Women wrestlers speak out for National Girls and Women in Sports Day

The Women’s Sports Foundation was founded in 1974, with the hope of advancing the lives of girls and women through sports and the positive impact of physical activity, focusing on programs like National Girls and Women in Sports Day.

WSF’s mission is “to enable all girls and women to reach their potential in sports and life”, which they do by providing financial assistance to athletes, conducting groundbreaking research, providing education to community leaders, assisting in motivating youth, and advocating for change.

One special way the WSF carries out their mission, is by celebrating National Girls and Women in Sports Day. Every year, National Girls and Women in Sports Day stresses the importance of equal opportunities for all girls and women in sports. Today marks the 34th celebration, which WSF hopes will inspire women and girls to play, be active, and to reach their full potential.

By gaining confidence, character, and strength, WSF believes women and girls will have the tools they need to be successful leaders, into the future. The foundation recognizes and assists student athletes, champion athletes, administrators, coaches, and lawmakers who act to improve equality for women.

Bell To Belles also strives to promote and embolden equality for women, through our active efforts to give women wrestlers a spotlight. In order to help celebrate the important day, Bell To Belles owner Kristen Ashly thought it would be appropriate to reach out to women in wrestling, and ask how sports has positively affected their lives.

Brandi Rhodes, Jazz, Holidead, Ivelisse, Skye Smitson, and Rhia O’Reilly spoke on how sports helped them succeed, and what they would say to young girls and women who aspire to work in wrestling.

The women touched on how sports helped them achieve their goals and help better their life, mentioning which sports figures helped mold them into who they are, today.

“Sports in general have helped me massively,” Smitson told Ashly. “Sports helped me massively develop more confidence, wrestling more than any other sport, because you’re in an environment where you are constantly meeting new people wherever you go. That element in itself helps you adapt as a person to meeting new people on such a frequent basis.”

Rhodes was a competitive figure skater before entering the wrestling industry, which she says helped form the person fans see, today.

“Growing up a competitive figure skater taught me incredible discipline,” Rhodes revealed. “It taught me that hard work does pay off if you fully plug in and stick with it. I definitely wouldn’t be who I am today without that influence in my life.”

Women wrestlers still deal with issues relating to inequality, and are faced with barriers every day just to do what they love. The women interviewed asked if they thought wrestling was becoming more equitable.

O’Reilly admits that while wrestling is becoming more inclusive, there’s still work to be done.

“I do think sport is becoming more inclusive; we only have to look at the increased viewership and coverage of women’s mainstream sports. In wrestling, we are seeing more matches instead of just the token women’s match.

There is still a long way to go as many sports do not have equal pay or rewards for the same effort. It can make women seem like they are of lower value. Also, with the rise in people identifying as non-binary in sports which have gendered teams and tournaments, there is the question of where these people play. I think there is more work to be done on the discussion; portrayal and inclusive of trans people in sport, too.”

Holidead says the discussion comes down to equal expectations, and respect.

“We all sacrifice and put our bodies on the line, night in and out with no off-season. We definitely should be compensated and featured on a equal level. We all call ourselves ‘professionals’ for a reason, and we should all be treated with the proper respect regardless of gender.”

The goal of National Girls and Women in Sports Day is to aspire girls and women everywhere to be physically active, and reach for their dreams. The women interviewed were asked what they would say to girls or women who wanted to work in wrestling.

Ivelisse wants aspiring women and girls to remember respect and passion will carry them far.

“There have been many women before you that have bled to get women’s wrestling where it is now. Respect them, because it’s made it easier for you to succeed now. Always work hard, and let your passion guide you. It will be tough, but if you truly have that passion, it will always be worth it.”

Jazz adds to that sentiment by saying women who come into wrestling should remain professional, and demand respect. By showcasing talent and sticking to certain standards, the industry will respond.

“I ask for all women who wants to step in this world: always carry yourself in a professional manner. If you demand respect then you will receive it. Don’t let anyone influence your thinking that you’re not good enough based on color and your features. Now is the time for women to showcase their true talent. I truly believe if we stick to these standards there will be no more excuses of why we’re not seeing more opportunities.”

Finally, Rhodes emphasizes the need for practice in athletic endeavors.

“If you’re dreaming of becoming a wrestler, find a sport that you like and see it through.” Rhodes adds, “Athleticism of course is great for wrestling, but discipline and mindset are so important. Whether it’s dance, soccer, baseball, hockey, amateur wrestling, figure skating, etc. All will help mold you into who you want to be when you start your journey towards becoming a professional wrestler.”

Bell To Belles thanks all of the women in wrestling who took time to support women and girls in sports. Leading by example, women wrestlers are on the front lines of changing minds and reaching ideals. Help the Women’s Sports Foundation forward progress for female athletes by donating time, sponsoring the cause, or leading an event in your area.

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