Staples athletes lead by example in support of girls’ participation in sports By Madison Andrews

There is an increasing awareness that girls’ participation in sports is important and the benefits are critical to their well-being and future success. Studies show that sports are important in teaching teamwork, cooperation, discipline, problem solving skills, and leadership. Varsity basketball center, Arianna Gerig ‘20, who has been playing on a team since third grade has gotten so much from the sport and says “It has given me some of my closest friends, many life lessons, confidence, and one of my favorite activities.”

Arianna Gerig blocks the shot, photo contributed by Arianna Gerig

According to Barbara Frankel who references a recent study by the Women’s Sports Foundation called “Teen Sport in America: Why Participation Matters”, “Teens who play sports not only do better in school, but also are more likely to have high self-esteem, stronger relationships and improved physical health.” varsity field hockey captain, Hannah Paprotna ’20, supports these study results with her own experience. “Playing field hockey has not only kept me active, and been a great hobby, but it was something that helped me develop friendships that my high school experience was built on,” Paprotna said. “Hannah has become a responsible team leader both on and off the pitch,” field hockey coach Ian Tapsall added. “It has made her realize how to lead by example and to empathize with her teammates and her friends outside of the sport.”

Hannah Paprotna aggressively defends, photo contributed by Hannah Paprotna

Times have changed in the U.S. since the nineteenth century when women were discouraged from physical activity and the expectations for women to be ladylike conflicted with competitive sports. Available opportunities were more limited to recreational and fitness activities, though, in the late 1800s, women formed athletic clubs and began to participate in a limited capacity at many men’s clubs. Many people in the past believed that female athletes would be out of the question. Recently, when asked why he thinks sports are important for girls, varsity field hockey coach, Ian Tapsall, responded with “Why not? Tapsall said. “This shouldn't ever be a gender issue.”

Women on tennis court in 1922, photo contributed by Library of Congress

While the number of female high school athletes continues to be lower than the number of male athletes, the gap is narrowing with the percentage of females athletes significantly increasing from 7% female / 93% male in 1971 to 43% female / 57% male in 2017. Moreover, participation among girls has increased dramatically since 1971. According to the National Federation of State High School Associations, the number of girls in the U.S. participating in high school sports increased from less than 300,000 in 1971 to over 3.4 million in 2017. The most popular sports for girls are track and field, volleyball, basketball, soccer, and softball. As time goes on, we continue to have an increasing number of female athletes to inspire girls to pursue various sports.

photo contributed by The Guardian

At Staples, there are many female athletes as the school offers multiple teams per season for girls’ participation. Varsity girls’ soccer captain, Reese Sutter ’20, has been playing soccer since she was five years old. “I have learned a lot about myself off the field, while being on the field,” Sutter said. “I have additionally grown so much as a person from soccer and I'm excited to continue that development as I enter college.”

Reese Sutter sends the ball down the field, photo contributed by Madison Andrews

It is shown through much research that participation in sports has many advantages. Women’s Sports Foundation research asserts that the benefits for girls that play sports include a greater likelihood for better grades, higher levels of confidence, lower levels of depression, more positive body image, and higher psychological well-being. Sports provide various benefits. “I think it is important for girls to play sports because of the benefits that come out of playing,” Jane Lukens ’20 said. “It teaches girls that they are strong, and if they work hard, they can achieve anything in life.” Reese Sutter ’20, feels that “sports have endless benefits whether it be getting through the day happy and healthy or turning it into a job. Whatever level you are on doesn't matter as they all provide positive impacts.”

Jane Lukens looks to pass, photo contributed by Jane Lukens

Arianna Gerig ‘20 feels that “Sports have the ability to increase and grow confidence. This is extremely important for all athletes and specifically girls.” As we continue to see more female athletes as role models and participating in the Olympic Games and professional sports leagues, the number of girls in sports continues to grow leading to a positive impact on society. Founded in 1974 by tennis legend, Billie Jean King, the Women’s Sports Foundation is dedicated to creating leaders by ensuring all girls access to sports. The continued success of girls depends on their ability to have sports as an increasingly greater part of their life. This success is fostered by schools across the country, like Staples, that play a vital role in taking responsibility to continue to promote and encourage girls’ athletic programs.

Staples Athletics stock image