Fitness is healthcare. Running events, bike rides, triathlons, swim meets, soccer games, hockey, baseball, lacrosse – all sports are essentially healthcare events where we build strong lungs, bodies, hearts, joints, minds, self-esteem, resiliency, pride and more. And these by-products of sports are all-inclusive regardless of your proficiency or competency. Each time you move and play, you reinforce an element of good health which benefits you, your family, your community and ultimately Canada and the world.
“Children are the only hope for our future. Teach them well.”
Our children are the nuts and bolts of our future, and we must ingrain this wellness message into their daily routines.
I’m inspired to see a plethora of sports and activities for children and youth. I was overjoyed to see more than 150 children running in our Kids Run at Ironman 70.3 Muskoka in July. We had more kids than race bibs, but we never let logistics be a barrier to participation.
Thankfully, we had just as many little girls as boys, but unfortunately, that doesn’t tell the whole story. One in three girls drop out of sports by late teens and 62% of females don’t play sports at all.
This trend surprises me because I only see the positive evolution of women and sport. Here is what I see:
- girls-only and co-ed teams in hockey, historically a male dominant sport.
- women’s only events such as running races (Toronto Women’s Running Series), triathlons (Subaru Triathlon Festival for Women), Ironman World Championships (women only world championship event in 2023), women’s golf (LPGA), women’s basketball (WNBA), women’s hockey (PWHL).
- organizations such as FAB (“Fit. Active. Beautiful”) that provide the coaching and resources for each girl to prepare and run a 5k.
- More female role models
- Former prime minister of New Zealand, Jacinda Ardern
- Vice president of the United States, Kamala Harris
- Natasha Wodak, age 42 is the Canadian marathon record holder
- Women commentators in NBA
- Women coaches in MLB
- Female role models in sport
- Women outnumber men in many running races, in particular, at 5k and 10k.
- Canada sent 371 athletes to the 2020 Olympic Games in Tokyo of which 225 were women and only 146 were men.
- Canadian female Olympians won 18 out of the 24 medals won by Canadians at the Tokyo Olympics.
- Summer McIntosh, at 14 years old, placed 4th in the 400 Free at the 2020 Olympic Games as the youngest member of the team. Her interviews exemplify humility. She is a shining, real-life aspirational example for our girls.
- More women in leadership positions in corporations.
- Equal prize money across many sports.
- Maternity leave policies are being implemented. The PTO – Professional Triathlon Organization – allows women to take up to 15 months off while retaining an income based on their ranking at the time that they begin maternity leave.
Ironically, 1 in 3 girls say that low self-confidence and negative body image turn them away from sport. And yet, sport builds both self-esteem and love of self. We must push through the “noise” so that our girls can feel the fulfillment. It takes a village to raise a child and each of us in this village must encourage our girls with the hard facts I have mentioned here.
We must mentor our girls by doing sports and creating an atmosphere of joy around those sports. Find active actual females for your daughters, sisters, cousins, neighbours to model.
We must return to participation vs excellence. Excellence comes from participating and seeing the challenge through to completion.
Every child – girl or boy – must make the team where possible. Why should there only be a select group of runners on the track or cross-country team? Why can’t everyone run? If 50 kids come out to play baseball or soccer or hockey, then create more teams.
No one left behind is not reserved for emergencies. The health and wellness of our kids and our girls is a daily community emergency.
We have made giant leaps for women in sport. We have more opportunity, female role models and equality. This must continue.
There will be barriers. But barriers can be broken. I am proud to be involved with our women’s only triathlon in Ontario: Subaru Triathlon Festival for Women. For insurance reasons, all participants must be older than 16 years old. We had a few 15-year-old girls who wanted to race. It took a few emails and special permission, but we made it happen. Why? Because we are a village, and this village welcomes a bit of elbow grease to encourage girls to do sport. If we did not, those girls may have never tried a triathlon. Now, we have a few new female triathletes that no doubt will encourage their friends to try a triathlon and will be back racing triathlon and hopefully will be role models for their friends now and their own children some day.
It is the cycle of life. BE the example. Live the example of sport. Share the gift of strong hearts, bodies, minds, self-esteem, and resiliency with our youth. Success breeds success. Mentors breed more mentors. Girls in sport breed more girls in sport.