For today’s female athletes, June 23 probably passed without even a thought about its significance. This year, that date marks the 45th anniversary of the signing of Title IX, which requires gender equality in every educational program that receives federal funding. That includes athletics, which is important because in 1971 only one percent of college athletic budgets went to female sports and high school male athletes outnumbered female athletes 12.5 to 1.
Forty-five years is a long time, enough for today’s girls to grow up simply accepting that they have opportunities to explore mental and physical strength through fitness and competition. To them, it is simply a given.
Logic says that the lessons learned through sports should be giving us generations of young women who are strong, know the value of working hard, and are ready to tackle any challenge. However, the opposite seems to be happening with the current group of high school and college athletes. A Washington Post article shared the somewhat surprising news that coaches are seeing a generation of both overdependent and overconfident women.
The article states, “According to a 2016 NCAA survey, 76 percent of all Division I female athletes said they would like to go home to their moms and dads more often, and 64 percent said they communicate with their parents at least once a day, a number that rises to 73 percent among women’s basketball players. And nearly a third reported feeling overwhelmed.” However, “47 percent of Division I women’s basketball players think it’s at least ‘somewhat likely’ they will play professional or Olympic ball, but the reality? The WNBA drafts just 36 players, 0.9 percent.”
Want to know where the coaches place a chunk of the blame?
Take a deep breath, parents, because coaches (and psychologists) are lookin’ right at us. Not because we aren’t doing our job. We are—and we put an awful lot of time, effort, and emotional energy into doing it well. The problem is that we are doing our kids’ jobs as well.
By putting so much effort into making sure our daughters have every opportunity, are always entertained, and are never uncomfortable, we aren’t allowing them to experience real life. Instead of working ourselves out of a job, we keep them dependent on us to solve their problems and come to their rescue. And, sadly, this has trained them to believe they deserve preferential treatment.
That isn’t exactly a great game plan if our future goal is raising well-adjusted daughters.
No one I know is rooting for their girls to become a curious combination of both needy and spoiled. So maybe it’s time for us parents to critically think about what we really want for our daughters.
If we want to raise strong girls, we let them build their physical and emotional muscles. We stop trying to fix their problems, but let them know we are confident they will find a solution.
If we want them to withstand the inevitable criticism that comes from being an adult, then we stop heaping praise for every minor task. We talk to them about learning from constructive criticism but not letting mindless chatter affect their self-image.
If we want them to be hard workers, we give them jobs and chores now and expect them to be completed well.
If we want them to learn from experience, we let them make mistakes and even fail. This will also teach them how to confess their sins and be set free by forgiveness.
Finally, if we want them to truly feel secure, then we tell them about their heavenly Father who sacrificed his own Son so that they could be called his daughters—forever.
We may not be able to change an entire generation, but we can influence the girls around us. Their coaches (and future bosses) will be grateful!
Linda Buxa is a writer, Bible study leader, and retreat speaker. When she was talking to her kiddos about this topic, she mentioned, “Sometimes parents praise too much.” They chimed in with: “Oh, you don’t do that!” and instead reviewed their personalized list of Things Moms Say.