What It’s Like to Be a Girl on the Wrestling Team
Just a few months ago, Canada’s female swim team won the Canadian Press team of the year. It’s a huge deal. The girls won the title by receiving 23% of the vote, just 6% ahead of the runner up, the Toronto Raptors. In the last 50 years, they're only the third women's team to win this award.
It’s frightening how sexism has become so routine in athletics. Because it’s so important to support all of our fellow girl athletes, I decided to share my story in hopes of inspiring all of you.
Growing up, boys would tell me I couldn’t play sports with them because I was a girl and I’d be an unfair disadvantage to their teams. These insults discouraged me from wanting to play sports that weren’t perceived as “girly” (like hockey, basketball, or soccer). Even now, when I walk around in public wearing my wrestling team’s sweater, people make comments about it, speculating whether it's actually mine or if it’s my boyfriend's.
I played a couple of sports briefly in elementary school, but I wasn’t good at any of them. I was honestly just too lazy. But in high school, I decided to make a change and join the swim team. Through my friends in gym class and on the team, I joined a bunch of other random teams, too. I started throwing shot put and javelin (which didn’t work out very well), and even became one of the only girls on our rock climbing team. Suddenly, I loved being active. But at the same time, I wasn’t as strong or coordinated as my male teammates. This made me feel like I wasn’t good enough to keep doing some of the things I did.
It didn’t help that I was hanging out with a “girly” friend group who really made me feel like sports weren’t something I was supposed to do. I lost my interest in being athletic. I thought it was unattractive and boyish to be working out and playing aggressive sports.
One day, I saw a flyer at school advertising the school's wrestling team. All of my friends and family thought I was insane. I heard it all, from “Oh my god, you’re going to get hurt!” to “But that’s a BOY’S sport,” to my personal favorite, “You can’t hurt anyone.” Tryouts were brutal. My body wasn’t used to the exercise and I became too sore to move. My guy friends called me weak. I kept going and pushing myself. I lost all my matches in my first tournament. I was a little discouraged; my teammates brushed me aside and didn’t pay too much attention to me. But I pushed myself to learn more and get better. At the next tournament, I had my first win ever. That one small achievement motivated me to give it my all for the rest of the season. Most recently, I came in first in my region and participated in provincial finals.
Many of my female teammates graduated last year, and even though it sucks they're gone, I have tons of new ones that I love and support through this male dominated sport. I gladly aid all of my female teammates through the assumptions that we have eating disorders when trying to cut to a lower weight category, being presumed weak because we don’t have huge muscles, and even a rather degrading and offensive theory from a teammate of mine. He had come up this “correlation” between a female wrestler’s attractiveness and how well she performs. (Spoiler alert: according to him, the prettier you are, the worse of a wrestler you are.)
I know for a fact that these stereotypes aren’t true. My number one goal as a female athlete is to shatter these assumptions, and to inspire as many other girls as I can to do the same.
By Danielle Liwanag, 18