By age 14, girls are twice as likely to drop out of sports as boys.
That somewhat surprising statistic is at the center of Gatorade’s Keep Her in the Game campaign, encouraging girls to stay in sports. Why? Because athletic activity has long-term benefits: girls who stay involved with sports are healthier and do better in school—not to mention, an impressive 80% of executive businesswomen played sports when they were young.
So today, on the 40th anniversary of Title IX, we spoke with Ellery Hollingsworth, 20-year-old professional snowboarder and recent third place medalist at the Burton Canadian Open, about the role sports have played in her life. Hollingsworth shared with us how she started as an athlete, how it’s shaped her life, and her advice to all of us to help the next generation of young girls stick with sports.
How did you get started playing sports? Was snowboarding your first love?
I have two older brothers, 5 and 7 years old than me, who played sports. My dad had played soccer in college, and my mom had always been athletic. So, I was always surrounded by sports. I played basketball, softball, soccer, tennis, golf—you name it. Every season I was playing at least two sports, and all my friends played sports, too.
I see that changing now, though. Kids are playing video games, and girls are self-conscious about how they look. But it’s so important for girls to stay in sports.
How has being an athlete impacted your life? What did you learn from playing sports that helped you off the court and off the mountain?
My dad was a soccer player, and he would play with me before and after my soccer games when I was a kid. When we played, he would have me set goals for myself, so we would have things to work on. That’s carried over into my life now—as a professional snowboarder, I still set goals. It's the only way to improve. And outside of sports, in school—goals are very important. Setting goals is how you get better.
Also, I’ve made a lot of friends through sports, and it's become my community.
Did you ever consider “dropping out” of sports?
Well, I stopped playing softball and basketball in high school. I played soccer throughout high school, but stopped after that. But I never stopped being athletic—athletics will always be a way of life for me. Like I said, it’s my community.
For girls who’re thinking about stopping sports—I would strongly advise against it. Even if you’re the worst player on your team, you can train and improve, and you won’t always be at the bottom!
What can we do to help the next generation of girls stay in the game?
First, you can learn more about the Keeping Her in the Game Campaign at www.keepherinthegame.org, and you can donate.
Second, change your social media picture to yourself as a young athlete, or to an athlete who inspired you. Social media is so big these days—Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, MySpace. (Does anyone use MySpace anymore?)
A lot more girls do sports than people realize, and this is a great way to get the word out. I just changed mine!
Last question: What’s next for you?
I’m in Utah right now, training at Park City. We do strength and cardio every day, and trampoline work, too. In two weeks, I’m headed to Mt. Hood, Oregon—and then a few weeks after that to New Zealand to train for the World Cup!
Melissa is a Founder of The Muse. Melissa was recently named to INC's 15 Women to Watch in Tech. She was an Executive Editor of The Harvard Crimson, where she graduated summa cum laude with a degree in Physics. She was also a management consultant for McKinsey & Company, where she learned the ins and outs of the business world—and many, many airports. Life-goals include running a marathon and filling up all the extra pages in her passport.More from this Author