Four-Time Olympic Gold Medalist & Founder of Right To Play
When I was a little girl, my Dad was a head high school football coach at Grant High School in the San Fernando Valley in Los Angeles. He would bring me to practice a lot during the Summer time and have me on the sidelines at Friday night home games. I wasn't exactly the little girl from "Remember the Titans" but let's just say that I never had a hard time holding my own among the men who seemed to be giants on the field.
Grant was a school that bused in kids from other parts of Los Angeles at that time. The team had boys from every racial background that was the melting-pot mix that made up LA back then and I never really noticed well since I was 5-years old and all and usually in pig-tails.
Why is this important now and why am I starting my first blog with this story?
Now that I have spent the past 15 years working in the sports industry in various positions as it relates to athlete representation and advocacy, I look back and realize that this experience as a little girl was one that not only shaped my thoughts on how I felt more than comfortable in a "big-man's world" but how I looked at everyone as equal no matter the racial background. And this became the norm to me all through the exposure of a very mixed race high school football team, seeing how they all treated one another like true teammates and brothers.
My Dad resigned as a coach around 1989 or so and has since been an incredibly successful "Dr. Phil-type" psychologist. I have come back around to those memories a lot recently thinking about why there isn't more attention paid to using sports as a social change tool.
I'm also asked quite often if I've ever felt uncomfortable being the only woman in a room or meeting. My answer is: NOT ONCE have I ever felt uncomfortable, quite the opposite actually. Through these experiences as a little one, not only have I always felt included as a woman but I also never thought negatively about other races and cultural groups.
Funny how my father's decision to just "casually" put me on the sidelines of a high school football team led to a difference of ideologies than what's portrayed in the media. To this day, whenever I stand on a football field, I think about all of those young men who were all part of the same team.