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What Makes a Female Athlete? Participation for Girls & Women: You ARE an Athlete

Girls drop out of sport at twice the rate of boys by age 14 and this only increases as they get older.  This has been stated before with information and studies released by the Women’s Sports Foundation.  

The question has been asked over and over… Why? and what can we do to support keeping girls in sports? The answers for these questions aren’t always straight forward and clear with a multitude of components and factors attributing to this drop out rate during this time in a girls life. 

But there is one question that keeps coming to mind as well, and that is… do they really drop out or just find a different avenue for activity because they don’t play a traditional sport or fit the female “athlete” mold?  

What is the definition of an athlete or what constitutes being a sport?  

Is it soccer? or basketball?  rock climbing? taekwando? bobsled? yoga? swimming? curling? running? e-sports? dance?  This list could go on and on…and on… 

Is the definition of a “sport” or an “athlete” what is provided during the formative years and taught in P.E. or gym class during elementary and middle school?  or what is offered for high school athletic teams?  is it the sports that award scholarships at the collegiate level?  maybe it’s what is seen on TV during the Olympics? does it have to have a national championship?  Cornhole has a national championship and is even shown on ESPN - does this qualify?  does it have to be a team sport? do you have to have a coach?  is there a weight requirement?  or a certain height?  race? or religion?  

What are the components really needed to qualify as a female athlete or sport?  

What is the definition? 

Generally speaking, if you ask a male if they are an athlete, their response is typically “yes”, even if they played ball 15 years ago and now their only position is as an armchair quarterback or maybe they play pick up ball every other weekend with their friends in the driveway or make it to the gym to lift on occasion.  On the flip side, if the same question is  posed to a female, unless she is being paid professionally to play in the WNBA, her response is more along the lines of “No, but I run or workout to stay in shape.”  Then while talking further, you find out she is training for a marathon, doing cross fit competitions, or climbing El Capitain in her free time.   WHAT!!??  Umm… YES!  You ARE an ATHLETE!!  

This definition of an athlete or sport and the mindset that accompanies it needs to change or more accurately, be expanded for women currently and be passed on to girls everywhere.  

There is an ATHLETE in everyone.  

We all just need to find our “sport” and not be stereotyped into whatever definition has been ingrained into our thinking by cultural constraints.  The definition of a sport or an athlete needs to be all inclusive and encompass ALL activities.  To reinforce this, females need to embrace the “athlete” inside themselves and recognize that they can be an athlete while also being an excellent student, in drama or robotics, a science “geek”, on student council, an artist, a fashionista, an entrepreneur, politician, executive leader, a mom, or anything else they dream to be.  It needs to be highlighted that they can be and are more than just one thing…more than one label and fit into more than one box.  

Women and girls in sport are:  



Let’s all start now by expanding the definition of an athlete for ourselves and the next generation of girls to include all females and all sports.  

Are you an athlete?  100%  YES!  What is your sport??  

©Athena Athlete


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