Breaking Gender Stereotypes in Sports

by Kelly Colobella

I’ve never been gravitated towards the things “they” say girls are supposed to like. I played with matchbox cars when I was young, hated wearing dresses (because it hindered my tree climbing), and despised the color pink. I’ve always been aggressive, competitive, and athletic. Fortunately, being raised by a very tough Mom, supportive Father, and in a family of 4 sisters these things were never an issue. Even though I was raised in a very religious city (where women are expected to marry young and settle down) my amazing family never expected me to be anything other than who I am.
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Growing up in Utah, I was awarded such experiences as being told that “girls can’t play guitar” (so I started a touring band), having men promoted ahead of me in jobs (so I outperformed them out of spite), currently I am playing semi-pro tackle football while people frequently have discussions online of how “dangerous” it is for women, and that it’s a “mockery” for women to play a “men’s” sport. If you’ve ever seen a women’s football game (especially my team) you will observe that the plays are calculated, and hard hitting. The athletes are talented, and work every bit as hard as men, many even harder because we feel like we have to prove something to the world. The saddest thing about women’s football is that not a lot of people know (yet) that it exists.
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I had never considered playing football when I was younger, and I regret that at this point in my life. I love that I am now able to show young girls that there is some sort of future for them in the sport. If girls were at all encouraged to play football in their youth, they would have a severe advantage when playing the sport later in life (I had to learn all the basics when I started playing a few years ago, which I feel like set the initial playing process back quite a bit). It gets tiring to read stories of girls not being allowed to play on their high school teams, despite having the respect of their teammates and coaches.

Lifting is a similar experience for me. It gets old going to the gym and having men snicker as I load weights up, or stop what they are doing to watch as I do my reps. Ask me “are you going to lift all those weights yourself?” I don’t want to be an anomaly, I don’t need them to offer to spot me. When I compete in strongman, there are so few women locally that they have to guess the weights that we might be able to lift (sometimes they are way too heavy, and sometimes so light that it’s a joke).

More women are feeling empowered to compete, to lift heavy in the gym, to be an example. To not allow uneducated personal trainers to tell us that we should only be doing yoga, and cardio. I have women tell me all the time that they would like to get into lifting, or football, but aren’t really sure how to start. Here’s my advice to any women out there who feel intimidated at the idea of getting started in a “man’s” sport. Own it. Get out there and figure it out. Find a team locally, or a group and dive in headfirst and don’t act afraid. Hard work earns respect (and although we should not HAVE to prove ourselves) the reality is, that we do. The more women who take these steps, the better it will be for us in the future.

All Photos: Kathy Linford Photography

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