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The Hawk News

The Student News Site of St. Joseph's University

The Hawk News

The Student News Site of St. Joseph's University

The Hawk News

Body image in women’s sports


Redefining what an athlete “should” look like

I am 5 feet tall, a little over 100 pounds, and this year, I joined the women’s club ice hockey team.

When I tell people that I’m learning how to play ice hockey, their first reaction is shock. Maybe because ice hockey isn’t an extremely popular sport to play in this area, but more of their shock probably stems from the fact that I am a petite woman playing a sport that usually taller, more muscular women play.

I have been active throughout my entire life. I played soccer for about 10 years, I ran track and field for six years and I ran cross country for two years. I’ve always loved being a part of a team, and I always enjoyed some healthy competition. Even though I no longer participate in any of these sports, I still continue to run on a daily basis to stay in shape.  

When I came to college, I knew I wouldn’t be a part of an athletic team. Instead, I decided I wanted to seek out a club sport to join. My first thought was to join the rowing team, but after I told my brother, he said, “You’re way too small for rowing.” Maybe I am too small, but why did it matter? I was willing to dedicate my time and effort to join a team and learn a new sport.

I never did join the rowing team. My brother’s comment really got to me. Looking back now, I wish that it hadn’t.

In sports, especially women’s sports, there is this idea ingrained in people’s mind that in order to be an athlete in a certain sport you have to physically look like X, Y and Z. This idea is completely absurd.

Just because I don’t have long skinny legs and broad shoulders doesn’t mean I can’t call myself a runner. Just because I’m not extremely muscular and over 5 feet 5 inches tall doesn’t mean I’m not allowed to play ice hockey.

Are there advantages to having a certain physicality? Yes, but that’s not the only thing that matters. Playing sports is about being active, having fun and turning teammates into friends. Nobody should be deterred from those things just because they don’t fit into the idealized body type of that sport.

When I ran track and field and cross country, eventually I no longer wanted to run because my body didn’t look like what I thought a runner should look like.

Everyone’s body is built differently, so comparing your body with another’s doesn’t make any sense. This was one of the hardest things that I had to learn.

I once overheard my cross country coach say that one girl on our team was going to be a good runner because she is skinny and has long legs. What does that even mean? Girls with shorter legs are slower than girls with longer legs? How can you even determine someone’s success based on what they look like?

Being a part of soccer, track and field, cross country and now ice hockey, I’ve always worked hard, perfecting every skill. Just because I am small, that doesn’t mean I’m not working out every night to strengthen my body.

Diversity in body sizes is important across all sports. It shows others there is no “right way” to look. No matter what sport it is, if people are willing to work hard and learn about the sport, that is really what matters.

All athletes should feel strong and confident in their bodies to push themselves to the limit, and compete against others.

It’s difficult to be a competitive athlete when there are only 5 feet of me, but I want to push the boundaries of what an athlete’s body type looks like.

You don’t need to look a certain way in order to play a sport. We don’t see enough diverse body sizes in sports because people are afraid to try something that others that look like them have never dared to try.

I may be too short to jump over hurdles and too small to play ice hockey, but being “too small” really hasn’t been a problem because I’ve already accomplished both of these things.

Once you let other people decide what you can and can’t do, you’ve already lost. Sometimes we put barriers on ourselves because we haven’t seen it done before, but that’s just the perfect opportunity for you to do it first.


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    ThomasNov 14, 2019 at 7:35 pm

    Love ice hockey
    Love women
    Love sports