Floyd Mayweather Jr.
These were names I heard throughout my entire life, particularly when it came to playing soccer.
It all started when I had a private training session with a professional coach. I was twelve years old at the time, and I can recall the exact racquetball court we were working in, focusing on the technical side of the game. She had bleached blonde hair, and in my eyes, was amazing. I idolized her, and I only dreamed of being just like her one day.
I worked my ass off in that session. Truthfully, I worked my ass off in every session, but when working with a private trainer it seemed as though I always turned it up a notch. As an athlete, I seemed to lack confidence, so when someone else criticized or belittled me as a player, I really felt crushed. But, the comment I overheard that day in the racquetball court was different.
My dad asked the trainer how she thought I did, and what she thought of me as a soccer player. She precisely stated, “She’s good. But she is way too small to ever play at the collegiate level.”
That was all I needed to hear. From that moment on, I was determined to prove her wrong. And, not only her, but anyone who crossed my path throughout my journey who questioned my abilities because of my size. I was told numerous times that my height would prevent me from conquering my dreams.
“She is too small to play Division I college soccer,” led to, “What was Michigan State thinking? There is no way she will survive in the Big Ten.” Whether it was told to my dad, or to me directly, my size was constantly being judged and scrutinized.
For a young girl who was developing a complex at the age of twelve, I couldn’t help but begin to obsess over my size, height, and figure. Soccer was my life, and for my physique to hinder my ultimate goals seemed unfair. I constantly struggled with the idea that a coach would want size over heart. And, I had the heart.
My dad always reminded me of athletes who overcame a size deficiency. The examples he embedded in my head had exceptional talent, great success, stardom, but, most importantly to me, were short in stature relative to others in their sports.
I watched Mississippi State University play University of Connecticut in the NCAA Women’s Basketball Final Four (what an incredible game.) The game ended by a buzzer-beater in overtime. The Bulldogs snapped the Huskies’ 111-game winning streak, which was astonishing and commendable.
Her name is Morgan William, but her teammates refer to her as “Itty Bitty.” In William’s post-game interview on national television, she shared that she was always told she was too small to play college basketball, but it was her stepdad who believed in her, and was confident that her size wouldn’t hold her back. And, in the final second of a game that would get her to the NCAA national championship, she shot over her opponent, who was five foot and eleven inches–a guard who was at least six inches taller–to win.
Just as society and culture emphasize the “thin ideal,” similar pressures exist in certain sports that have stereotypical patterns of appearance, weight requirements, and size. She openly expressed that it was her stepdad who believed otherwise–just as my dad did.
One of my favorite quotes of all-time says it all. Mark Twain stated, “It’s not the size of the dog in the fight, it’s the size of the fight in the dog.” At five foot one inch tall (on a good day), I truly believe we should live by these words not only in sports, but as a society and culture. Size shouldn’t categorize us, or define us–nor should be our focus. If we are able to eliminate size as our focus, we will all become better people, athletes, and citizens.