Today, December 8th, is the official day to blog to rally for girls’ sports day and as many of you know, it’s a cause that I’m all for. If it weren’t for sports I wouldn’t have this blog, this website, this life, or this really cool scar on my leg! Ok, I’ll admit, this scar isn’t that cool…but the process of getting it was.
I was an extremely shy child. I was also a huge wimp. My mom had to come on all my class field trips until I was 10 because I was too afraid to go anywhere without her. I would cry at the fair because all the rides scared me. Then my mom enrolled me in soccer and baseball. I made friends with kids that I would be too afraid to talk to otherwise. I learned that falling and scraping my knees up wasn’t the end of the world. I quickly became outspoken and passionate about our wins and losses…maybe even a little too passionate. With each good kick or base scored I gained a mountain of confidence. With each missed goal or strike out I learned how I could improve.
Soon I was enrolled in every sport that my school offered. Volleyball, basketball, soccer, field hockey, track, skiing, and wrestling–I did them all. For the most part I could hold my own on the court and on the field, but being extremely tall and skinny ensured that I got my ass kicked every time I stepped foot on the wrestling mat. Take down after take down I was sure that next time it would be me advancing to the next round. It never happened and I learned more lessons by being bad at a sport than I did at being good. Wrestling allowed me to learn some of my limitations and learn to use defeat productively.
So how’d a failed wrestling career lead into a life of mountain biking you ask? Well, around the same time–junior high–the librarian at my school, Ms.Raymond (Ms.Raymond, if you’re reading this, thank you), started an all-girls mountain bike club. Being on my rampage to try every sport imaginable, I was the first one to sign up. I also was obsessed with skiing (things haven’t changed much) and for some reason skiing and mountain biking seemed to go hand in hand.
It took one mountain bike ride and I was hooked. Going out into the woods, alone, as a 15-year-old and facing challenges like fatigue, bike break-downs, injuries, and not getting lost was what I interpreted as being the ultimate feeling of freedom and independence. Each time I left the woods I felt confident and ready to take on any challenge life was willing to throw at me. School work? No big deal. Yesterday I rode eight hours in cougar country. University applications? Piece of cake. The day before I helped put a rider’s shoulder back into its socket and coordinated a search and rescue team to come find him…without a cell phone.
My involvement in sports, particularly mountain biking, gave me the skills to take on the challenges of daily life with great confidence. I learned about goal setting, setbacks, overcoming fears, and taking responsibility for my own actions. The lessons I learned on my bike would have taken a lifetime to learn in front of a computer.
As I write this, I feel a well of gratitude overflowing inside me. Thank you, Ms.Raymond, for starting that club. Your small action was a catalyst for huge change in my life, and the lives of all the girls I get to introduce to the sport of mountain biking.
So girls, go outside and do something that scares you. Sign up for a sports team, even if you think it’s not for you. You’ll learn a lot about yourself and walk away smiling. Even if you never win a wrestling match 😉
Click here for more information on the benefits on girls in sports: http://www.nwlc.org/sites/default/files/pdfs/rallyforgirlssports2010.pdf