What do soccer star Shannon MacMillan, WNBA player Rebecca Lobo and Olympic gold medalist Bonnie Blair have in common?
The three were all Girl Scouts.
And now they are members of GirlSports 2000, a team of top female athletes who have been recruited by Girl Scouts of the U.S.A. to serve as role models for young women and who will be speaking around the country.
“When I was growing up, I didn’t have female soccer players to look up to,” says MacMillan, whose sole inspiration was her older brother. “Now we have a platform to get others excited.”
Ten years ago, young girls had Michael Jordan and Greg Louganis as role models. Today they have Lobo and swimmer Jenny Thompson.
Women in sports have been getting a lot of attention lately, a phenomenon that began to pick up steam with the 1996 Olympics, when speed skater Blair became the most decorated Olympic medalist in history, and when gymnast Kerri Strug sacrificed her ankle for the sake of her team.
Commitment. Focus. Self-sacrifice. Ask any successful athlete what it took to get where she is today, and more than likely she will list these values. Not coincidentally, these same values are promoted through Girl Scouts, which has 3.6 million members.
“It’s one of the first places where you learn how to share and how to work with people,” says Lobo, who was a Girl Scout in her hometown of Southwick, Mass.
Like most young girls, she joined her troop to be with friends, oblivious to the themes that have been built into the program: self-motivation, curiosity, teamwork and, now, athleticism.
Reflecting today’s emphasis on female sports, Girl Scouts recently adopted a new slogan: “Where Girls Grow Strong.”
“By strong, we mean physically, mentally and socially, so girls can find themselves growing to their fullest potential and handle all the various situations they will confront in life,” says Verna Simpkins, Girl Scouts’ director of membership and program initiatives.
Today there are more than 200 badges for Girl Scouts to work toward, from “car sense” and “law and order” to “space exploration” and “soccer.” To stay current, the badges and handbook are updated every five years.
While the oh-so-'90s message of “being anything you want to be” has been used in advertising aimed primarily at young men, it is just recently that this message has begun targeting young girls.
It’s about time.
Susan Carpenter can be reached by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.