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Jill Oakes Pick Up Game(Ed. Note: Author Jill Oakes is a professional soccer player who played last season in the WPS for the Chicago Red Stars)

I’m girly.  I sell jewelry, practice yoga, watch cooking shows,  Project Runway and What Not to Wear, and I LOVE dancing!  If I hadn’t discovered soccer, I would’ve wanted to become a dancer.  I’m also very emotional and sensitive, two typically feminine traits.  In fact, my sometimes overly sensitive alter ego has been nicknamed ‘Sensitivo’.  I’m not quite sure it needed a nickname, but it’s a running joke on me I guess.  Even so, having these “feminine” qualities does not inhibit my ability to be competitive, physical, or aggressive.  It’s the dynamic balance of both, feminine and masculine, that make female athletes so intriguing.

I am very proud to be a female athlete.  I love feeling strong and healthy, setting goals and achieving them, and challenging myself physically and mentally.  Although women are making great strides in their interest and participation in sports, I find myself amongst the boys quite often, whether they are other athletes, coaches, or fans.  These are moments when I feel particularly empowered and proud to be a woman.  It is a special quality to be able to hold your own or even dominate in any activity with the guys.  You empower what it means to be a girl.  You may not realize it, but girls everywhere benefit when you publicly display your strengths, athletic or otherwise.  You’re sending a message.  When you see one girl do it, it suddenly becomes possible for all girls to do it too.

Personally, I made my first conscious statement to the world challenging a stereotype, when I became a high school cheerleader.  Yes, it’s 100% true.  I was telling the world that cheerleaders deserve athletic respect, and that athletes are beautiful and feminine too.  I was both captain of the varsity soccer team and co-captain of the varsity cheerleading team at the same time.  How about that?

I’ll admit it, sometimes it’s just fun to feel like one of the boys.  Last Sunday, I played in the annual America Scores, charity 7 vs. 7 soccer tournament at the Home Depot Center in Carson, and was one of only two girls competing in the top bracket.  My good friend and ex-Pali Blues teammate, Liz Bogus, and I represented for all the ladies out there!  America Scores is a nonprofit organization that utilizes soccer, writing and creative expression to empower urban community children to be healthy and create change in the world.  I always love offering myself for admirable causes.  Throughout the week, I also joined an MLS player for a technical skills soccer training session, and had an intense cardio/strength training session with three of my fellow male Yoga Naga Training peers.  Finally, on Saturday, my friend, Dave, and I organized a Girls vs. Boys pick-up 5 vs. 5 soccer game.  And if I’m not mistaken, I do believe the girl’s team won… Yes. Yes we did!  :)

So what DOES it mean to be girl?  At one time, we were only cheerleaders, while boys were told not to play “like a girl.”  Nowadays, girls are tackling, competing, and enduring physical and emotional pain for success in their sport.  ‘Female’ is an evolving phenomenon.  And I believe we, as girls, control our own definition.  To me, there’s no right or wrong way to be.  There’s no “supposed to.”  You are born female, and from that moment on, everything you do for the rest of your life will contribute to what being a girl means.  You represent all girls.

We are so much more than ourselves.  I am more than just Jill Oakes, the soccer player.  I am a woman, a sister, a daughter, an auntie, an American, a Californian, a Bruin (go UCLA!), a human, etc.  We stand for so many things simultaneously.  But, I believe it is our actions that define us.  We are what we do.  And in defining ourselves, we define our associated groups.  Our actions reflect on our families, races, communities, teams, and, most certainly, genders, while inspiring others to be more than what they already are.

So today, what will you do that defines you?  What action big or small will you take?  I advise you to act on purpose.

October 9, 2009

Being a girl AND one of the guys

(Ed. Note: Author Jill Oakes is a professional soccer player who played last season in the WPS for the Chicago Red Stars) I’m girly.  I sell […]