Celebrating the Moms Who Helped Us Play

May 11, 2012

Ever since I was a kid, I loved swimming. Showers, oceans, pools — if there was water, I wanted to be in it. I used to come home from swim practice just to soak in the tub.

In fifth grade, I decided to take it to the next level — I wanted to be an Olympic swimmer. That wasn’t going to happen if I continued practicing with the local team — amateurs! — so I convinced my parents to pony up a few hundred dollars and sign me up for club swimming.

But their sacrifice went a little further. Three times a week, my mom drove me to the next town over, which was 15 minutes away, so I could carpool with a friend for another half-hour ride.

Two years later, I found a better team and a new car pool. The only catch was that my mom had to help drive more often.

Sometimes she drove an hour — 15 minutes there and back twice a night — to get me to my ride. Other times she lost her whole evening — 45 minutes driving to the pool, three hours sitting though practice, and another 45 minutes driving home — just so I could swim.

I didn’t turn out to be a female Michael Phelps. But I still teared up when I watched Procter and Gamble’s new video about the moms of Olympic athletes. I thought about my own mom and the sacrifices she made while I chased the dream.

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=lmgPODFXAQk]

Of course, I owe my short-lived swimming career to others besides my mom. I also have to thank AAUW and those who fought almost 40 years ago to pass Title IX — that single sentence that leveled the playing field for women in educational opportunity.

Their work has made a huge difference for female athletes. In 1971, the year before Title IX’s enactment, 8 percent of high school athletes were girls. But in the 2009–10 academic year, 41 percent of high school athletes — more than 3 million students — were girls. And Title IX goes beyond the numbers. It gives women the chance to experience all the benefits of playing sports — pride, teamwork, and dedication.

So this Mother’s Day, we’d like to say thanks to all the moms who gave us the opportunity to play. Thanks for driving us to practice, cheering us on at the meet, and buying us pizza when it was over, whether we won or lost. And thanks to the women and men who fought for our right to play at all.

By:   |   May 11, 2012

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