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I Played in an Adult Recreation League for the First Time — Here’s How it Went

Now, I’m sure we’ve all seen the deodorant and tampon commercials that feature some upsetting statistics about the number of girls that drop out of sports. If you don’t know what I’m referring to, allow me to share a few results of a recent study, highlighted by the CBC:

  • 1 in 3 girls drops out of sports by late teens. By comparison, the dropout rate for teenage boys aged 16-18 is only one in 10.
  • Sport participation rates for Canadian girls decline steadily from childhood to adolescence with as many as 62 per cent of girls not playing sport at all. 
  • One in three girls in this study reported low self-confidence, negative body image, perceived lack of skill and not being welcome as factors preventing them from participating in sport.

Unfortunately, I must count myself in these statistics, as from the ages of about 6-14 I was an active swimmer and soccer player. I dropped out of my activities in my early teens for pretty much the exact reasons that the ⅓ of the women in the study did — low self-confidence, negative body image and a perceived lack of skill. 

In recent months, however, I’ve been pushing myself to look for some more creative ways to be active. In that process, I somehow began comparing my current self to my past self, and feeling sad about giving up the team sports that I used to enjoy so much as a kid. I remember being such a confident athlete and happy teammate back in the day! Nowadays, I wonder… how can I feel like that again?

It just so happened that a few weeks ago, my cousin was looking to start getting involved in local pick-up sports. Naturally, he needed some teammates, so my brother and I volunteered after some initial wariness (mostly from my end).

Figuring that it would be more comfortable for me to have my family members around, last week I participated in my first-ever adult recreational soccer game hosted by our local activities complex. We played for about an hour on a Tuesday night. 

It just so happens that I was the only woman out of roughly 14 players. Fortunately, apart from my brother and my cousin, I knew some of my teammates, who were very encouraging. But still — I have not felt that intimidated in a while. 

I’m not going to sit here and tell you that it was amazing, and that my perspective was completely changed. I made mistakes, and I had a hard time feeling like I belonged. I was in my head, uncomfortable, and frustrated at myself for not being able to just relax and have fun. 

But all in all, I’m happy that I did it, even though I’m still in my head some 24 hours later. I stepped out of my comfort zone, I was active for an hour, and I had a few good laughs with my cousin, my brother, and some friends. 

I also came across a quote this morning that seemed to fit my exact situation and offer the perfect advice:

“I’d rather try and fail than fail to try.”

Am I the best soccer player? No, I’m not. But I put myself out there, and I gave it a good effort. That’s all we can do at the end of the day. 

So, long story short, I’ve signed up to play again next week. Ah! I know! But this time, I heard there’ll be at least two other women on the field, so I feel a bit better. 

As a final word, I strongly encourage any women that are considering being active in a recreation league (or just out in public) to go for it! Trust me, I know it can be scary and intimidating to put yourself out there, but you deserve to enjoy your life and have fun! We all do. 

Plus, I need to see more of you out on the field. Always.

Now, it’ll probably take a few days for the unnecessary feelings of embarrassment to wash away from me, but until then, I’ll be reading and re-reading the below tweet from actress Jameela Jamil on her experiences with imposter syndrome. Might even make it my wallpaper!

“Just do it anyway. My answer whenever I am asked about imposter syndrome is to admit that I am an imposter, and treat it like crashing a wedding, you’re in now, have as much fun as possible and grab all the cake you can before someone throws you out. Lean in and make it a party.”

Couldn’t have said it better myself. Make it a party, friends. I’ll see you out there. 

Emma Johnston

Waterloo '22

Hi! My name is Emma, and I am completing my Bachelor of Arts in English Rhetoric, Media and Professional Communication at the University of Waterloo. I love journaling, peanut M&Ms, and collecting fashion magazines from around the world!
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