People turn to sports as kids, teens, and young adults for a number of reasons. For many, playing a sport is an extracurricular outlet that allows them to exercise their skills in teamwork and physical activity.
Evelyn currently runs track and cross-country at Americas High School in El Paso, Texas. “People don’t appreciate girls in sports, specifically Latina women…so I think it [is] better to have more diversity,” states Evelyn Gomez , 16. Although Evelyn makes a very good point by acknowledging that female athletes are not shown the same appreciation as the men in the world of athletics, she also recognizes that girls and women continue to excel in their respective sports, regardless, and achieve their goals.
“I admire the [girls] in my high school that get scholarships for the sports I play.” Seeing that her fellow teammates can accomplish so much is very motivating to Evelyn.
19-year-old college sophomore Zaira Lujan also ran track and cross-country throughout her years at Coronado High School in El Paso, Texas. When she started at the University of Rochester in the Fall of 2014, Zaira had intend to run track again, but plans changed and she did not join the team. Instead, come second semester, Zaira found herself playing a different sport altogether, one she’d never imagined she would play.
“I went to the [rugby] practices and loved the vibe the team had. They were open and accepting…I’m glad that I gave it a chance,” said Zaira.
Having played multiple sports, both Evelyn and Zaira know a thing or two about dedication and teamwork. These are the values that make each team member strong in mind and body. “In my competitions, I didn’t run against other girls, per say, but I ran against myself. I don’t know about the abilities of the other runners, but I know mine and that’s all I need to concentrate on…” says Zaira, as she reflects on her years as a runner. Zaira believes that through self-motivation as well as encouragement by her coaches and teammates, she has become a better athlete.
Evelyn also acknowledges the positive impact that playing a sport has had on her life: “Participating in a sport provides structure and discipline…It helps you be prompt, ready, [and able to] overcome challenges.” These are qualities that both athletes have been able to apply when they are participating in their respective sports, but they have also positively affected their approaches to academics and other responsibilities.
Not only are women athletes underappreciated, as Evelyn suggests, but Latinas are also noticeably underrepresented in U.S. sports teams. This is not necessarily something that should be a weight on the shoulders of young Latinas, whether they are simply looking for an activity to join or looking to play professionally. However, it is something for the nation as a whole keep in mind. It is difficult for girls to even name a professional U.S. Latina athlete that they can say they admire.
Evelyn and Zaira definitely advise Latinas everywhere to stick with or try out a sport, if they are up for it. They both see the value of playing in a sport from a non-competitive standpoint, as participation can result in new friendships and help one learn about her physical strengths.