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Mary Cain on How We Can All Work to Fix Girls’ Sports

For National Girls and Women in Sports Day, we asked 360 YOU mentor Mary Cain to share her thoughts on what it would take to fix girls' sports. She shares the process she took when she started Atalanta NYC.

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When the team at Women’s Running asked me what I think it would truly take to “fix girls’ sports,” I immediately knew the honest answer is there are so many complex issues that create the systemic nature of inequity girls and women face in sport. Creating a list of everything we need to change as a society felt both overwhelming and discouraging, especially when considering the fact that to truly “fix girls’ sports,” our society needs to acknowledge other biases girls face based on their race, gender identity, and sexual orientation.

So after an emotional week of personally recounting some of my own traumatizing experiences in sport, I decided I wanted to write about something else. Instead of talking about what society needs to do to “fix girls’ sports,” I want to share some encouragement and positivity for ways you can make a difference.

RELATED: Want a Healthier Running Culture for Women? Start With Girls

Take a moment to think about your own life. If you have the time, make a written lists of all of the following organizations and people: Where do you work? Where did you go to school? Who are your teammates and friends? Who is your family? Where do you live? What organizations made a difference in my life? Are there any other people and places that matter to me?

Once you’ve made a list, consider what you can do to make a difference. Note: This is meant to be a thought experience that you can find inspiration from. There is not one right way to make changes, and the suggestions below might not work for you, and that’s OK. But hopefully you can start thinking a bit more about ways you can make either subtle or big changes in your life that can create change for both yourself and others.

RELATED: In Her Power: Mary Cain Focuses on a Healthy Future For Girls and Women in Running

Some suggestions and ideas are below:

  • Consider where you work. Your work may not directly relate to sports, but for lasting change to happen in sports, change needs to happen across industries. Are there ways you can make a difference in the lives of other women within your company? Consider your specific role. You don’t need to do anything outside of comfort zone, but consider what you are an expert in (and don’t undersell yourself!) and what parts of the organizational structure you have a say in. For example, if you work in a male-dominated industry, are there organizations you can donate your time with to help other young women interested in your field?
  • Consider where you went to school or local schools. Are there opportunities at your alma mater or local schools to help serve as a role model to young women? Maybe that means following your dream of becoming a coach for girls. Maybe that means helping mentor young women interested in going into your field. Whatever it is, consider ways you can share your expertise or experiences to inspire the next generation of girls.
  • Consider your teammates, friends, and family. Do you have girls in your life that you interact with on a regular basis? Are you consciously considering the ways you support their athletic experiences? And have you ever considered if you talk to the boys in your life differently? For example, when you consider the ratio of men’s to women’s sports that you watch and follow, are they nearly even? And if not, can you make a concerted effort to change that?
  • Consider organizations that made a difference in your life. Are there groups or people that helped support you become the strong woman you are today? If so, are there ways you can support those groups and people continue to impact the next generation?

Every single one of us is going to fill our pages with different people, places, and groups. And this is what makes this exercise special; if we all make a conscious effort to create change within the people or organizations we each touch, our impact can grow and spread. Because the impact of changing the trajectory of one woman’s life is always worth the time, dedication, and love.

This article is part of our three-month 360 YOU program, available free to Women’s Running members. Find out what the program is all about here or head to the collection page to dive into the available training and inspirational content.