The Olympics are almost here! The games begin on August 5. This year the US Olympic team has more women than men, for only the second time in history. Of the 555 athletes who will compete at the games in Rio - 292 are women. No country has ever sent more women to the Olympics - ever. Read more here.
What does participating in sports do for girls and women? A lot - it turns out. It increases strength and confidence. It fights disease now and later. It helps girls and women see their bodies as useful and beautiful, as they define it - not as defined by the media.
In honor of the start of the 2016 Olympic games - featuring more women on the US team than any team in history, we will be publishing excerpts from The Girl's Guide to Swagger in Outdoors and Sports!
So - here we go.
All women have swagger. Some are just waiting for permission to use it.
What Is Swagger?
When I talk to girls and women about The Girl’s Guide to Swagger project, sometimes there is a misunderstanding about what I mean by swagger. Am I suggesting that women be pushy and over-confident or act like a man in order to get what they want from life? The answer is no. I’m proposing a whole new definition of what swagger can be.
A Definition of Swagger
The word swagger has been associated with swashbuckling pirates, strutting cowboys, and cocky male rappers. In a world where there is sometimes too much male swagger and not enough female self-assurance, I want to transform the word so that it loses its negative connotations and instead means something positive. Swagger can come to mean full feminine confidence: the kind of presence that comes from knowing who you are and being willing to live authentically in the world.
…looking inside to find your own true voice and gifts and sharing them in pursuit of a better life and a better world.
What swagger is NOT:
…arrogance or domination or feeling superior.
Why Swagger in the Outdoors and Sports?
Would you like to be healthier, stronger; have more energy and more confidence? Playing sports and being outdoors can bring you all those benefits. Girls and women who are active feel better about their about their bodies and suffer fewer health problems, like breast cancer later in life. Girls who play sports are less vulnerable to depression, binge drinking and other risky behaviors and learn how to handle stress and develop discipline. All these benefits lead to more success in college and business careers and greater overall life satisfaction.
Why we need this book
As I was researching this book, I often looked online to find the stories of inspiring women athletes. Usually within the first three search results, there was a story like “Babes of the Olympics” or “Hottest Women Athletes.” When searching for stories of male athletes, there were rarely be such descriptions. Why? World-class female athletes, just like other women, often get more attention for their looks than for their athletic accomplishments.
When I explained to a male friend that I was excited to be interviewing a particular Olympic athlete, one who had won more than one Olympic medal, he said “Oh, she is the one with the big boobs." Apparently, he mistakenly believed that this athlete had posed for Playboy Magazine and that was all he remembered. Let’s change that. Let’s tell the stories of girls and women who love their sports and recognized them for their talents and accomplishments, not their body parts.
In The Girl’s Guide to Swagger in the Outdoors and Sports, I will describe how I found greater confidence in the outdoors. I’ve been outdoors since I was a tomboy climbing trees and now I write a hiking column for the Taos News and have written a book about how nature helps us find and heal ourselves, called Lessons from Nature in healing, strength and flexibility. (White Sand Lake Press, 2003) and one called Taos Hiking Guide (Nighthawk Press, 2015).
Over the past several years, I’ve spoken to hundreds of girls and women about their experiences through interviews, workshops, and panel discussions. I’ve led programs for girls such as the YMCA Girl Power Camp, YWCA Puente Program for Latina Girls, and have tutored through the I Have a Dream program for low income youth in Colorado. I also put together a panel discussion for the Empower the Girl conference held in New Mexico recently. The panel included high school athletes and women who ran programs for girls, including those learning trapeze skills. We talked about the challenges each of us faced in finding and maintaining our confidence and listening to the audience, who had their own great ideas and suggestions. At the conference, we held a Swagger Art contest for girls and women to illustrate what confidence looks like.
I’ll share the stories of women and girls who have found a way to be themselves and also be assertive, while being outdoors and competing in sports. I’ll summarize the results of an on-line survey, taken by more 525 women over four year, in which girls and women talk about how their found their swagger and where they would like to have more swagger.
I will guide you through how to get started in a new sport, how to overcome your fears, and how to have fun doing it. I will share the stories of those who have been the first in their sports, including the first woman to play professional football in a contact position and the first woman ever to compete in ski jumping at the Olympic Games. Former and future Olympic athletes, as well as high school soccer, basketball, and track competitors talk about their fears and challenges, as well as their successes.
I hope that all these stories will inspire you to try a new sport or pick up one you used to love and that as a result you will be healthier, happier and stronger.
Whatever you can do, or dream you can, begin it
Boldness has genius, power, and magic in it.