4 Things I Learned Growing Up Playing Sports With Boys

4 Things I Learned Growing Up Playing Sports With Boys

Playing two different sports throughout my life with mostly guys has been both scary and rewarding.

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Recently, I joined a taekwondo class at the local YMCA. It wasn't quite as daunting as some may think. My taekwondo career began about seven years ago, and this school is associated with my school back home. It was familiar to me, almost like I was still taking classes back home. The most familiar thing is that I'm still one of the only females in the class. While I was never the only female in taekwondo class back home, no other girls or women stuck around in class during the seven years.

Taekwondo isn't the first male-dominated sport that I've participated in. Being an athlete has been part of my identity since the age of 6. My love for sports started when my dad introduced me to the Seattle Mariners. I played Little League baseball for five years and I was the only girl for four of those years. While I was never in the top of the batting lineup or played the coolest positions, I still had a successful baseball career.

Comparing these two sports has never been something that I've thought deeply about until I joined the new taekwondo class. It makes sense to do so since they've both played significant roles in my life.

Here are four things that I've experienced while participating in male-dominated sports.

1. I've been told to do "girl pushups" too many times.

I experienced this mostly while playing baseball. No one ever tried to stop me from playing baseball, but there were times where I was singled out and told to "adjust" the workout because they attributed my struggle to the fact that I'm a girl.

2. People have been surprised at my capabilities.

There have been multiple instances where I made a play or scored a point while sparing a guy. How I made the play or scored always seemed routine to me, but I've had people come up to me and were stunned at what they just saw me, a girl, do. In my more recent memory, I was sparing a guy for our belt test. I scored on him with a spinning hook kick, which was routine for me. He gasped in shock. After the test, the same guy came up to me and said, "That kick was amazing!" and shook my hand. It wasn't until my instructor pointed out to me that he probably hasn't spared very many women at a brown belt level that I realized that he was genuinely shocked.

3. Personal doubt is chronic.

I'm aware that I shouldn't compare myself to others, but the fact that I'm surrounded by mostly guys is really daunting. Using gender to fuel my doubt is such a cop out, but it's a reality I'm sure that other females experience, both in sports and in the real world. Even though I've proven to myself multiple times that I have the capability to compete against guys, the stereotypes still get to me after all this time.

4. Many people want to see me succeed.

I've been blessed with having supportive coaches and instructors. They've been sympathetic to the fact that it's hard to be different and that it's not easy having to represent other females in the sport. One of the reasons why I was able to play baseball for so long and continue to push towards getting my black belt in taekwondo is the fact that my coaches and instructors were always there to help improve my technique and make me stronger.

I'm glad that I experienced and continue to experience participating in male-dominated sports. It's taught me to be strong and to not give up if my opponent has certain advantages over me. I encourage other women and girls to participate in male-dominated sports. It's not easy but rewarding when you succeed.

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I'm A Christian Girl And I'm Not A Feminist, Because God Did Not Intend For Women To Be Equals

It is OK for me to not want to be equivalent with a man.

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To start off, I am not writing this to bash feminists or get hate messages. I am simply writing this to state why I do not perceive myself as a feminist.

March is International Women's Month and that is what has got me thinking about how I view myself as a young woman in the 21st century. I enjoy every day getting to soak up the world as a young lady, particularly in the South.

If you know me, then you know that I love and utterly adore Jesus. He is so perfect. He is everything. He is my whole life. Some people might say that I am a "Bible-thumper" or someone who has had too much Kool-aid and maybe I am, but I know who my Creator is and that He died for me, and that is all that matters.

In my young age, I loved to just sit in church with my parents and absorb all that God would deliver. As I have grown up, I have ventured off and joined a church that is different than my parents, so the responsibility falls more on me, but I love that. Since this era of independence began, I have thoroughly enjoyed taking ownership of my faith.

I spend a lot of time chatting with God, worshipping Him in all kinds of ways, and just diving deeper into His Word. Through all of this growth as a Christian, I have learned a lot, but something I have learned is a concept that some may not agree with, which does not surprise me.

I do not believe God meant for women and men to be equal.

There, I acknowledged the elephant in the room.

It is a shocker, I know, but I have some Biblical evidence to back up this belief that I have.

Let us begin in Genesis. God created man and then he created woman. This was two separate occurrences and order is key. He created Adam and then Eve.

Jesus treated women with grace and kindness, do not get me wrong. I mean just look at how He treated the woman at the well, the one who used all of her expensive perfume to cleanse His feet and not to mention His own biological mother! He has a truly unique place in his heart for women, but He also has special intentions for us in the world and in the family setting.

We are to submit to our husbands.

We are to be energetic, strong, and a hard worker.

We are to be busy and helpful to those in need.

We are to be fearless.

All of this is explicitly laid out by God in Proverbs 31.

We are not to be equal to our male counterparts. Jesus does not lay out the Proverbs 31 man, but He rather lays out the Proverbs 31 woman.

A husband or man is to be the head of the household as Christ is to the church.

A man is to love a woman so deeply that represents how he loves himself.

A man is to leave his father and mother.

Women and men are not equal in God's eyes, but they each represent Him in their own ways that the other needs.

If we were all equal, we would not need one another and therefore we would not need God. I am so thankful that we were not created equal. I am so thankful that God is so great that He could not just create only man or woman to represent His image. He is so perfect.

So, you see I am not a feminist, and it is OK.

It is acceptable for me to have this belief that God intended for men to lead women. It is also okay for people to have differing opinions. Writing this was not easy, but I know that not all people agree.

To feminists and those that are not, you are allowed to believe whatever you wish but have evidence to back it up.

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From Student-Athlete to N.A.R.P.: Identity Theft

For a lot of athletes, we tend to feel like the sports we play define us. Learn more about the journey in Part two of the "From Student-Athlete to N.A.R.P." series.

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So you're done playing... now what?

When you abruptly stop playing the sport you've played your whole life, something happens. I like to call this, Identity Theft.

This is something that many athletes, including myself, have experienced. Instead of waking up for conditioning at 6 am, you're waking up 15 minutes before class to get ready. You're no longer looking forward to or dreading practice (me) in the evening. Maybe you find that you're no longer "important" on campus. People aren't looking up to you anymore, and maybe you feel like you've just become a number. Some portion of your self-esteem has disappeared, you don't know where you belong anymore, and all of a sudden it's more difficult to make friends.

For some people, being an athlete is their main characteristic about themselves. Maybe even a personality trait, some may argue. Once you stop doing something you used to do everyday, a self-discovery journey is necessary. It's a journey that's for sure, and not a short one.

It's a marathon, not a sprint.

You may struggle to figure out who you are, all over again. It's comparable to recreating yourself. Some retired athletes will continue to thrive in their sport, even if they aren't playing for their school anymore. Some, like me, will go through the days, weeks, and months, not knowing what to do with themselves, or who they even are anymore (I didn't lift a weight or break a sweat for 6 months straight).

Before you know it, you begin to question yourself.

What am I good at? What am I passionate about now? Am I good at anything besides basketball?

These are the questions I asked myself every single day. Tearing my self-confidence down piece by piece because I didn't have the answers. I haven't always been the most social person, that being said, the friends I made were through sports. Teammates, opponents, fans- these were all friends I didn't need to work for. Not only that, I all of a sudden had all of this free time and had no idea what to do with it. Yeah, I could do homework, but that got boring after a while.

So what happens next? For me, it was depression.

Something that once defined you is no longer a part of your life anymore. The one thing that people thought about when they heard your name, is now nonexistent. The best way to describe life after being an athlete in my opinion is Identity Theft, because it almost feels like you've been robbed of a vital quality of yourself. And what's funny is I never thought it would be this way for me, because I never let basketball define me, yet there I was.

I'm here to say this:

Pick yourself up and remember who you are. Being great at that sport you once played was just one of the qualities of the stellar human being you are. You are more than your sport. You do have a purpose and a place in this world, even if you don't know it yet. This journey will be scary, but you'll discover new things about yourself that you didn't even know existed.

Since completing this self-discovery journey, I have learned that I am not as introverted as I thought I was, or at least used to be. I like art, music, and even writing. Never in a million years did I think I'd be writing articles that would be shown to the public. Helping people and learning about people is something I am now passionate about. I look back at my old self and sometimes can't recognize her because things are so different now, but I am grateful for those chapters in my life because they helped mold the person I am today.

I've learned the best life lessons from playing sports my whole life, and that is what should be taken from that whole experience. Very rarely do you end up playing your sport forever- everyone can't be a professional athlete.

Identity theft is a real issue that occurs in retired athletes. It is important that you, the athlete, understand what is going on, as well as the people around you.

This isn't the end of your life, it's truly just the beginning.

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