Celebrating the female athletes before us who paved the way for us to play

Alivia Romaniuk

On Dec. 12, Vanderbilt kicker Sarah Fuller gained nationwide attention when she became the first woman to score in a Power Five college game. Fuller wore the words “Play Like A Girl” on the back of her helmet, proudly representing female athletes everywhere. 

Feb. 3 is the 35th annual National Girls and Women in Sports Day (NGWSD), a day dedicated to inspiring female athletes  “to play and be active, (and) to realize their full power.” NGWSD also celebrates the progress female athletics have made since the passing of Title IX, which made discrimination based on sex illegal in federally funded activities. 

I am thankful every day for my ability to run. Cross country is a part of who I am, and without it, I wouldn’t know who or where I would be. Sports are both mentally and physically challenging, and the discipline and commitment required for success has allowed me to grow in ways that academics can’t. 

When thinking about what cross country has given me, I am overwhelmed by the fact that a sport that I once considered a small part of my life has shaped me into the person that I am today. It wasn’t being forced to present to the class that made me more confident, it was lining up with a hundred other girls for a race. My success in cross country inspires me to challenge myself and strive for excellence in other areas of my life. Because if I can run eight miles without stopping, I can certainly do a research paper.

But it wasn’t always so easy. In 1967, women weren’t allowed to run in the Boston Marathon, because experts claimed that distance running would damage their health and femininity. When Katherine Switzer entered the race under the name “K.V. Switzer,” an official forcefully tried to remove her from the course two miles in. She finished anyway.

We are lucky to live in a community that recognizes the importance of both male and female sports. Athletes at CHS have a wide variety of sports to choose from and enjoy easy access to training facilities, equipment, and coaching. Budget cuts, which often occur at the expense of female athletics, are virtually nonexistent. We don’t have to worry about our sport being cut, or paying for uniforms, or having a bus to take us to away competitions. We live in a community where the only thing we have to worry about is the sport itself, and that is huge.

The progress that female athletics has made is praiseworthy, but by no means complete. We still live in an era where verbal and psychological abuse is prevalent in sports settings. An era that provokes a doctor, hired specifically to help female athletes, to use his power and prestige against them, and a powerful corporation that allows it at the expense of hundreds of female athletes. 

The athletic community must move forward with purpose. It must strive to be welcoming and protecting of female athletes, and it must recognize those who were hurt by society’s failure to protect them. We must not tolerate a culture that normalizes the verbal and physical abuse of female athletes. 

NGWSD is a celebration of how far we’ve come, but also a reminder of the long road ahead of us. Female athletes of our generation have the privilege of playing competitive sports, something that women generations before us had to fight for, and something that we should not take for granted.