I grew up in a household full of athletes. My brothers and my dad played college basketball, and my dad has been a college coach for as long as I can remember. I honestly can’t think of a time when sports and competition weren’t woven into my daily life. I played baseball, softball, basketball, and volleyball and developed a spirit and love of the games. But even more impactful to me than a love of the game was a love of the teams.
Watching and contributing to my teams was where I truly began to learn about myself. I learned how to be a good teammate, how to face both physical and mental challenges, and how to push myself beyond what I thought I was capable of in high-pressure situations. Team sports instill discipline, courage, advocacy, and the ability to both win and fail graciously. At Ellis, our teams amplify these opportunities by emphasizing sports as a vehicle for the development of leadership, service, and self-advocacy in our school and our communities. A lot of this has to do with the confidence girls instill in each other when they play team sports.
By competing in an all-girls environment, Ellis girls have a built-in support system that extends beyond the courts and playing fields into their classrooms and, most importantly, into their friendships. You need every type of person on the field, because each will bring her own talents, perspective, and personality to the game. Each will see opportunities and solutions that others don’t see and will learn to encourage their teammates to lean on each others’ unique strengths. They get to learn that being a good teammate might mean passing the ball to someone else. If they make the shot, their success is everyone’s success and we all celebrate it. If they miss it? They pass it again on the next drive and create another opportunity for success. Our girls know that congratulating their teammates and cheering on their wins is just as important as being kind to each other—and themselves—after an imperfect play or a game that didn’t end in a win, and we all know that this is an essential life skill.
Studies show that team sports can reduce stress levels and help improve mental health by triggering the release of brain chemicals like endorphins that make you feel happier and more relaxed. There will always be pressure and stress, but the benefit to Ellis girls—and, in fact, to all girls—of participating in team sports is that they gain tools to help them navigate through day-to-day challenges and persevere both on and off of the court. It’s hard to not overthink, and it’s easy to put additional pressure upon yourself to perform and earn that win. But, our coaches encourage our athletes—and our athletes encourage their teammates—to be authentically themselves and stay true to who they are. With this support, they’ll be prepared for anything that comes their way, and the results will make us proud no matter what.