When I was about 7 or 8 my parents decided being an athlete was going to be a part of who I am. To say I was resistant is an understatement. They didn’t want me to be too girlie and my Grandmother didn’t want me to be too boyish. One day my Mom sent me to track practice with my God brothers. The coach wanted to “get a look” at my athletic ability. I ran around the track in my socks because I wasn’t wearing gym shoes. Hated it. However, that didn’t stop my mother from signing me up for track, then soccer. Hated that too. That was until I got my first taste of winning.
My first track meet EVER I won the long jump and came in 3rd in the 100 yard dash. I kept going not because I enjoyed the physicality but because I loooooved to win. In soccer I didn’t start off with too much skill. I played with all boys because my Mom wanted to teach me that not only is it okay to play with the boys, it’s okay to beat the boys. I definitely felt alienated though. I played defense, you know where they put the kids with no skill. I was mediocre at best, no attention span, didn’t chase down defenders. Then one day in soccer practice I cleared the ball far down field. My coach, who happened to be my Godfather, moved me to forward. Then it clicked. I was fast, I was nimble and just enough attention span to shoot goals but nothing really beyond that. In high school I was moved to center forward because of my leadership abilities and speed. I preferred the outside though because I wasn’t good shooting straight on. I went on to swim team and even tried cheer leading (I was an awful cheerleader).
Okay, you may be wondering why I’m telling you this. I was the ONLY black girl playing sports in my elementary and junior high school. In high school I was one of a few and was made fun of for playing “white sports”. The black girls who did play sports in high school mostly played basketball or ran track. They weren’t going outside to get muddy or getting their hair wet. This is very telling of where we, black women, find ourselves today. Most don’t exercise because they don’t want to get their hair sweaty and wet, they don’t want to get dirty or “I’m just not doing that”.
Our bodies were designed to move. The biggest benefit to being an athlete in my early years is that I’m still an athlete years later. Your body remembers. Oh and my hair survived just fine and, with a little extra work, looks good. Don’t deprive yourself of winning or long lasting health to protect your hair, or because it’s just not something black women do. Good thing no one told Gabby Douglas that or else she wouldn’t have won that Gold medal for her country (and by the way her hair looked fine!).