Growing up with two older brothers had a really big impact on my life. Some of my earliest memories are watching my brother Ryan play baseball with his friends in the backyard. They used makeshift bases and played for hours at a time. I remember standing near the window watching them play, wishing I could go outside and play with them, but because I was a girl who could barely throw, I stayed inside. My house and my family ran around sports schedules.

Baseball season turned to football season and football season turned back to baseball. There really was no offseason in my house and I had no choice but to fall in love with sports. Although the extent of my baseball experience is playing t-ball when I was around 6 and soft tossing to my boyfriend, sports had a huge impact on my life. From kindergarten to high school my life was run by the sports I played.

I’ve participated in almost every sport I could lay my hands on. Soccer, basketball, competitive cheerleading (which is a sport thank you very much) and a little bit of baseball, but no sport connected with me the way swimming did. Swimming, I know. It seems like a foreign sport to many. Just something they watch every four years when the Olympics comes around or something they were signed up for every summer. To me, swimming was a lot more than that.

I remember the moment I fell in love with the sport. It was the 2012 London Olympics and I was in the height of my swimming career. I refused to miss any events, especially one with Missy Franklin in it. I had formed a strange kind of connection with Franklin. I had never seen a female swimmer get the kind of attention as her and I latched on. My whole life all I knew were male swimmers. They got the attention even though there were hundreds of amazing female swimmers just waiting to be showcased.

That summer, as a 12-year-old girl, I decided that I would be a Missy Franklin. Even as a kid I knew that there needed to be strong female athletes that girls like myself could look up to. I was young but I threw myself into training. I was in the pool every day until I eventually burned out. I was injured and it kept me from ever wanting to dive into another pool again. It’s a long and heart-wrenching story but I’m convinced it got me into college so I guess it’s okay.

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I haven’t swum in a competitive setting since then, but sports have not become any less important to me. Instead of physically investing my time in sports, I invest mentally. I’ll be going into my freshman year of college next year and I plan on networking my way into the sports industry.  Instead of wanting to be a Missy Franklin I want to be an Amanda Stein (hey @amandacstein) I dream of being able to work with players and giving them the ability to share their stories and who they are as people. Athletes are seen as money-making devices and not people, and I want to help change the culture.

I know I will never be able to play professional baseball or professional hockey, but I will do what I can to be there in the ways that I can. Women in the sports world are becoming less rare, but it’s still a boys club. No matter how old I get, I’ll always have that dream of being someone young girls who love sports can look up to.

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