Every decade a wave of incredible women prove to the world what it means to be strong, to be a fighter and a hero to a wave of young girls looking for something to aspire to. Rhonda Rousey, Serena Williams, Katie Ledecky, Abby Wambach, and Gabby Douglas are just some of these incredible women that are reassuring girls everywhere that sports are not just a boys' game. Having incredible female athlete role models is unfortunately not enough to keep girls in sports or even encouarge them to particpate. That's why a thank you letter written by a mother of a young girl is going viral. Jeanean Thomas, from Cambridge, Ontario, posted a thank you letter to Twitter that she wrote thanking a teenage boy for helping her daughter learn how to skateboard at their local skatepark. Six-year-old Peyton Thomas has always loved skateboarding, and finally got the courage up to try her talents at a skatepark. Jeanean reported that her daughter had reservations about skating in public because she believed skateboarding to be "only for boys," so it came as no surprise when they arrived at the park that it was filled with teenage boys skating around young Peyton as she continued to fail and try again at the sport she loved so much. Eventually, a teenage boy who had been watching Peyton struggle approached the little girl and asked if he could help her. Jeanean reports that the teenager then spent almost an hour mentoring the little girl and helping her figure out how to place her feet, how to balance, and how to successfully make it down the ramp a couple times. In Thomas' thank you note, she applauds the boy for encouraging the little girl and giving her a new sense of pride on a board. She writes,
"I want you to know that I am proud that you are part of my community, and I want to thank you for being kind to my daughter, even though your friends made fun of you for it. She left the skate park with a sense of pride and with the confidence that she can do anything, because of you."
The Women's Sports Foundation reports that one of the main factors influencing girls's participation in sports is the social stigma. Young girls see sports as a world created and run only by boys, and are then discouraged from participating. We need to be better as a society at building our girls up and showing them how easy and fun it can be to be strong and that they can do anything and everything a boy can do, maybe even better. The Women's Sports Foundation also reports that girls who play sports have higher levels of self-confidence and self-esteem, and and are less likely to become depressed. Encouraging young girls to pick up a sport is so important to their overall wellbeing, and can help set them up for a very successful life. Sports were very important to me growing up and extremely vital in making me the person I am today. I learned things about what I'm truly capable of that I never would have discovered if I didn't have the courage or outlet to try. The young boy, Ryan Carney, who helped young Peyton that day at the park, had this to say of his kindness,
"I just seen a little girl struggling to enjoy her time there and encouraged her to skate more, instead of being discouraged and leaving — either because she was scared of older kids or scared to fall," he said. "I wanted to see her leaving wanting to skateboard again."
It's people like Ryan who will be vital in helping to find the next Missy Franklin or the next Hope Solo. Building a world for young girls that is filled with nothing but support and encouragement will only lead to a more successful athletic future. And it's girls like Peyton that are teaching the world that having the courage to follow your dreams comes with great rewards!