February is Black History Month. February 1st is National Girls and Women in Sports Day. With respect to both topics, I would like to recognize the incredible Black female athletes who broke barriers to overcome double discrimination, making it possible for the following generations to compete at the highest levels.
The pressure of competing in sports is immense, and notably more so for those who have had to fight to be there in the first place. The culture of sports competition then piles on impossible standards: You said you deserved to be here, so there will be no slack given. No bad days; no missed steps, and for heaven’s sake, no emotions. As a society, we are a long way from offering anything close to an even playing field.
The incredible women who are now household names, from Jackie Joyner-Kersee, to Venus and Serena Williams, to Simone Biles, earned their status as cultural icons through hard work, dedication to their cause, and support from family and others who helped them through the mental and emotional struggles that are a natural part of breaking boundaries.
All of us humans require assistance, advice, emotional understanding, and more. It takes enormous strength to be the first- or the best, but those who accomplish great things still have those basic human needs. I implore every person reading this to think about someone in your life who has the odds stacked against them- or is facing a new challenge, and offer your support. A simple word of encouragement can go a long way.
Read about the trailblazing Black women in sports here, and Black female athletes showing the value of mental health here.