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From me to you, highlighting challenges faced by girls

Dear Daughters, It’s A Different World of Soccer Now

Dear Daughters,

You are growing up in a different world and I am happy for you!
Watching the 2015 Women’s World Cup, I know the world is changing for the better for you.

You play for Cole Harbour Soccer Club where the boys and girls get treated the same. All Cole Harbour soccer athletes have access to the same standard of training, equipment, and coaching as the boys. You play on the same fields and you are allotted the same times of day to train and play (when I played women’s hockey the women always had to practice or play at 3 or 4pm or much later at night with 9pm, 10pm or 11pm starts. The boys and men got ice times between the hours of 5 and 8pm. And the women always played in the older rinks with the awful ice surfaces).

There are enough girls playing soccer now that you grow up in a world where Cole Harbour can have the exact same amount of competitive girls’ teams as they do boys’ teams. I started playing soccer when I was 6. I played soccer with the boys up until I was 12. Well, that’s not entirely true. When I was 8 I played on my first all girls team. There were no girls’ teams to play against so we played in a league against all boys’ teams. The next season the all girls’ team folded and I went back to playing with boys util I was 12. In the summer of 1997, I played on an all girls’ team that played in an all girls’ league. Not every association had enough girls back then to field all girls’ teams, including Cole Harbour which meant I had to leave Cole Harbour Soccer and join another club. You are lucky enough to have options and equal opportunity at every age level with Cole Harbour Soccer Club.

When I was growing up playing soccer there was no Women’s National Soccer Team to look up to. They played their first international match on July 7, 1986 when I was 11. No one even knew they existed. The first Women’s World Cup ever was held in 1991. There were 12 teams competing. Canada did not even qualify for this tournament. It wasn’t until the 1999 World Cup that people even began recognizing women’s soccer at an international level. I was 24.

When I was growing up playing sports, they were male-dominated. Female athletes played second fiddle to the males at every level. To put it in perspective, men have been able to play soccer at the Summer Olympics since 1900. Women’s soccer became an Olympic sport in 1996, 96 years later. I was 21. Eldest dear daughter you were born only 6 years later. My dear daughters, you were born into a world much different than mine. A world where women’s soccer is played at the highest level! And our Canadian girls don’t just play soccer, they win! They inspire! They have changed soccer here in Canada – for girls AND boys! Canada’s captain and star player, Christine Sinclair, is known as a soccer player, not a female soccer player. Canada’s equipment manager, Maeve Glass, is quoted in a New York Times article by Jere Longman saying, “The groups that come to train after us, you hear 14- and 15-year-old boys saying, ‘Yeah, there she is, there’s Sinclair right there. Ten years ago, if you told me that, I would have gone, No.”

I have to tell you that watching this Women’s World Cup is the first time in my life I have ever felt that women have truly reached equality in a sport at an international level. The Women’s World Cup feels no different to me than the Men’s World Cup (okay except for the name – they still refer to the Men’s World Cup as simply the World Cup but refer to the Women’s World Cup as the Women’s World Cup). The hype, the media attention, the star players the quality of play, the competitiveness – they are all the same to me. It is a great feeling and I am so happy that you will grow up not knowing what it feels like to be a second-class athlete when it comes to soccer. From Cole Harbour Soccer Club on…the sky’s the limit for you dear daughters!

soccer

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