Winning Role Models

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What the Women’s World Cup Can Teach Us About Healthy Inspiration

The U.S. Women's National Soccer Team wrote yet another inspiring chapter in its rich and illustrious history with their recent World Cup win, and once again, soccer fever has swept the nation. They shattered soccer stats by breaking their own team's records and newly set a scoring record for most goals ever in a Women's World Cup tournament. Perhaps most importantly however; these 23 young women have also become examples of the ultimate role models for kids and adults alike.

The benefits of participation in sports begin early. Research links involvement in athletics to higher self-esteem, improved body image, and even stronger friendships for girls. Female athletes also transform traditional gender norms by serving as role models for both girls and boys. As a physician who cares for elite athletes worldwide, I have seen firsthand that a healthy, athletic role model can help redefine cultural standards, especially for kids. It is a stark contrast to a world that's increasingly influenced by social media "celebrities" trying to sell our young people a fantasy life. Instagram "influencers" and YouTube sensations have monopolized our youth's attention, and they're hawking a never-ending slew of products and services that cater to physical appearance. They're "holy grail" promise is that the more physically attractive you are, the happier and more confident you'll be.

But the young women of the U.S. soccer team are redefining what a role model is. These amazing athletes are getting people motivated about playing sports and engaging in physical fitness. They're demonstrating resilience to keep trying until you succeed, and confidence to believe that you are capable of anything you desire for your life. Seeing the discipline these women had and the joy they felt upon accomplishing their goal pulls at anyone's heartstrings, soccer player or not.

It's clear these women are athletic champions, but that is not what makes them ultimate role models. They are normal women that faced many of the same challenges our youth and adults encounter in their lives. These are challenges that can cause anyone to question their capacity for success. Watching these soccer stars continue to push until they beat the odds against them is what defines them as role models. For example, Alex Morgan was told by her club coach that she would only be a practice player. She initially earned a place on the national team only because another player dropped out. Jessica McDonald, at 31 years old, has gone through all of the same physical and emotional struggles of professional sports as her teammates. However, she is the only mother on the team and is simultaneously caring for a 7-year-old son. The goals scored by the U.S. Women's Team in the winning game represented the oldest (Rapinoe) and the second-youngest (Lavelle) players to score in a World Cup final. Carli Lloyd entered the game in the second half at 36 years of age.

How many of our youth feel like they aren't good enough to play at the next level? How many are moms, or feel like they have gotten too old to accomplish their goals? The U.S. Women's National Team showed them all that it's possible.

The takeaway? Nothing is impossible – for anybody, at any age, under any circumstances. The women of the U.S. Soccer Team are relatable and inspiring not just for kids, but for adults as well. It's refreshing to witness women in the national spotlight who are active, physically fit, and take care of their bodies through exercise and nutrition. These are, after all, the keys to long-term happiness and health in any of our lives. Pushing your body and mind past the point where you believed it was capable comes with exponentially greater reward and belief in yourself than anything else can bring. Perhaps the most inspiring takeaway is that you don't have to be an athlete to be inspired by these women. The characteristics they exude are part of the recipe for success in any career, school program, or personal life. It's all about being yourself, speaking your mind, and continually pushing yourself to be and do better, even when it feels like the odds are against you. The women of the U.S. National Team have battled their way through the 2019 World Cup with discipline and relentless effort. They're striving for personal greatness and along the way sparking excitement and confidence for their nation, their fans, children, and adults all over the world.

Sources:

http://www.espn.com/espnw/sports/article/22968430/study-shows-positive-correlation-playing-sports-better-self-image-girls

https://www.sportanddev.org/en/learn-more/gender/role-sport-addressing-gender-issues-0

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