Friday, May 16, 2014

Cierra Gaudet - Being A Female Athlete

Being a Female Athlete

For the earlier part of my childhood, being a female athlete wasn’t something I had on my mind or even cared about. I spent most of my days riding my bike, running freely in the grass and climbing trees.
Sometimes I would go on adventures with my dad and younger brother in the woods, or go on walks in the neighbourhood with my mom. I just enjoyed having fun and being outside, but I wasn’t really thinking about athleticism, fitness or training. Being a goofy kid was just fine by me.

Grade 2 was when I started understanding what being a female athlete was all about and the differences between boys and girls natural athletic abilities. I had finally befriended a group of guys to play with during recess (yay friends!) and was stoked to just, well, play. The only real thing we did was play tag, but man, it was intense! My guy friends decided to make it a spectacle and so every lunch hour a group of them would line up on this little bridge by the playground and start challenging each other to races up and down this pathway that was probably 50 metres (so 100m if you went both ways).

At first it was so exciting watching them all run full speed down the path. I would always cheer them all on and yell and scream like a wild child. However, I soon became bored from watching and I desperately wanted to join in on the fun! I remember when I first asked if I could race, the guys all seemed very skeptical. I mean, what girl would want to race a guy right? This one did. Anyways, I finally got my shot and when they yelled “go”, I was ready. I burst away from the bridge, full steam ahead, like someone had lit my butt on fire. I was flying down the path. I could feel myself breathing faster and faster and adrenaline was surging through my tiny body frame. What was even more spectacular was that I was winning! I remember looking back as I crossed the finish line first and realized I had just beaten a guy. I was grinning from ear to ear. That day marked a very important day in my life. That was the day that I realized, I could hold my own with the opposite sex.

I went on to win many more lunch time races and in the end was undefeated on the playground. It really helped me build some confidence in myself as I was really shy beforehand and now I even had won the respect of most of the guys in my elementary class. I carried that positive energy forward and made a commitment to always be the quickest of the girls and to keep up (or beat) the boys. I became VERY competitive and this is where my days of wearing frilly clothes and dresses disappeared and instead I rocked those coveralls like any proud tomboy chick would. It became a game; to be the best. If we were having relay races in gym class, I had to be first. If we were climbing ropes in gym class, I had to be first. If we were changing in the locker room, I had to finish first. If we were running laps around the school at lunch time, I wanted to run the most. I wanted everyone to know, but mostly the guys, that I meant serious business. Yes, I was a scrawny little girl on the outside, but I was a force to be reckoned with if someone tried to tease me.

I carried this mindset with me right through junior high and high school. It was a bit harder now as puberty began to set in and the guys were getting bigger and stronger. Some of them began to surpass me in certain areas, but I always tried to keep up and be a competitor. If I couldn’t beat them, I at least wanted their respect. However, I still had high expectations to be one of the best female athletes and so I began training 5-6 days a week. I began to notice that I was putting on some muscle which was a nice change. I was getting stronger and this meant that I could keep up with both sexes. If there was a pick-up game of basketball going on in the gym, I could join in and the team wouldn’t be “at a disadvantage”…that was always the goal, not to be looked at as a nuisance, but to be looked at as a threat.

For the most part, I am very happy with who I am today as a female athlete. Obviously, there comes a point when I had to realize that genetics plays a bit of a role in my ability versus my male counterpart and so I had to settle with not necessarily being the best, but being respectable. However, this also presents a problem, because as females, we shouldn’t have to “impress” anyone, especially not males  when it comes to our natural athletic ability. When I’m in the gym doing squats, I sometimes see other men glancing at the weight I have up on the bar and looking slightly puzzled, as if they are questioning my ability to perform the action. When I successfully complete the set and re-rack the bar, it feels amazing. But even if they weren’t there to witness me do that, it would still feel amazing.

My main point is simply this; I won’t judge you, so why bother judging me? I mean, we’re all athletes, of various ages and abilities; we should respect one another for reaching new accomplishments and for taking the initiative to better our health. We don’t need to put one another down; we need to build each other up. When I workout now, I always carry respect with me, whether it’s a smile, a nod or a high-five, it’s important to pass along positive vibes and not negative ones. Women have come a long way in sport and I think that’s something that should be recognized. In the end, all I want as a female is respect, from everyone.