they were. The only way I could get into their circle was to assert myself, make them hear my request, and when given the chance I had to be ready. As a family we were into a ton of sports: baseball, football, swimming, diving, lacrosse, basketball. Regardless of what we were playing the whole neighborhood would get involved. There were always winners, and losers. If you wanted to be picked on a team for the next game you had better survived the first game. Of course we fought, yelled, cheered, or stood our ground over who was right and who was wrong. So when it came time to do the right thing, I did. The unpopular classmate that was being picked on by the mean girls heard my voice. When I was treated disrespectfully, or unjustly I spoke up for myself. When my top college choice hit the brakes on recruiting me I called to ask why. Then, I told them what a mistake they were making and that I was the player that they needed.  I didn't think twice about being vulnerable through my communication. What if they started picking on me? What if I wasn’t good enough to play at that school? Those questions were more of an afterthought than an instinct. My internal response mechanism was conditioned by my confidence, which was created through my involvement with sports. I knew how to survive and advance.

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Everything started in the neighborhood, then on my youth teams, in high school athletics, college, and now as a coach trying to pay it forward. As a program we often discuss current challenges, and the solutions to those challenges. The conversation always starts, and ends with confidence as a theme. Participation in sports at the college level takes a tremendous amount of sacrifice, commitment, vulnerability, hard work, time, and tears just to get through it. It leads almost everyone at some point in their career to ask themselves why am I doing this? Any chance I have to answer that question I try and stay as calm as I can. I don't want my passion on the topic to be overbearing. My 18-22 year old women are intelligent and individual thinkers. I say to myself, “Kelly let them get to the answer with you, don't just tell them. The impact will be greater this way.” We talk through what our game gives them and always come up with the intangibles I've listed already throughout this article. By the end I say that while my coaching job is based on wins and losses, my job as a mentor is not. As a mentor, when you leave my door I want you prepared to go for the job, and not just any job, the dream. Then I want you to become the boss and ask for the raise that you've earned. Coach how am I going to do that? That's not my personality? CONFIDENCE is always my answer. I'll list all of the things that they've taken on and survived. This could include: flying on a plane for the first time, becoming a captain, taking the last second shot in front of thousands of people, missing that shot, making that shot, being the underdog that beats the big dog, or being the big dog that loses to the team that they shouldn't have. 

Bringing it back full circle we discuss how this experience in college athletics has set them up for success. They've survived and advanced at so many different stages in their life already. Why wouldn't they carry those lessons with them into their professional world? The journey never gets any easier. So many of us think that if you work hard, and do your job then you will get noticed and advance. That's not the case. Athletics is a medium to prepare women for that unfair fact. When you are on a team you may be the hardest worker there is, but you never get to play because somebody is better than you. Fact. You may think that you are the best leader for the group but nobody follows you. Instead they follow a younger teammate who is more popular. Fact. You may be the most talented player on the team but you don’t get along with the coach so he/she doesn’t promote you with more time or accolades. Fact.

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Sports teach us about the importance of networking, the understanding of how an organization works, and who is making the big decisions.

College athletes have to create and sustain relationships with their peers, professors, athletic administrators, alumni, coaches, fans and the community. In sports, just showing up for the job doesn’t mean that you are going to be successful. This lesson transcends into many of life’s roles, like becoming a mother for the first time. They will be taking on the most important responsibility of their life with the discipline of knowing that simply getting the job done isn’t enough. Furthermore, wouldn’t you want to hire someone with supreme confidence? Would you promote her quickly so that she can impact others? Would you give her a raise so she stays with your organization? Me too.

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About the expert: coach Kelly Morrone