By Kate Zipin
As we gear up for summer, I am thinking about all the awesome activities ahead, especially being outside. The Eagles Superbowl win a few months ago was another reminder that I don’t know everything about football, but I know enough to enjoy it! My sister had done research on the players and I knew the rules, so we filled in the gaps for each other. The Superbowl may seem like the distillation of American culture, and it can sometimes feel like a gender barrier keeps girls and women focused on the chips and commercials rather than the game.
I love most sports. I grew up playing anything that involved running and teamwork, and ended up focusing on soccer and basketball. As I was growing up, I found that my muscles and intensity put me in a different category from most girls, and I embraced it for a while. I was a tomboy and a competitive athlete, and then puberty hit and I got confused. Do I want to be seen as an athlete first and a girl second? I didn’t retreat from sports, but my internal monologue was not always kind. In high school, I distinctly remember thinking that I didn’t want to be too muscular because that wasn’t feminine. And then one day in class, wearing my shorts before a game, I looked down at my thighs. They were wide and full and I had a moment of sadness that these were my legs. I tensed my thigh and saw the ripples of the quadriceps, the four distinct muscles that link to your patella, your glutes, your hip. My past moment was replaced by awe and gratitude, that I have THESE AWESOME MUSCLES that help me run and kick and be strong. That muscles were meant to do work, to propel, to enhance life.
I teach girls football at Own Your Awesomeness because it checks so many boxes: it’s a way to feel strong and free; it’s a way to appreciate the universal strategies of team sports; it’s a way to uncover some of the mysteries of football in a community of girls. When we get to the park, we start with a few minutes of throwing a football. Some girls are very hesitant to do this, thinking they will look silly. They might! But we are in a group that embraces the silly, the new, the daring, a group that replaces embarrassment with pride and growth. By the end of the hour, girls know the rules to “football lite” and have run around and made throws and missed catches and laughed and gotten sweaty and feel less afraid. Here’s to football for girls! We are breaking down one more barrier and helping to change our internal and external expectations of girls.
Jamie Walsh is a junior at Temple University and a lover of toaster strudel, beluga whales, and all things Joe Biden. She has a passion to write and explore the all possibilities Philadelphia has to offer as a student, a woman, and a dreamer.