The hard is what makes it great

February 03, 2016 by Bill Ivey

( title quote from A League of Their Own)

Thank goodness for Annie. Most years, I can rely on my Twitter network to let me know National Girls and Women in Sports Day is approaching, but somehow this year, it caught me by surprise. Spurred on by Annie’s reminder, I was able to quickly assemble a photo gallery for Facebook, and selected a picture of a team cheer for Twitter (as it happens, last spring’s Fitness class preparing to compete in the RVAL Ultimate Frisbee tournament).

There’s so much to love about that picture, starting of course with the girls themselves, but it’s much more than that. It’s a sense of community, a sense of willing readiness to give their all, a certain intensity, perhaps even a palpable fierceness. These are students who didn’t actually sign up for a competitive sport and yet elected, when given an opportunity, to not only test their skills in a relatively unfamiliar sport but also do so in a tournament. They gave it their all and they had fun.

We know there are multiple benefits when girls are involved in athletics (and yes, dance and riding most definitely count!). Besides the obvious advantage of being healthy and physically fit, they have more confidence and self-esteem, which leads on one hand to doing better in school and on another to lowered risk of pregnancy. Athletics provides an important context (here, alongside classroom and advisory work) to learn about teamwork and setting and working toward goals. It can help lower and manage stress. And, of course, it’s fun! (from and the Women’s Sports Foundation)

In the larger context, of course, we still have work to do. Recently, I was involved in an online conversation with a teacher and some of his friends on the gender wage gap, and one person opined that it mattered little in the face of the celebrity athlete vs. common person wage gap. I had to jump in, granting the spirit of his point but adding that the WNBA maximum salary is a fraction of the NBA minimum and that professional women’s soccer players on some teams have to seek housing with fans and supporters because they literally do not earn enough to pay the rent. My friend “liked” the comment, I'm thinking to show his support. His friend ignored it, at least publicly, though I of course hold out hope it at least set him to thinking.

One small step on a long journey to justice. But if you put lots of small steps together...

Meanwhile, if you see me today and I suddenly smile for no obvious reason, you can pretty well bet that I’m thinking about our kids and their team cheer. And perhaps tonight, when I make it home after Rock Band, I’ll put on A League of Their Own. My son and I just watched it together a few weeks ago, but I can’t think of a better way to sum up the day.

Written by Bill Ivey

A dedicated member of the faculty, Bill Ivey is the Middle School Dean at Stoneleigh-Burnham School. He teaches Humanities 7 and the Middle and Upper School Rock Bands. Bill is the advisor for MOCA, the middle school student government, and he coordinates and participates in the middle school service program. Among his many hats, Bill also coordinates social media for Stoneleigh-Burnham School.

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Filed Under: On Athletics, National Girls and Women in Sports Day, Feminism