Seven Kick-Ass Reasons Every Woman Should Play a Sport

PepsiCo CEO Indra Nooyi. Presidential candidate Hillary Clinton. Former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice. DuPont CEO Ellen Kullman. What do these inspirational women have in common? As stated by EY, they all hold – or have held – positions of power. And they all participated in some kind of sport. For women, sports can serve as more than exercise or a hobby; they can be pathways to empowerment, health and a happier life.

That's why today is known as National Girls and Women in Sports Day - the perfect excuse to interrupt my usual celiac programming and share another topic close to my heart: sports. I inherited my love of fitness from my dad, and even though I don't play soccer anymore, those games will always be some of my favorite memories

casey the college celiac

If you haven’t already laced up your sneakers, here are seven more reasons (with some help from Entity Magazine, where this article of mine first appeared) why you should try playing a sport.

1. You'll be an A+ translator of workplace dynamics.

Unfortunately, the phrase “It’s a man’s world” is mostly true in terms of the workplace. However, as Women’s Sports Foundation explains, sports can help women thrive in the existing American business model. Sports and businesses follow similar (written and unwritten) rules, such as always projecting (real or fake) confidence, separating winning or losing from one’s self-worth and finding joy in deadlines and competition. If women already understand these basic rules thanks to sports, it will be even easier for them to succeed in workplaces built on these same beliefs.

2. You'll gain leadership skills.

If you dream about being the leader of your own company, playing a sport may be the first step in that direction. A report conducted by the EY Women Athletes Business Network and espnW surveyed 400 female executives and found that 70 percent credited sports for helping improve women’s leadership potential. In particular, sports can foster one’s ability to motivate others, build teams and complete projects. In other words, sports can also instill in women the competitive spirit needed to succeed as a leader.

casey the college celiac why every woman should play a sport
That hashtag!
3. You're more likely to rule the world (or at least run for office).

If running a business isn’t enough, you can also try running a state or country. When studying the gender gap in young Americans’ political ambition, researchers discovered two surprising facts. First, compared to men, young women are less likely than ever to consider running for office. Second, because sports can increase one’s enjoyment of competition, sports could make political careers more appealing to young women. Winning the state championship would pale in comparison to winning a state election!

4.You'll build a healthier body.

You’ve probably been encouraged to exercise to lose weight, get toned and become more physically fit. However, participating in sports may provide even more benefits than you realize! According to the YMCA of Silicon Valley, a recent report found that women who participate in sports have lower risks of chronic diseases later in life, lower risks of substance abuse, safer sexual behaviors and academic and social “fitness” (or the ability to perform better in school or work). Instead of exercising to lose weight, exercise to get smarter, stronger and healthier!

casey the college celiac 7 kick-ass reasons every woman should play a sport
Besides the cuts and bruises along the way...
5.You will love your body more.

In a study by Harvard Medical School, although six out of 10 girls between fifth and twelfth grade reported feeling unhappy with their bodies, female athletes tended to report higher scores of body esteem. Participation in sports encourage female athletes to focus how their bodies work rather than how they look, promoting a both a healthier body and a healthier body image.

Personally, I know that focusing on bodily ability is especially helpful when you have a chronic illness. I couldn't go out to eat with the team later, but I could kick some major booty on the field. I may have needed longer to recover than most players, but I could still sprint for an entire 90-minute soccer match. Sports can't completely "fix" your body, but they can give you a new appreciation for what parts still work

6. Your confidence will skyrocket.

As famous soccer player Mia Hamm states in an interview with TIME, “I see the confidence [playing sports like soccer] has built in my daughters when ... they’re working really hard on passing or shooting or a certain move, and then all of the sudden it just clicks, and you just see this big smile come on their face.” Even if you don’t turn into one of the world’s best athletes, playing a sport can give you the confidence of learning a new skill – and having fun at the same time.

casey the college celiac 7 kick-ass reasons every woman should play a sport
One of the many action shots taken through the years...
7. You can act as a role model for other women.

The average woman’s daily life is filled with pressure from the media on how a woman should act and look. By playing a sport, though, women can act as confident, strong and empowered role models to younger generations. As explained by the Sport Information Research Centre, female athletes provide young women an example of healthy body shapes and success in a largely male-dominated field.

Even if trying to play a sport doesn’t transform your life, you never know how it could impact a young girl watching you from the sidelines.

The truth is, playing a sport has different effects on every woman - or man. For some (like me, I'll admit), sports were one of the best parts about growing up. For others, like my sister, running is just something she "usually only does in a video game." 

casey the college celiac 7 kick-ass reasons every woman should play a sport
How we looked after our mud run!
Whether you're a semi-professional athlete or a newbie still learning the rules, sports can come with more benefits that you first think - especially if you have a chronic illness. Happy National Girls and Women in Sports Day. How will you set aside some time for playing today? 

*Although I wrote this post, it first appeared at Entity Magazine. Check out my other Entity articles here!*

Do/did you enjoy playing sports? What's your favorite sport? Tell me your thoughts! 


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