Why More Girls Should Play Sports

Playing Sports Has Lifelong Benefits for Girls

In 2019 alone, about 25% fewer high school girls than boys played sports, according to the latest numbers from the National Federation of State High School Associations. Research by the Women’s Sports Foundation suggests that girls drop out of sports at twice the rate of boys by age 14, and by 17, half of girls quit sports altogether. Some may look at these numbers and shrug their shoulders. “Who cares? If girls don’t want to play sports, don’t make them.” But it’s actually a big problem with far-reaching consequences. 

You see, this dropout rate is particularly alarming because studies have shown that girls who play sports do better in school, and that’s true for both grades and standardized test scores. Girls who play sports also report increased confidence, teamwork and leadership skills as the top benefits of staying in sports.

And there’s a clear connection between those perceived benefits and the outcomes women have once they’re off the playing field and working in a professional field. Studies show that girls who play sports are more likely to graduate from college, land competitive jobs and work in male-dominated industries. What’s more, a survey by Ernst & Young and espnW found that 94% of women executives participated in sports and more than half played at the collegiate level. Nearly three-fourths of these women said their time on the playing field helped develop their leadership “muscle.”

In short, to get girls to play sports is to give them an advantage when it comes to self-confidence, discipline, leadership, problem-solving, teamwork and resilience—critical skills that will serve them when they’re in middle school, high school, college and beyond. 

The challenges to getting girls involved in sports

Here’s a pair of questions we hear a lot: “What are the most popular sports for girls?” and “What are the best sports for girls?” The answers couldn’t be simpler. 

To the first question, our answer is, “It doesn’t matter.” (If you must know, the top 5 sports for girls are track and field, volleyball, basketball, soccer and softball based on the number of participants alone.) But do you know why it doesn’t matter? It’s because the best sports for girls aren’t the most popular ones—they’re the ones your daughter enjoys playing. They’re the ones she plays because she likes to play them—not because they’re popular or she feels pressured to play.

Another barrier to getting girls involved in sports has to do with exposure. Everywhere a boy turns, from the moment he’s born, his gender identity is linked to sports—baby blankets with balls on them, and baby’s first football, baseball and soccer ball. And that messaging only grows stronger as boys grow older. Meanwhile, girls are bombarded with images not of strong female athletes, but of external beauty. Not only do they lack positive role models in sports, they may face stereotypes and discrimination based on real or perceived sexual orientation and/or gender identity.

Then, there’s the problem of opportunity. It’s a fact that girls have fewer opportunities to play sports than boys. The Women’s Sports Foundation reports that high school girls have 1.3 million fewer opportunities, to be exact.

Finally, there’s the issue of funding­. Who saw the side-by-side photos showing the weight room disparities for the NCAA women’s and men’s basketball tournaments? If women competing at the top levels of college athletics can’t get a decent workout room, what does that mean for their younger counterparts? 

When girls’ sports programs go underfunded, that impacts playing venues, playing times, availability of quality coaches, equipment and even uniforms. And these obvious disparities can drive girls away from the game. In many cases, cuts to school funding force the issue, and girls either drop out of the sport or have to find their own opportunities to play. Then it becomes an issue of cost, safety and transportation—barriers that disproportionately face girls of color and those from economically disadvantaged families. 

How to keep girls in the game

Now that we’ve established why it’s important for girls to be involved in sports and the many barriers standing in their way, let’s end on a positive note. We can address these barriers for girls in sports and we can help make sure girls can become women who harness the critical life skills learned on the playing field for success in a professional field. And we can do that by creating opportunities for girls to play sports and for them to engage with the strong role models who represent the best in women’s sports. 

A major part of our commitment at Play Like a Girl is providing girls with positive experiences in sport and active play. We’ve been in the business of creating these opportunities for nearly two decades, with the help of major companies, collegiate and professional athletes, and sports teams and leagues at all levels. Together, we aim to inspire girls to reach their full potential—aspiring to be and do anything they can imagine.

In 2018, we started offering Hot Wheels® Speedometry™ at STEM+ Saturday to teach our girls about concepts such as energy, force, and motion. Students also learn scientific and engineering practices such as data analysis and interpretation. But the fun didn’t end there—we’ve since partnered with Bridgestone, Mercedes-Benz and Tesla to help girls engineer toy racetracks, design their own electric cars, engage with female role models in mechatronics, and attend STEM field trips designed to expand how they see their future.

Hundreds of girls also received a die-cast Matchbox replica of the Mercedes-Benz 220SE commemorating Ewy Rosqvist’s historic Argentinian Grand Prix victory in 1968. It was in this car that Rosqvist and co-pilot Ursula Wirth shattered world records and the notion that women could not compete in the sport.

Just before the COVID-19 shutdown, we had the chance to work with girls at the NFL FLAG National Championship in Orlando. Then later in the year, Sarah Fuller, the Vanderbilt University soccer goalie turned football kicker, joined our Meet + Mentor program as guest mentor. In January, we teamed up with the Nashville Predators to hold a free hockey clinic for Play Like a Girl participants.

After some time on the ice, the girls chatted with women leaders in the Predators’ front office—many of them former athletes. Some of our girls went on to participate in the Preds’ girls hockey program, which just wrapped last month. With a full set of free equipment, they’re now outfitted and ready to improve their hockey game this summer.

In just a few weeks, over 100 girls and women will take the driver’s seat with Play Like a Girl at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway where we’ll go behind-the-scenes of the iconic racetrack and get an up-close and personal look at the first female owned, female driven, and female forward race team at this year's Indianapolis 500. Race car driver Simona de Silvestro and her No. 16 Chevy-powered INDYCAR will be the focus of this high-energy event which will follow a special mentoring series connecting middle school girls in our programs with female leaders in the fintech and motorsports industries. 

We round out our summer schedule by introducing golf to a group of girls who have never stepped foot on a green. With help from several professional women golfers and Play Like Girl alumna Emma Clonan, we will kick off the Play Like a Girl On the Green charity golf scramble with a free Junior Girls Clinic powered by LPGA Girls Golf.

Proceeds from the tournament will provide even more exciting and unique opportunities to get girls involved in sports, connect them with powerful women role models and mentors, and, ultimately, keep them in the game.


BGR! Book Club Kickoff

Join the BGR! Book Club

The BGR! Book Club kicks off on April 14 with Beverly, who’ll be discussing her book “BLACK GIRLS ROCK!” Owning Our Magic, Rocking Our Truth. She’ll sit down for a virtual conversation with Kathie Duperval—a BGR! alumna, recent Cornell University graduate, and aspiring entertainment lawyer—to talk about her personal journey, the importance of representation and sharing our authentic selves, and how a simple idea can spark a movement. This will be followed by an interactive workshop that helps students put these powerful ideas into practice.

It’s the first event in a monthly book series that BGR! created, in partnership with Microsoft, to build community and promote girls’ empowerment, literacy, and leadership. Each month will feature a new thought-provoking book for the community to read and discuss, followed by a live virtual event featuring the author in conversation with a BGR! alumna. There’ll also be interactive workshops based on themes in the books that cover topics like STEM, leadership, creative writing, and business skills.

Register to attend the BLACK GIRLS ROCK! Book Club on April 14

Women’s Leadership Summit


Join us for an inspiring (and super fun) afternoon of chats, workshops, mentoring, and more devoted to championing women professionals - at all ages and stages of your career. We will tackle the hard-hitting conversations about the future of work from pivoting to digital to remote leadership, reimagining life in our new reality and so much more! It’s time for some big-picture strategy, so let’s plan for what’s next, together. And, check out our fun workshops and the FREE mentorship opportunity for girls too.

Proceeds benefit Play Like a Girl’s Meet + Mentoring virtual mentoring program for middle school girls.

Secure your spot HERE

Office Hours with Sarah Hays Coomer

Sarah Hays Coomer

Author and Health Coach



"How we spend our days is, of course, how we spend our lives." - Annie Dilliard

Sarah Hays Coomer is a Mayo Clinic certified health coach and author of 3 books—The Habit Trip, Physical Disobedience, and Lightness of Body and Mind. She spends her days celebrating the power of our bodies and minds to help us show up for what matters.


5 Things She Can’t Live Without

Pets: I have had animals my whole life, both dogs and cats. They have given me so much love and comfort. When I'm super stressed out, I go to the Humane Society to hang out with the stray animals and get some extra snuggles.
Walking: If I am stuck on a problem or need to be creative or clear my head, I always head out for a walk.
Sleep: I love to sleep! Sleep supports every other healthy decision I make. If I rest well, I can show up better for what matters to me.
Kindness: Human beings thrive when they are kind to each other and to themselves. I try to remember that when people are being mean, they are usually insecure or suffering in some way. I respond with kindness every chance I get, and I try to remember to offer that same generosity to myself when I start feeling critical of my body or my work.
Girlfriends: My girlfriends are my family. In the past, when I have moved to a new town or a new school, it might have taken a while to find my friends, but once I find women who make me feel like myself, I know I'm home.

Office Hours with Tamara Armour

Tamara Armour

Co-Founder & Chief Operating Officer

Talent Activated


“Be at your best when your best is needed.” —John Wooden 

Tamara oversees operations for Talent Activated, the company that she helped found. Talent Activated connects motivated and qualified individuals with clients to staff their events. 


5 Things She Can’t Live Without

My Family: My blended family of four is my backbone. I am the only woman in my home so I am especially spoiled and protected by my boys and husband. They always find ways to make me laugh, feel supported, feel loved and appreciated (although sometimes I have to remind them about the appreciation part, lol). Raising boys in particular has been such a change from my personal experiences growing up. I love learning about them as they change and grow into young men.

Sports: I am passionate about competition so sports and the byproducts of sports are high on my list. Everything from ESPN’s 30 for 30 to live sporting events and biographies about the world’s greatest women and men in sports to athletic gear. I. NEED. IT. ALL.

Candy: I have a mean sweet tooth! Because I’m fairly regularly sitting and working for hours at a time, candy is my go-to pick me up.

My Tribe: This week in particular has shown me how important my tribe is. Having a team to help you navigate and be efficient in life is critical. For me, my tribe includes a range of people from my dearest friends to my housekeeper, Nora. Each of them is essential to my overall well-being.

WiFi: As a person who works remotely, I am always on the go. I only recently got a hot spot (don’t judge me) because finding a McDonald’s parking lot to work when I need to send an emergency email or document just doesn’t cut it. I’m connected 24/7 now (even when I’m disconnected).

Unexpected Power of Gratitude

Show Appreciation. 

Nothing pays dividends like appreciating those around you. By paying it forward everyday, you'll make a meaningful difference in the lives of others as well as your own.

Gratitude goes a long way. The practice of gratitude and appreciation is an important Play Like a Girl Principle. We teach girls in our programs this practice because we know gratitude to be one of the most important factors in fostering a healthy mindset and maintaining overall happiness.

healthy mindset is absolutely critical to one's ability to do extraordinary things on the field, in the classroom, and in life. Taking just 10 minutes a day to reflect and practice gratitude can add so much more to your life. Research indicates that the practice of gratitude can change you and your brain. It can be as easy as writing down a few things for which you are thankful or thanking someone in your life.

Below are just a few of the benefits gained from practicing this simple principle daily: 

Lower Stress Levels 

When you practice gratitude, you unshackle your mind from toxic emotions and negative thoughts and everything that accompanies them. By shifting your focus to more positive thoughts, you allow your mind to rest and calm itself, which results in lower stress levels and overall wellness. 

Better Sleep 

When your stress levels are high, the body prepares for danger by elevating your heart rate, respiratory rates, and awareness. It can be pretty difficult to sleep when your body anticipates danger of any kind. Therefore, when you lower your stress levels by practicing gratitude, you also improve your sleep.  

Better Immune Function

High levels of stress also weaken your immune function and makes it harder for your body to fight off illness. Your immune system can be strengthen by practicing gratitude, thereby reducing your risk of illness.  

Boosted Mood

Numerous studies demonstrate the power of gratitude to increase overall happiness. When you show thanks to the people and things around you, the brain is primed to make you feel better about yourself. Furthermore, the decreased stress levels that it brings elevate mood even further. There is no better mood booster than showing some gratitude. 

Increased Motivation

When you feel happier and more thankful for what you have, you also feel higher levels of confidence and self-efficacy. Consequently, the desire to set goals and work towards them only increases as well.

Higher Energy Levels

With increased happiness and decreased stress comes better sleep and more energy. The more rest you get at night combined with higher mood levels during the day allow you more energy and productivity. 

Incorporating gratitude into your life is easy—and fun. Plus, the benefits are many.

Get started today by simply keeping a gratitude journal—regularly writing brief reflections on moments for which you’re thankful—and watch your personal life satisfaction, health and well-being all significantly improve. 

Comment below to let us know how you're feeling.

Office Hours with Celeste Bell

Celeste Bell

VP, Talent Acquisition

Publicis Media


“Your life is your message to the world, make sure it's inspiring.“

A country girl in the big city, Celeste Bell, is an HR professional who is passionate about life and dedicated to bringing out the very best in others.


5 Things She Can’t Live Without

Faith: My faith in God allows me to believe that anything and everything is possible. It allows me to dream big, crazy dreams.

Family: My parents are my favorite humans. They're my best friends and my heroes. I am who I am because of them.

Dogs: Dogs are furry happiness. My dog is my other best friend. He's a protector but he's also goofy and will unapologetically poot in your face.

Running: Running is mental healthcare for me. I started running in college to avoid the freshman 15. Now, I run to stay sane. It works most days.

Travel: Ralph Waldo Emerson said "a mind once stretched, never returns to its original dimensions." Travel does this for me. It allows me to learn about and embrace other cultures.

María: Driving Meaningful Change

“Potential Realized: A Mission with Impact” puts the spotlight on five amazing middle school students whose shared love of STEM and sports transcends their differences. These young women — all Play Like a Girl program participants — are true embodiments of our determination to create a world where girls believe in endless possibilities.

Meet all of our “Potential Realized” honorees here.

Name, Age

María Villanagra, 11


Liberty Collegiate Academy 



Favorite Sport

Swimming, Ice Skating

Favorite STEM Subject


Words you live by

"Everything happens for a reason."

Who is your hero?

My mom. And my dad. My mom is working and studying full time and she puts so much effort into everything. 

How is she potential, realized? 

María has always looked out for the people around her. She puts the people she cares about first, recounting a time when she gave a notebook she received at a Play Like a Girl event to a friend that lost her own as just one example of her selflessness. 

When her elementary school classmates Harper and Ryleigh initially joined Play Like a Girl, María was intrigued. She loved the idea that “girls can do anything”. Above all, she was excited about the potential that she saw Play Like a Girl bringing out in her classmates. Because of that, she joined hoping that Play Like a Girl could do the same for her. However, María did not realize just how much of an impact it would have on her. 

Through Play Like a Girl programs and events, María quickly became interested in different aspects of technology. More specifically, she realized she had real passion for photography and digital design. Speaking with mentors and learning more about the different opportunities helped her begin to envision a future career path in photography. 

María realized that she could pursue photography to have an even bigger impact on the lives of those around her. María began to recognize that the world of technology is vast and is filled with opportunities to support the causes about which she is most interested. One of those causes is climate change. 

Through the opportunities she has found at Play Like a Girl, María has been able to weave together her passion for environmental conservation with her interest in photography--toward real career goals. 

 “I want to try to make people more aware of climate change and how we could save the earth,” María tells us. “Everything has an effect, and I want to help people be more aware of the outcomes of their actions.” 

María knew she wanted to help people in some way even before became involved in Play Like a Girl programs. But she is now able to clearly imagine just how she dreams of doing that, using photography and digital technology to convey a specific message. María now realizes that her future careers goals are achievable. 

She is soaring to new heights in the classroom, simply because she has clear goals. “It has definitely helped me put more love and care into my education,” she tells us. “I used to not love it [school] as much as I do now. Realizing my potential and what I can do and thinking about the future has made me love learning so much more.” 

Knowing the power that education gives her to chase her dreams has reignited María's drive. Play Like a Girl has helped her see the exciting things she can do, motivating her so that she makes the most of her educational opportunities. She now brings much more ambition to everything she does. And her motivation has paid off. 

María’s academic performance has risen notably since she started Play Like a Girl. She has earned a reputation as a top performer, especially in STEM subjects. Her tenacity has also carried over to her other activities. She brings renewed energy to piano, choir, and her school club activities. 

She is thankful for the opportunity Play Like a Girl has given her to become “better as a person.” María shares openly about the confidence she has gained through Play Like a Girl. And her peers are motivated by her example. Certainly, our favorite girl María is potential, realized. 

Meet all of our Potential Realized honorees. And share their profiles on Twitter with the hashtag #PotentialRealized.

Follow #PotentialRealized on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.

Introducing the 2018 Play Like a Girl Honorees

In the sports world, there are many stars. Although the most recognizable ones may be the athletes, the ones who shine the brightest are often not athletes at all, at least not professionally. They are the ones who work behind the scenes--those who coach, who innovate, who teach and who inspire all of us to game changers.

We are thrilled to recognize some of our local stars at the upcoming Play Like a Girl Honors Gala on Monday, November 26 at Marriott Hotel Cool Springs in Franklin, Tennessee. These extraordinary people were chosen for their example and impact on the health, confidence and leadership skills of girls everywhere. In short, they’ve shown us how to change the game.

Introducing the 2018 Play Like a Girl Honorees

Bart Brooks – Most Valuable Player Awardplay like a girl honorees

Bart Brooks is in his second season as head coach of the Belmont University women’s basketball program after leading the Bruins to a 31-4 overall record in 2017-18, its best since 1993-94. The success earned the program its first national ranking in the Associated Press Top 25 and Bart the Ohio Valley Conference Coach of the Year as well as Spalding Maggie Dixon NCAA Division I Rookie Coach of the Year. Bart previously spent 11 seasons at DePaul University during which he coached six WNBA draft choices and had nine teams in the Women's Basketball Coaches Association (WBCA) Team Academic Top 25. Bart has a master’s degree in Sport Management from Barry University (FL), where he began his coaching career. He and wife Charlene Smith, who played for the WNBA Houston Comets, have two sons, Trey and Tyler.

[bctt tweet="“Our success is never about me as a coach, it’s all about the toughness and leadership of the young women in our program. They are the true recipients of this award, and they are the reason for the success of our program.”--Bart Brooks" username="iplaylikeagirl"]

Game Changers:

Favorite way to play? “With my sons in the backyard—football, basketball, baseball, soccer, tag--it doesn’t get better than that!”

How has sports impacted your life? “Sports gave me confidence in times of adversity. I was challenged constantly in sports, physically, mentally and emotionally pushed, and through all that adversity, I became stronger in all aspects of my life. Sports also taught me how to deal with conflict in a constructive way, how to work together with people to achieve more than I could ever achieve alone.”

What woman in your life has influenced your work most? “My wife; she’s the strongest, toughest, most intelligent, most thoughtful and gentle soul I’ve ever met. Her strength gets me through each day. I couldn’t succeed in my work if she wasn’t my support system. She has the ability to make me feel like our team is unbeatable and that I can do anything as a coach. She is everything to our family; raising our two boys much of the time alone while I’m on the road recruiting, and she does it with unbelievable patience and unwavering love. “

What characteristics helped your players achieve such great success? “Selflessness is a huge key; our players were always about the TEAM. They understood that we were always better as a five-person unit than any of us could have ever been as individuals. Their work ethic and intelligent discipline also set them apart from most teams. We always had players arrive early for practice, and stay late to work on their games.  And we took great pride in being intelligent on the floor, with the discipline to do what would lead us to success on and off the court.”

Kenyatta Bynoe – Trailblazer Awardplay like a girl honorees

Kenyatta Bynoe is an accomplished sports marketing executive with a 20-year career as a thought leader that challenges conventional thinking and a solid track record of engineering innovative, 360-degree marketing strategy. In the past year, her accomplishments have earned her key industry awards including Adweek’s “Most Powerful Women in Sports” and Sports Business Journal’s “Game Changer." Kenyatta has a BS in Public Relations from Central Michigan University and a MS in Integrated Marketing Communications from Eastern Michigan University.  She currently resides in Nashville where she serves as Co-Chair of the Nashville Alumnae Chapter Public Relations Committee for Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Inc. and mentors with Jalen Rose Leadership Academy.

[bctt tweet="“In the business world and in life you have any number of opportunities to share your thoughts, voice your opinion and impact change. My job is to find ways to make a difference on every field of play I’m connected to; offering advice, allowing young girls to learn from my mistakes, providing encouragement and stimulating the personal and professional growth of others.”--Kenyatta Bynoe" username="iplaylikeagirl"]

Game Changers:

Female role models growing up? “Coaches, educators and business women inspired me more so by example than with words. I could see in them character traits that I wanted to emulate and levels of success I wanted to achieve. They helped me understand that much more was possible than I had imagined.”

How has sports impacted your life? “Sports provided an early example of teamwork and camaraderie that has translated into every aspect of my life. In addition, sports provided a positive way to channel competitive energy and come together with teammates to pursue a common goal. One of the most valuable lessons I learned is the notion of work ethic and what it takes to “play” at a high level. There is no shortcut around the hard work necessary to succeed or the multiple times you may fall on the road to greatness. But all of this is what makes victory so sweet.”

What does the Trailblazer Award mean to you? “It’s special to me because it symbolizes making the pathway clearer for those who come after me. To be thought of as a pioneer, innovator or trendsetter in this regard means everything. As an African-American woman there are many obstacles that I face in life and in business. Some highly visible, and others, often the most difficult, are the battles I fight in silence. But I continue to fight because I know that young girls need examples of women who come from all walks of life--from humble beginnings, from disadvantage and from poor circumstances--who have overcome.”

What personal traits help you succeed in sports marketing? “One of my personal philosophies is that there is no finish line. When approaching a goal, reevaluate it to determine how you can go to the next level. While you must find periods of rest and reflection along the way, don’t become comfortable or stagnant. There is a degree of fearlessness required to excel, especially in male-dominated careers.  To other women interested in this career path; speak up, stand strong on your position and back it up with data and skill. Most importantly, don’t let rejection of your ideas be fuel for quitting, let it motivate you to go harder the next time.”

Sammie Griffin – Corporate Partner Awardplay like a girl honorees

Sammie Griffin is an Assistant Vice President Treasury Management Sales Analyst at Wells Fargo Bank. She is a graduate of the University of North Alabama with a BBA and an MBA. Sammie currently resides in Brentwood, TN with her eleven-year-old son, Landon. She is passionate about giving back to her community and serves on the Advisory Board and Homeowner’s Selection Committee for Habitat for Humanity of Greater Nashville as well as the Board of Directors for Distinguished Young Women of Music City. She is also President of the Wells Fargo Nashville Volunteer Chapter where she was first introduced to Play Like a Girl. Wells Fargo volunteers now partner with Play Like a Girl to teach financial literacy lessons.

[bctt tweet="“I love being able to empower and encourage other females. The older I get I understand more and more how important it is for young girls to have someone on their side, motivating them and reminding them that they can do it and they are worth it.”--Sammie Griffin" username="iplaylikeagirl"]

Game Changers:

Favorite way to play? “Dancing and moving freely fills me with so much joy. Now as a boy mom, I’ve been able to venture out into other sports or “play” that I’m not as familiar with but enjoy just as much such as waffle ball and kayaking.”

Female role model growing up? “My mom. She is one of the most selfless individuals I’ve ever known. Her love for me and her family allowed me to always feel safe. She always encouraged me in anything and everything I wanted to do.”

How has sports impacted your life? “I was a part of a competitive cheerleading team my junior and senior year in high school. This showed me how to work with others and also how to resolve conflicts. It allowed me to build close bonds with young women who shared the same passion as me. It gave me self-confidence, made me want to be my best self--and whether I succeeded or failed--I had my team to lift me up or celebrate. I learned that if you really want something; with hard work, you can achieve or obtain it. These things shaped me into the person I am which has led me to where I am in my career.”

Why is it important for girls to understand money?  “Statistics show spending habits start developing at age seven. That’s crazy to think about, but basic knowledge on managing money and understanding credit cards and loans could ultimately be the difference between thriving after high school into college and work or falling into a financial hole. I wish someone had taken the time when I was younger to teach this to me. I personally had some tough financial experiences because of poor decisions I made from lack of education.”

Paula Hood – Corporate Partner Awardplay like a girl honorees

Paula Hood has an extensive background in banking and finance with a Fortune 50 company and over two decades of combined experience in onboarding, developing new talent and community outreach. She has taught in the professional classroom and in school systems across the country delivering training that prepares employees and students for career and financial success. First introduced to Play Like a Girl at a community fundraiser for Junior Achievement, she has since volunteered to provide financial education to young girls, coupled with the motivation to stay active and healthy throughout life. Although not fortunate enough to participate in sports as a young girl, she’s proud to be an example of how physical fitness and education can open doors to a future that once seemed out of reach.

[bctt tweet=""The value in staying active, being part of a team goes beyond exercise to learning how to get along, to network at an early age and to know you do have opportunities out there, you may just not know about them yet.”--Paula Hood" username="iplaylikeagirl"]

Game Changers:

Favorite way to play?  “Running is my therapy. I used to weigh 130 pounds more than now; that’s when I was diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis (MS). I realized I was just surviving, not living and needed to make a change. I started looking at fun ways to get moving like belly dancing then I joined a walking group. One day I thought ‘why don’t I run to that mailbox?’ I tried it, made it and then began to set goals for myself until I could run a mile. Now I’m running half marathons.”

Female role model growing up?  “My mom. She worked three jobs at times to make sure my sister and I were taken care of. My parents divorced when I was nine and my dad was very present if my sister and I needed anything ourselves, but mom was independent and determined to keep a roof over our head herself. She was just doing what she had to do; that’s the era she came from. I’ve never known anyone to work that hard and I’m not sure she understood the impact that had on me.”

Advice for girls with similar health diagnosis? “For me when I received my diagnosis, I was so afraid if I stopped going, what if I couldn’t start again? That’s when I really became active, to experience it while I could. Then I realized this is what I’ve been missing, so I try to share how physical activity can affect quality of life, prolong a more positive state and perhaps even help as a preventative measure. My previous doctor was always shocked I could be so active; I’d even wear high heels to my appointments to say, ‘See, I’m still walking!’”

What impact do you want to make? “I, as an adult, hid my diagnosis for 14 years for fear of how people would react. Imagine a kid dealing with this situation. I want them to see if you’re battling something, whether physical, mental or emotional, there is a role model out there. And there is strength in sharing your story. You’re struggling yes, but imagine the people you can help if you’re brave enough to say ‘Look at me doing these things they said I’d never be able to do.’ We need more of that.”

Kenisha Rhone – Volunteer of the Yearplay like a girl honorees

Kenisha Rhone is Director of Digital Media & Social Strategy at Belmont University. She is heavily involved in numerous professional organizations as well as in community service throughout Nashville. Kenisha is a member of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Inc., serves on the Greater Nashville Susan G. Komen Race for the Cure steering committee and volunteers frequently to speak to youth groups including the Girls Scouts of Greater Nashville. Previous roles include serving as Sports Information Coordinator at Tennessee State University and as an Athletic Communications Assistant at the University of Pennsylvania. Kenisha began her career in sports through internships with the St. Louis Sports Commission and the St. Louis Gateway Classic before working in media relations for the St. Louis Rams during their successful Super Bowl XXXIV run in 1999-2000.

[bctt tweet="“Too often we’re told, ‘You can’t do that, you’re a girl.’ I had those moments; I remember them, we all do. But what can we do to change that narrative in the lives of girls? That’s why I do this, to see faces light up when they say ‘I did it.’ I have known and seen this life changer for girls and believe so much in this vision.”--Kenisha Rhone" username="iplaylikeagirl"]

Game Changers:

Female role model growing up? “I’m from St. Louis it was Jackie Joyner-Kersee for me. Seeing her do things in the Olympics I never thought people could do; then to see her doing a camp, building a community center in East St. Louis; that made her real. The idea of giving even when you have more than enough, impacted me. I met her once and told her that. She said she wasn’t doing it for the accolades but because it needed to be done; other kids needed the opportunities she was given. It’s always about paying it back.”

How has sports impacted your life? “My parents were both athletes and growing up around sports it never occurred to me there was a lack of opportunities when I was young. That said, I was visually disabled and while my parents allowed me to play some, not having depth perception and trying to figure out how to play in my own way was tough. I didn’t look disabled so it was difficult to get teachers, instructors to understand that I needed some special accommodations. That, plus my parents being terrified I might get hurt and go blind almost made me not want to play. We compromised and I did just about every non-sport-related activity.”

What influences your work at Play Like a Girl? “I wasn’t the first and won’t be the last little kid with a disability so I’m always on the lookout for those playing slightly different. I see it because I did that myself. I’m always conscious of kids who want to play but can’t figure out how because they either don’t have the ability to say or admit something’s wrong, they don’t feel safe enough to say it or don’t have an adult to advocate for them. If they want to play we need to figure out how to get them in the game, period.”

What this experience taught you about yourself? “It reminded me of young disabled me. Being a pre-teen is awkward enough without navigating a disability. It’s very difficult mentally so you can’t imagine the level of empathy I have for kids in that space. To pull these kids aside and say ‘Let me show you how I did this, have you thought about doing it that way?’ I remember wanting someone to say that. It’s often small considerations that just take five minutes extra to think about. They need a voice to say, ‘It’s ok to do it a different way and I will help you.’ Because to play is the most important part.”

To meet our Honorees, join us at the Honors Gala. The event will feature a cocktail hour with open bar, passed hors d’oeuvres, live music, red carpet and more. Get your ticket today!

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Focus Women's Conference

We're thrilled to announce that our founder and CEO Dr. Kimberly Clay will speak at the 2018 Focus Women's Conference. She will speak about empowerment as a tool that can lead to influence and help guide and enlighten—and, ultimately, propel change.

Dr. Kim believes that in our fight for equality, women must use this tool to turn our bullies into mentors, bring hope to what seem to be lost causes and create real change in the world. She is scheduled to speak at 3:20 p.m.