Good Sports: Encouraging Black Female Athletes
Jaque Reid, The Root | April 8, 2011

Many folks probably missed Wednesday’s headlines proclaiming the Texas A&M Lady Aggies the 2011 NCAA women’s basketball champions. It’s nothing new, but I am still amazed that girls’ and women’s sports don’t receive the recognition they deserve. It’s time the black community rallied to change that. More important than championship trophies, there is a long-lasting, positive effect that organized sports can have on young girls, especially black girls.

For as long as I can remember, I was doing cartwheels and backflips around my house and neighborhood. When I removed the top mattress from my bunk bed and turned the bed into a poor man’s uneven bars — as seen in women’s gymnastic competitions — my mom had had enough. She enrolled me in gymnastics classes. I was in the third grade.

A few years later, I was on a competitive gymnastics team. I was one of two black girls on a team of about 40. Playing kick ball in my all-black neighborhood was nothing like this. We would spend hours a day practicing and conditioning, which consisted of repetitive exercises to increase strength, flexibility and endurance. All of that was to prepare for competitions at places I had never been. I went on to compete on my high school gymnastics and cheerleading teams.

I’m convinced that those sports experiences played a key role in who I am today. Sports teaches children how to follow rules, work as a team and engage in healthy competition. For girls, the benefits are greater — increased self-esteem and confidence, a better body image and an improved academic performance.  In fact, studies show a decrease in high school dropouts among girls who play sports, as well as a lower likelihood of smoking or becoming pregnant.  (Read more)