As a child of the 80's, I grew up in a post-Title IV world. That meant girls sports in school, sport gear specifically for girls, including pink balls (lord, why only pink??), cleats and jerseys and sports bras cut for preteen girls' bodies. Teams for everything. Tournaments winter, spring, summer and fall. All this, we took for granted.
When we arrived in Nicaragua last week, i started looking around for a girls soccer team for my daughter, and found only one, through Soccer Without Borders, a non-profit that uses soccer as a vehicle for engaging girls and helping them make healthy choices. According to the program's website, 28 percent of Nicaraguan girls are pregnant or mothers by age 18, and only 13 percent have played sports in any type of informal or formal setting. Compare that to the 40 percent participation in Varsity-level sports among American girls, as reported by the Women's Media Center, and you can see how Title IV has helped girls in our country not only participate, but reap the side benefits of sports, including being more confident, healthier and avoiding risky behavior such as drug abuse.
I am thrilled to have my daughter be playing on the Mariposas team this year, however, i am a little sad for her too. It's a great program to have here, but it's a far cry from the weekly rounds of competition that she engaged in back home. While the program serves more than 150 girls in this town, there are not enough girls her age playing in Granada, a town of more than 117,000, for there to be regular games -- so that means practices and scrimmages are the name of the game. For competitive girls like my daughter, that takes away a big part of the sport. There's a big tournament coming up against teams from Managua, but after it's done, what's next?
I want the world for my daughter and that's why i brought her here -- to see the world, in all its tropical, complicated glory. I am grateful that she has the option to play with girls in the neighborhood on a regular basis, and to have them as teammates and friends who splash around the pool and come to the door at all hours of the day. Yes, there's more to the sport than the sport.
But you can bet i will try to be recruiting more girls, as we meet them, so that there's the chance of more actual games...