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INK_BLAST | I THROW LIKE A GIRL, AND I’M PROUD OF IT

INK_BLAST | I THROW LIKE A GIRL, AND I’M PROUD OF IT

By Juleyka Lantigua
Girls Venus Williams hits a tennis racquet like a girl. Her sister Serena serves, receives and volleys like a girl. These women also earn gold medals, grand slams and tons of money at it—just like girls.

All the women Olympians in Beijing battling it out for gold were once girls too. And when they were girls, they were taught to enjoy sports. Someone walked them onto a track for the first time. Someone taught them to shoot a basketball. Someone waited for them at the deep end of the pool.

Although I’m not a world-class athlete, I throw, catch, run and serve like a girl. And I’m proud of it. Being athletic has been key in my life, touching my professional success, my personal growth and even my spiritual well being.

I learned to swim very early since I grew up on and island (DR), where swimming is second only to walking in terms of normal physical activity. I remember endless competition among cousins. We would heave our lanky bodies into the ocean, or the river down from my aunt’s house, and swim until our lungs hurt from the strain. Arms flailing, head bobbing under and above the waves, I learned two of the most fundamental lessons in life.

Lesson one: Know your own limits. I was skinnier and younger than my older cousins, so it would have taken a miracle for me to win any of our afternoon meets. But there I was, at the starting line of every single one.

Lesson two: Define success for yourself. It didn’t matter that it would be years before I achieved a respectable pace. It only mattered that I tried and that I outdid myself every time. Winning wasn’t the point. I just wanted to make it back to the starting line so I could play with the older kids.

Later on, volleyball was compulsory at my elementary school, so all the kids learned to play. I took to the sport and in high school I became varsity co-captain. I was even named "Class Athlete" and my picture—volleyball in hand—appeared in the yearbook. My participation in volleyball made my transition to college much smoother. In college I made the varsity team as a first-year. Practice sessions, team events and weekend tournaments taught me the importance of managing my time well.

The invaluable life skills I acquired through participating in sports—whether organized or casual—stayed with me long after I left the court. There are girls—daughters, nieces, cousins, goddaughters—in our lives right now who would benefit equally from a guiding adult to usher them into an athletic activity. And who knows, you could be mentoring the next Venus or Senera Williams in the process.

"Juleyka Lantigua is a journalist and editor whose work appears in national newspapers and magazines. For more info visit: www.juleykalantigua.com."

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