The Underrated & Underrepresented: Women in Sports

By: Amarah Din

The month of March is dedicated to the recognition and appreciation of the woman’s experience, past and present. Women have been put in positions of struggle in numerous areas ranging from politics to the media, from the workplace to sports. And there is still much more. Yet, it isn’t often that we see praise for resilience of women.

Today, March 8th, is the official International Women’s Day. Cary High School has a strong student body, and it would be a disservice not to recognize the accomplishments of our female students on this day. So, to celebrate them, let’s take a look at what six female athletes at Cary High have overcome in the world of sports.

Abigail Harris

What sport(s) do you play?

  • I’ve been a cheerleader since I was 7 years old and enjoyed every moment of it!

Do you play for school, a recreational team, or club/travel?

  • I am on the school cheer team, but when I was younger I cheered for a recreational team called the Wake County Cowboys.

What’s something you love about your sport?

  • I love the fact I get to put on a performance! I enjoy putting on a huge smile and pumping up the energy at games with cheers and jumps. I love competing too, being the center of attention and getting to show off your skills in hopes to beat out other squads.

How have you seen yourself grow as you have played in your sport? 

  • I think I learned how to be a team member by being a cheerleader. In cheer, you can’t just rely on yourself to be good, you have to think of the team as a whole because if one person is missing a move, the whole team looks off; I learned to sync with others because of cheer.

What barriers are there for women in your sport? 

  • Despite cheer being a female dominated sport, it was originally a man’s sport, and some of that influence can be seen in the cheer world today. Many think to be a strong stunter you have to be a man, but I push to break that stereotype by showing my strength when stunting.

How have you or your teammates overcome these barriers?

  • At Cary, the cheer team is all female, which breaks the stereotype that men might have stronger stunts because we are able to hit a lot of the same stunts other schools might do with men. As a team, we push to improve our stunting skills and I think it shows in our skills today!

If you could give a message to a young female athlete, what would you tell her?

  • I would tell her to not be timid when thinking about standing apart from those in your sport; women are capable of so much so don’t be afraid to do what you love, even when others think you shouldn’t be doing it!

Margot Langenbach

What sport(s) do you play?

  • Volleyball, used to swim.

Do you play for school, a recreational team, or club/travel?

  • Volleyball – Cary High V Defensive Specialist; Sand/Beach Volleyball – Club, Southern Sands

What’s something you love about your sport?

  • I love how it allows people to take their mind off of other pressing issues in their lives for an hour or two. The way sports offer another area of achievement is special, especially when school or life as a whole feels quite stagnant.  While I am absolutely left in the dust by the 15 year-olds during conditioning, which is super embarrassing, exercising is good for lifting spirits. Practice is also another social environment, and it is excellent to meet new people!

How have you seen yourself grow as you have played in your sport?

  • As I grew older, it became clear I was not genetically blessed to succeed in higher levels of athletics. Nor did I have the dedication and competitive attitude, but I have become better at creating a nice team dynamic. It is strange to adapt to how your team or partner manages defeat or mistakes.

What barriers are there for women in your sport?

  • Especially in younger age groups, volleyball is a sport dominated by women.  There are rarely any discrepancies between the caliber of male and female practices at Southern Sands, but as in all sports, coaches will seek out those with ‘potential’ and funnel attention toward them.

How have you or your teammates overcome these barriers?

  • Charisma is an important skill. While I would not consider a lack of attention at practice a barrier for myself, (I just go to practice for fun honestly) those who strive to play in college or at a national level benefit enormously from being optimistic, open, and engaging those around them.

If you could give a message to a young female athlete, what would you tell her?

  • GO TO PRACTICE! I sometimes dread going then end up leaving having had fun.

Teonni Key

What sport(s) do you play?

  • I play basketball.

Do you play for school, a recreational team, or club/travel?

  • I played varsity basketball for Cary all 4 years & travel basketball since I was 9.

What’s something you love about your sport?

  • I love basketball’s competition level and that it brings people together. 

How have you seen yourself grow as you have played in your sport?

  • I have seen myself develop a great work ethic and become more confident.

What barriers are there for women in your sport?

  • Women in sports do not get as much recognition as men’s teams.

How have you or your teammates overcome these barriers?

  • My teammates and I have worked hard regardless and didn’t worry about getting recognition for it.

If you could give a message to a young female athlete, what would you tell her?

  • Success does not come with a lot of sacrifices. If you work hard, stay focused, and love what you do, there are no limits to what you can achieve.

Jacquelyn Pham

What sport(s) do you play?

  • I’m a swimmer!

Do you play for school, a recreational team, or club/travel?

  • I swim for Cary High’s swim team.

What’s something you love about your sport?

  • I love the uplifting, team atmosphere of the sport of swimming and the serenity that comes after crushing a difficult practice or performing well at a meet.

How have you seen yourself grow as you have played in your sport?

  • Over my swimming career, I’ve learned that swimming is more of a mental sport than it is a physical sport. By eliminating self-doubt and having a positive mindset, I’ve been able to accomplish many of my athletic goals. I’ve taken this shift in mindset to my everyday life and education, which has led me to become more optimistic about the goals I hope to achieve in the future.

What barriers are there for women in your sport?

  • One of the biggest barriers for women in the sport of swimming is body image. With the immense amount of training swimmers do, both in and out of the water, our physique can drastically change. With these changes comes the challenge of accepting our new body image and maintaining healthy eating habits, all while still being able to enjoy our sport.

How have you or your teammates overcome these barriers?

  • Having conversations with others and following social media accounts that promote body positivity, especially for female athletes, has been a large learning outlet when it comes to overcoming these struggles. I’ve learned the significance of properly fueling our bodies with the right foods and learned to be kind with the words we use to describe our body.

If you could give a message to a young female athlete, what would you tell her?

  • To all the young female athletes out there, work hard and never discredit any of your accomplishments, even if they seem small.

Colleen Quinlivan 

What sport(s) do you play?

  • Softball, cheer, and dive.

Do you play for school, a recreational team, or club/travel?

  • I am on the school team for all 3 sports, club for diving, and I did 5 years of rec softball. 

What’s something you love about your sport?

  • I love the team dynamic in softball. You really become as close as family throughout the season and every person is always lifting you up even when you make a mistake. It’s a great learning environment!

How have you seen yourself grow as you have played in your sport?

  • I think I have seen myself turn into a leader over the years. I always played with girls that were older than me so I was never able to take up those responsibilities until high school softball. I loved learning from the upperclassmen when I was a freshman and now I love being a positive role model for the younger girls.

What barriers are there for women in your sport?

  • I think in any women’s sport there is a stereotype that we are not as competitive or strong as a male sport so it is a constant challenge to ignore those who doubt you and push yourself to prove them wrong. 

How have you or your teammates overcome these barriers?

  • My team has played so competitively in the past 4 years. We constantly push ourselves in practice so that when we show up to games we are as prepared as we can be. While working hard together, we win together.

If you could give a message to a young female athlete, what would you tell her?

  • I would tell her that she is not limited by anybody else’s opinions of her or what she loves to do. I would want her to use the challenges that she faces to push herself to reach her goals.

Ella Vitaglione

What sport(s) do you play?

  • I play women’s lacrosse.

Do you play for school, a recreational team, or club/travel?

  • I used to play for a rec team up until high school when I joined the women’s varsity lacrosse team at Cary High.

What’s something you love about your sport?

  • Lacrosse is a great stress reliever for me. It takes all my attention away from my problems and helps me calm down. 

How have you seen yourself grow as you have played in your sport?

  • I feel like when I first started lacrosse, I was very shy but as the years went on, I learned to be more confident in my abilities in lacrosse and socializing. It has taught me to be riskier and assertive. Especially when I started playing high school lacrosse, it helped push me to be more confident in myself and not letting small mishaps bring me down.

What barriers are there for women in your sport?

  • One of the “dress codes” for games for women in lacrosse is wearing a skirt. This has been in place for years, but many people see us wearing skirts and sort of think less of the sport and think of it as girly when in some situations it can be dangerous. It’s not that I don’t like skirts, which show a bit of femininity, but it can be frustrating sometimes when people judge our sport or think less of it because we wear skirts instead of shorts. I also feel that lacrosse doesn’t get a lot of media. There are successful lacrosse teams, but I’ve never seen them on a news channel or anything. It’s always soccer, basketball, and football. So, I feel like that can be a barrier to getting people interested in lacrosse because we never hear about it.

How have you or your teammates overcome these barriers?

  • Throughout the years I’ve played, everyone always hears comments about how we wear skirts and how it’s weird, but I’ve learned that brushing it and just saying yeah so what is the route usually taken. There isn’t much to retaliate with, but it can get annoying.

If you could give a message to a young female athlete, what would you tell her?

  • My message to a young female athlete would be that don’t be afraid to step out of your comfort zone and try a new sport or position. If you want to try something, do it, don’t listen or think about what other people might think.

While men and women may run the same marathon, their paths will undoubtedly look different. Being a female athlete is not easy, but these six girls—and many more—have worked hard to get where they are now and deserve the same love and recognition as any male athlete does.

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