At BAWSI, we often talk about the concept “If you see her, you can be her.” And one of the major reasons we ask high school and collegiate female athletes to come out and serve as volunteer coaches at BAWSI Girls is to provide the “her.” Many of the athletes who step out of their world and onto the elementary school playgrounds say how much they enjoy playing with the BAWSI girls and how much they love all the love—third graders are an especially huggy bunch. But quite a number of the athletes also notice that the BAWSI girls pick up on everything they do: what color shoelaces they wear, whether they talk when the leader is talking, if they play the games with the girls and how enthusiastically. They do whatever the athletes do, and by simply being there—and without doing anything intentionally—the athletes serve as role models. “They see everything so you get to be a leader for them,” one Menlo College athlete recently said.
Over the past month, I’ve had the opportunity to meet the Menlo College Women’s Wrestling team and get to know some of the team’s athletes, who served as BAWSI Girls coaches on a recent Friday afternoon. A few months ago, I didn’t know women wrestled, let alone wrestled for their colleges. So, at 6:30 am several weeks ago, I joined the team in the gym for an hour of mat practice and had my first glimpse at a truly beautiful, incredibly athletic, and strategic sport. One member of the team was recovering from an injury and took the time to sit with me and answer my questions about the sport. I loved hearing why this athlete loves her sport: “Because it’s tough,” she said. She loves it because it’s been seen as a men’s sport and because she has had to work harder and against the odds to make the cut. Though high school girl’s wrestling teams are on the rise, most of the athletes on the Menlo College’s Women Wrestling team played on boys teams up until the time they arrived at college. “I like that it’s, ‘I can do this, and I can do it better than you sometimes, too,’” the wrestler sitting with me said.
When we introduce the athletes serving as coaches at BAWSI Girls, I often ask the girls to guess the athletes’ sport. The first guess is almost always soccer. The next is usually basketball. On the recent Friday that Menlo College’s Women Wrestling team joined us, it was so much fun to tell the BAWSI Girls that these were female wrestlers—a new concept to many of them. If you can see her, you can be her. And my hope is that because of this, we’ll see a few more female wrestlers a few years from now.