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From me to you, highlighting challenges faced by girls

Women’s Olympic Soccer proves that investment in women’s sports is worth it!

Dear Daughters,

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As someone who has played sports since she was five or six, I have experienced my fair share of the inequalities between men and women’s sports. Take some major moments of my hockey experiences for example. After having played competitive hockey at the PeeWee level in a league mostly played by boys (there were just two girls on my team), the other handful of girls also playing in the league and I were informed that we were permitted to play at the next level – Bantam – but not at the competitive level. We had to play house league Bantam or not at all. Since I had just been told what hockey I could and could not play based solely on my gender and not at all on my skill level, I chose not to continue playing hockey at that time. I was thirteen then but looking back, I wish I had stood up for my right to play. Instead I chose to put all of my hard work and determination into my other ice sport, ringette, and represented Nova Scotia at the 1991 Canada Winter Games. Ironically, that was the year women’s hockey was first introduced to the Canada Games. I never tried out for the team as I was still reeling from my disappointment of being told what hockey I could and could not play.

After accomplishing all that was available to me for ringette, I chose to return to hockey. I played another year in a league mostly played by boys (there were no all-girls teams as of yet) before I went to University. This is where I played, for the first time ever, on an all-girls team. During my fifth year with the Saint Mary’s Huskies, women’s hockey became a varsity sport there. Many other universities already had varsity-level women’s hockey teams but none existed in the Atlantic Provinces. The well-established men’s varsity team at Saint Mary’s had their own dressing room in the arena. We used whichever one was not occupied. The men had team uniforms and equipment bought for them. We supplied our own. When we were to represent the University at the inaugural AUAA (Atlantic University Athletics Association) Championships, the University decided we should have Saint Mary’s University jerseys to wear. Instead of buying us jerseys, we wore an old set previously worn by the men’s team. Some of the men’s surnames were still sewn on the back of the jerseys. My jersey was worn by a player who last played at the University three years earlier. We went on to win the AUAA Championships – the only team at our university to do so that year – and represented the AUAA at the National Championships that season. This time the University bought us our very own jerseys and matching socks.

Over the years, when inquiring about the inequality in investment in women’s sports, the number one reason given to me is that women simply do not draw in the crowds that the men do, and therefore it is basically an investment with no return. My response to this claim is for people to remember that investment in men’s sports has existed since sports began. And I am not just talking about monetary investment here. I am talking about access to the best coaches, best practice and game times, best facilities and even access to the sport on any level. It is because of these investments that men have been able to develop and perfect the amazing talents people pay to watch. The quality of women’s soccer played at the London 2012 Olympic Games proves that investment in women’s sports provides the same results.

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