Ananya Kamboj, 16, is an ambassador of football, peace, and youth empowerment. She had represented India as a Young Journalist at the global Football for Friendship (F4F) social program by Gazprom. She was invited to Moscow as a special guest for the premiere of her book. ‘My Journey from Mohali to St. Petersburg‘. It is an anthology of twenty-one stories. Not only I am learning about myself during my football training sessions, but I quickly learned important lessons as well. It helped me learn things such as what is playing like a girl, resilience, leadership, accountability, respect, and patience. Lessons that sports teach us can help us develop as players as well as all rounded good people. Let’s check below what is meant by “Play Like A Girl”.
Unfortunately, I found that as often as not, while the coaches showed the kids how to shoot a basket, throw a strike or head a football. They were also teaching them to regard girls as inferior to boys. I often hear coaches hurl statements such as these in an attempt to motivate the team’s performance: “This is war! Let’s go out and kill the other team! Man up! You’re playing like a girl!”
What is meant by play like a girl?
For many people, “play like a girl” and much nastier variations mean; being bad. Being too weak. Striking out. Dropping a catch. Missing a tackle. Missing a shot. Getting crossed up.
Sports, in general, has often been a landing site for hyper-masculinized ideals – power, using violence to solve problems, homophobia and risk-taking. But there’s a growing recognition that cultivating performance-based values such as these contribute to societal norms related to violence against women.
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While there is no doubt that encouraging and developing physical competence, self-esteem, fortitude and character are all positive. And it is important aspects of sports and wellness activities. The concern is that boys’ sports and physical activity settings have a tendency to perpetuate and reinforce problematic masculine ideals.
Innovators in the coaching and sports world are now teaching us that athletic environments can be the ideal place to transmit alternative, pro-active values to children and their families. Coaches can take the opportunity to tackle hypermasculinity using sports as their medium, as well as address gender inequality and violence.
Football for friendship:
For the last three consecutive years, I am representing India as a young journalist at the global Football for Friendship (F4F) program. F4F is an annual international children’s social program that unites children of different nationalities with different physical abilities. The goals of the project are – the development of children’s football as well as fostering tolerance, and respect for different cultures and nationalities among children from different countries. The key values that the participants support and promote are – friendship, equality, fairness, health, peace, devotion, victory, traditions, and honor.
Athletic environments can be the ideal place to transmit alternative, pro-active values to children and their families.
The program brings together children, families, coaches, and politicians to play football. Through the game, values of respect, responsibility, trust, neutrality, equity, inclusion, conflict resolution, and peaceful co-existence are developed. These proactive values then ripple out into the communities and society and make this world a better place to live in.
I believe in gender equality so I take the opportunity to use sport as a tool to reach the goal. My main goal is to fight for women’s rights and they should get respect and get acceptance in society just like men, not as a second gender. Through my initiative ‘Sports to Lead’, I specifically focus on women’s rights and addressing the main obstacles against women’s progress in the target area. I arrange sessions for girls who come from rural and urban areas and are very young and hopeful future players for their country. Here, they learn about their rights and fight against discrimination and gender equality.
The ‘Sports to Lead’ project also highlights the benefits of using sports as a vehicle to combat hypermasculinity and sexualization. Through research and broad-based community action, ‘Sports to Lead’ is shifting attitudes and practices that contribute to violence against women.
I think beyond sports, beyond words and I will one day reach my goal!