Inspiring physically active daughters

Salt Lake Tribune

I think my once very athletic father would have really enjoyed raising a son. Born the second of two daughters, weighing a whopping 9 pounds 10 ounces, I should have been a boy. Perhaps I felt sorry for my sonless dad or just wanted to ensure that he would be proud of me, but every summer as a young teen, I signed up for a girls’ summer softball league. And, prior to every game, without fail, I felt sick to my stomach because I was so anxious about playing. Truth be told, I hated softball. I don’t believe there was an athletic bone in my body. It’s interesting what you’ll do to engage a parent. As my dad and I laugh about it today, he regrets he didn’t practice ball with me more often. (I let him think that would’ve helped.)

The only thing I could count on in playing sports was two words: ”Strike!” and ”Traveling!” For such a tall girl, I never measured up in athletics.

I marvel at the young women competing in the 2006 Winter Olympics. They are competitive, talented, beautiful and tenacious, without a doubt. Last year, the women of downhill petitioned for a more competitive course. They certainly got their wish. Once again, women are pushing the limits set before them. I’m a fan of females going for the gold in any arena; even if my preference is to watch rather than participate.

It’s been three decades since I played sports. It’s also been three decades since Title IX gave me the equal right to play sports. All parents and political parties agree that sports are as important for daughters as they are for sons. Yet, last year, the U.S. Department of Education made a major change to Title IX policy with the ”clarification” that our daughters must now prove they’re interested in sports.

Under this new policy, schools are required to send mass e-mails to female students surveying their interest and ability to play sports. The school must provide sports only if enough young women respond to the survey with a specific sport interest. If there are no replies, the school has met its obligation. Case closed. Fallout fatal.

According to the Woman’s Sports Foundation, physically active girls are less likely to get pregnant, drop out of school or put up with an abusive partner. They are also less likely to smoke, use drugs or engage in other risky behaviors, and they achieve higher grades. Sports participation decreases heart disease, obesity, osteoporosis, depression, and health-related problems later in life – to say nothing of the scholarship, career opportunities, and just plain fun in participation.

Physically active girls have parents who are active with them. Mom and dad, instigate a game of catch, tag, jump rope, basketball, Frisbee, hockey, soccer, or just take walks. Get movin’ right along with ’em!

My parents were there every time I got up to bat. I bet I wasn’t the only one who felt a little sick inside.

What do you think? How can we Inspire our daughters to become physically active?