Thursday, September 22, 2011

Role Models of Their Own

Abby Wambach signing autographs after a training session.

  A friend a mine posted this picture to her twitter account yesterday (shout out to @heidiburgett!),
and it put the biggest smile on my face.

  Great, a picture of US Women's Soccer National team forward Abby Wambach signing autographs. What is so fabulous about that?

  What made me smile were the eager little girls surrounding her, and the countless others in the background. What an awesome role model they have to look up to!

  What I think is great, is the number of tremendous role models little girls have to look up to these days. And that they're easily accessible (call it high-profile, if you will). Not that I didn't have great role models to look to up to when I was growing up, but it's on a larger scale now. Instead of admiring the local high school star, girls today can admire the best athletes in the world because the platform is now there.

  They don't have to try too hard to find their role models. At a young age, a little girl can see someone like Alex Morgan or Maya Moore on TV or in the newspaper, and say 'I want to be just like her.' Thanks to Nike, Gatorade and the like, they see them in commercials too, just like their male counterparts.
1996 U.S. Women's Olympic Team.
  The picture of Abby made me think back to when I was those girls' age. What, are they 12? I was trying to remember who my role models and heroes were when I was 12. Outside of the girls playing on the local high school basketball teams in the Portland area (and my dad and brother, who taught me how to play basketball), I looked up to the guys who were playing in the NBA and college.

  I also remember looking up to Jennifer Capriati and Steffi Graf as well -- even though I never played competitive tennis. I admired them because they were the only professional female athletes I regularly saw on TV and in magazines.

  A couple years down the road, there was the 1996 Women's Olympic basketball team, and eventually the WNBA. But by that point, my role models had already been established, and I was well on my way.

Jennifer Capriati - cover of SI.
  I think it's important to have role models at a young age. No matter what field they might be in. It's important for a young girl to look up to successful women. Just like it's important for boys to have men they aspire to be like. Whether they are athletes, singers, actresses, or family members, role models help you see what is achievable.

  If you see the best on a regular basis, it makes it that much more realistic and inspiring. A little girl sees Serena Williams today, and says 'I want to be the best tennis player in the world some day'. Whereas before, she might have only aspired to be the best tennis player in her town, if her only role model was the local high school star at the time.

  Seeing it on a regular basis, on a national level, makes achieving it yourself seem all the more possible.

2011 U.S. Women's World Cup teammates Abby Wambach & Hope Solo.
  Maybe some of the girls in the picture want to be great soccer players just like Abby. Maybe they saw how hard Abby and her teammates played in the 2011 World Cup, and they want to work just as hard. Maybe they don't play soccer at all, but they look up to Abby for being an awesome athlete.

  Their reason for looking up to Abby doesn't matter. What matters that is they have her to look up to at all.

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