I don’t have a lot of regrets about my childhood, but sports is one of them.
I never really participated in any team sports or even tried out for any because I was so worried about not being good enough.
The extent of my sports experiences growing up was six weeks of church volleyball, which was very stressful for me because I was so truly terrible at it.
It never occurred to me that practicing might be a good way to improve or that said practice might be a better alternative to dreading the games all week long and then never playing again.
It seemed much safer and easier to stay in my own lane where I knew I could excel, so I stuck to academics and theater which came much more easily (plus, how many chances do you get to wear a wig that makes you look like a 14-year-old Barbara Bush in sports?).
I had wonderful experiences with academics and theater, but I really wish I’d been brave enough to try something that didn’t come as easily to me and not worried so much about only doing the things I was already good at.
Even now, I feel those old nerves flare up whenever a sporting event is suggested, whether it’s a casual kickball game with friends at the park or (my worst nightmare) sand volleyball.
The difference is that now I recognize that, like almost anything else, I can learn those sports skills and get over those fears if it’s important to me.
When Bart and I first got married, we talked at length about what we wanted for our children, and one of the very first things I mentioned was that I wanted sports to be a natural and fun part of our family culture.
Of course, at the time, I had no idea that we’d end up with four girls, but now I feel even more strongly about making sure they feel confident in sports.
I want my girls to know that sports are not just about winning or being the very best, but athletics are about learning to keep going when things are hard.
Sports are a perfect opportunity to try new things and learn physical skills, plus it’s one of the most fun ways to take good care of the beautiful bodies they’ve each been given.
Research shows that girls drop out of sports twice as fast as boys do and that girls walk away from sports way before they reach their full potential.
If sports turn out not to be what my children love the most, that’s fine with me – I don’t need to have Olympian daughters.
But I never want them to avoid sports out of fear of failure. Sports build confidence, character, friendships, and grit that last for life, and I’d hate for them to miss out on that because they aren’t immediately good.
Especially now that we’re living somewhere with better weather (at least right now!), we’re making an effort to get out as a family and practice sports together as a family.
I always felt at a disadvantage because I didn’t understand even the basics of sports like soccer, so when Ella came home from second grade last year saying that all her friends were playing soccer during recess but she didn’t know how to play, it was a big priority to me to make sure she understood the rules and felt like she could play with her classmates.
We had a big basement in our Arizona house, so Bart would practice down there with the girls, helping them understand the fundamentals of the game.
We also bought them baseball mitts and they love playing catch.
I’m also trying to be a good example to them of being active and having that be a fun, rewarding part of my life.
When Ella was about 2 and I was pregnant with Ani, I started running with two friends three mornings a week. I’d NEVER been a good runner and basically felt like I never would be, but suddenly I was running 3 miles three times a week, even as I entered my third trimester.
I felt better than I ever had and it was amazing how much that confidence bled into other completely non-athletic parts of my life.
When we moved to North Carolina, it fell by the wayside but this past summer I started running again, after one of my friends invited me to run a 10k with her in February.
I love that my girls see me getting up and running many days of the week not because I’m going to take first place (or even 101st) but because I want to push myself to try new things and stay in the race.
And of course the Criss Cross Hoodie (it has the cutest cross-back design) has been a massive hit – I think she’s worn it almost every day to school since we moved because 80 degrees to an Arizona girl is absolutely sweatshirt weather.
Like me, my girls are pretty competitive and so I know it will be easy for them to give up on sports if they aren’t always the winners.
For 20 years, Athleta has inspired women and girls to reach their limitless potential, whether they’re serious athletes or just getting into fitness.
I want my girls to feel the same way – that sports are for them in whatever form works for them now in their childhood and as they grow into adults.
Photos by Jylare Smith Photography