July 28, 2012 – Swimmer Ye Shiwen, age 16, of China takes the final sprint in the 400m individual medley in the London 2012 Olympics. Her final 50m freestyle sprint was faster than that of American Champion, Ryan Lochte. Her winning time was faster than that of the men’s 400IM in the Germany 1972 Olympics.
February 28, 2015 – American UFC Fighter Ronda Rousey beat opponent Cat Zingano in 14 seconds using her infamous arm bar technique. Rousey is not only an Olympic Judo medalist, but also has an undefeated MMA record, with 5 of her fastest fights ending in less than 2 minutes combined.
July 5, 2015 – The United States Women’s National Soccer Team (abbreviated: USWNT) wins the Women’s World Cup. This is their 3rd world cup win, making them the first three-time FIFA Women’s World Cup Winner.
I remember sitting with my dad in my living room late at night, just having watched Ronda Rousey’s fight against Cat Zingano. I was amazed by her strength and aggression and could not wrap my head around how quickly she took her opponent down. I also remember the comments made by Floyd Mayweather, who when asked to scout an MMA fighter, said he “didn’t know who he [Rousey] was.” Rousey’s undefeated record and hostility in the ring has brought comments comparing her to male athletes in the sport.
I remember hearing of the National Women’s Soccer Team winning the World Cup. I also remember the controversy surrounding whether or not they should have a Ticker Tape Parade in New York City. I could not understand why they wouldn’t – they just won the World Cup for the third time! How could they not deserve the parade?
If you break it down, it all boils down to the “playing like a girl” mentality. Everyone has heard it: “You throw like a girl!” “You run like a girl!” “You shoot like a girl!” But what does that even mean? Why does someone do anything “like a girl” just because they weren’t trained to do it properly and with proper form? Why is doing anything “like a girl” a bad thing? If I swam like Ye Shiwen, I’d be an Olympic medalist. If I fought like Ronda Rousey, I’d be an undefeated MMA fighter. If I played soccer like any of the members of the USWNT, I’d be a World Cup winner. So yes, they all “play like girls” but they also play like champions.
What many people fail to realize is that many, if not, all sports were designed for men. They were designed during the time when women’s only professions were housekeepers and mothers. Sports have had to adapt to women just as women have had to adapt to sports. So fast forward to 1900, when women were finally allowed to participate in the Olympic games for the first time in five sports: tennis, sailing, equestrian, croquet, and golf and it was not until 1992 when women were finally allowed in Olympic contact sports. So as women, we had very little time to ‘catch up’ to our male counterparts, but of course, we did it. The first female Olympic medalist was Hélènd de Pourtalès of Switzerland, who took home the gold and silver medals in sailing during the 1900 Olympic Games. Since then, women all over the world have taken home Olympic medals in all sports.
I love telling people the sports I have done throughout my life so far: dancing, bowling, swimming, fencing, cheerleading, track and field, cross country, lacrosse, boxing, and water polo. I love my athletic affinities and I love the amount of passion I have for being active and healthy. But I hate the comments I get and the snickers behind my back at the sports I’ve done. I wish I had a dollar for every time I heard, “Cheerleading isn’t a sport.” I don’t know what type of ‘cheerleader’ any one thinks I was, but I did not wear the uniform you got for Halloween. I was not the most popular girl in school. I was the girl on the mat and in gymnastics for 5 days a week, 3 hours a day, throwing, holding, and catching my teammates. I left practices with bruises up and down my body, breathing heavily, and exhausted but my dedication to my team was worth more than my physical injuries. I wish I could photograph every single shocked face I get when I tell people I play men’s water polo. I love stepping onto the pool deck at 5’4”, literally half the size of most players on my team and of my opponents but still being able to keep up with them in sprints and guard them aggressively. I learned to play the sport from scratch from my male peers, who taught me everything from how to catch the ball properly with one hand to how to execute different plays. If it weren’t for them, I wouldn’t be the player I am today and I can only get better from here. As a young woman in sports, I do play like a girl and I love every second of it.
Women all over the world are showing what they’ve got – their talent and dedication to their sports are showing everyone that it doesn’t matter who you are or what sport you play: anyone can be a champion. In his meeting with the Unites States Women’s National Soccer Team, President Barack Obama said it best, “’Playing like a girl’ means you’re a badass.”