Fast and Female urges young girls to stay in sport
For U.S. and Olympian cross-country skier Liz Stephen, her life was all about sports growing up. Whether she was on the slopes — originally as an alpine skier — or running cross country, Stephen was always looking to be active.
“I just think it’s been such a big drive in my life, you know. Everything about my life has been surrounded by sport,” Stephen said. “I’ve gained a lot from it, really positive experiences.”
With the busy lifestyle that sports bring, Stephen was forced to give up many things that normal kids grow up with. She sometimes had to say no to a friend’s sleepover party or turn down that date when she got into her teenage years, but she said it didn’t bother her all that much because it was what she wanted.
“I loved to ski and loved to just run around and being [involved in] sports,” Stephen said. “I wanted to go every weekend up to train at Burke [Mountain Resort] or I wanted to go race every weekend when I was in cross country. At that age, you’re saying no to a lot of stuff, too, the normal parts of life that most people get involved in. A lot of times, sports will take over that.”
While Stephen obviously chose the sports route, this is not the case with all young girls who have sport aspirations growing up. Many end up quitting or going a different route for a number of reasons. Among them is the fear of missing out on other things or because sports aren’t “girly” enough.
It’s for this reason that Stephen has gotten involved in Fast and Female, a nonprofit organization whose mission is to “keep girls healthy, happy and active in sports through their teens by introducing them to inspiring athlete role models,” according to its website.
The Fast and Female program aims to keep young girls active throughout their adolescence.
“Girls drop out of sport more frequently than guys do,” Stephen said. “So, it’s good to have this kind of program. That was the motivation to start it for Chandra [Crawford].”
Like Stephen, Crawford is also a successful cross-country skier. She is the founder of Fast and Female, starting the program in her native country of Canada. After teaming up with Kikkan Randall, a U.S. teammate of Stephen, Crawford brought the organization to the United States, where it hosts a number of events like Champ Chats and Summits throughout the year.
On Sunday, Oct. 16, Fast and Female will host a Champ Chat at the USSA Center of Excellence. The two-and-a-half hour event will be full of stations with different activities for the young girls to participate in. Each station will be headed by an ambassador, like Stephen, giving the youth a chance to meet some professional athletes.
“I think that, watching them, the kids interact together, no matter what sport is their main one or the one they are most passionate about at this point in their lives. It just all disappears,” Stephen said of the event. “It’s just a bunch of girls playing together and making new friends and trying out the different sports, kind of stations that we have. It’s a really fun thing to watch.”
More importantly, Stephen believes that events like these not only allow the young girls — maybe some who are considering dropping out of sport — to meet role models, but also identify with them.
“In my career, I’ve had ups and downs where I’ve definitely thought about retiring or quitting. There’s always been somebody there to help to see the good side of it,” Stephen said. “I think having a mentor and role models that you can relate to, and they can relate to you, is really important thing, no matter what you’re trying to pursue in life.”
The Champ Chat in Park City will begin at 9 a.m. on Oct. 16 and go until 11:30 a.m.
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