“Where is your sparkly headband…the one you wear every game?” questioned the referee during the tipoff of my high school basketball championship game. At first I blankly responded, “in my drawer at home,” then I thought about how he could remember me as the girl who wore a sparkly headband. I realized that it was probably unique and that not many other female basketball players wore glitter headbands, let alone for games.
I was that girl who rolled up her shorts. I was called “blonde chick” and “skinny girl,” or defined by the headband I was wearing on the court by opponents. However, I did not mind it, I even took such comments as compliments. I could be found twirling on the court during practice, when I thought no one was watching and people questioned my ability to play. It was rewarding when opponents underestimated my ability and I could challenge them. I was not afraid to get on the floor and play gritty basketball if needed. Many people have given me a side look when I mentioned that I have played competitive basketball for over a decade. And when they guess what sports I played people always mention something along the lines of, “you definitely look like you played lacrosse or tennis.” I played both lacrosse and tennis in the past, however not everyone playing a certain sport has to fit into the sport’s stereotype. You can still play a certain sport and be your own person.
I worked as a basketball camp counselor every summer in high school and coached young elementary and middle school aged girls. My players would repeatedly play with my long golden locks and ask for me to do their hair like mine. These young girls flattered me because I could see that they were enlightened with my soft style yet ambitious demeanor. I strive to inspire girls like those campers to show them that they can be a girly-girl and still play tough sports. Similarly, female sports icons such as professional soccer player, Alex Morgan, and professional tennis player, Caroline Wozniacki, demonstrate their feminine fashion through their sports. Alex Morgan wears a signature pink headband and Caroline Wozniacki matches her nail polish to her tennis outfits.
Blood, sweat, tears… and broken teeth, I have experienced it all through the game I have always loved, called basketball. Basketball has taught me so much in life and I have had my bouts with it, but it will always hold a special place in my heart. From playing on the blacktop during elementary school recess and driveway one-on-one tournaments with my family, to AAU Nationals and the Virginia High School League Region Championship, it has taught me discipline, toughness, teamwork, and respect.
You can be whoever you want to be. If you want to be all sweaty and sporty when it is time for basketball, you can. But, when you are not playing basketball and you want to wear make-up, nail polish, and dresses, you can be that girl too. Girly girls can be athletes no matter what anyone says. Pursue your talent and do not let stereotypes of it being a “boys sport” get to your head. Tyra Banks once said, “never dull your shine for somebody else,” and without a doubt I kept sporting my sparkly headband that the referee questioned. Do not let a sport define you and determine who you are. I played basketball, but I was not basketball!