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Who Will Be the Next Serena?

It was hard to look anywhere in the media in 2015 and not see the powerful and talented Serena Williams. Her career is such that she is considered by many to be the greatest female professional athlete in history. Her exemplary performance in a sport where so few African Americans compete makes her an important role model and inspiration for thousands of young girls and boys who hope to one day fill her shoes.

Similarly, African-American women, such as gymnasts Simone Biles and Gabby Douglas, bobsledders Cherrell Garret, Lauren Gibbs and Elana Meyers-Taylor, wrestler Kelsey Campbell and golfer Cheyenne Woods are demonstrating how sport has become increasingly more inclusive for girls and women of color. Basketball and Track & Field have long provided an inclusive environment for African American girls and women – the incredible accomplishments of legends and contemporaries like Lisa Leslie, Maya Moore, Tamika Catchings, Jackie Joyner Kersee and Allyson Felix are known to many.

So now the questions becomes, ‘How do we make all courts, fields and rinks more diverse?’ The Women’s Sports Foundation is committed to increasing access to all sports for all girls and women regardless of gender, race, ethnicity or ability. After all, girls have to see it to be it.

Through our research and the establishment of our Sports 4 Life program, we know girls of color are doubly hit by both gender and race disparities in sport resulting in low participation at all levels. Girls in these demographics are less likely to play sports than boys and less likely to play sports than their Caucasian peers. They also enter sports as a later age and drop out earlier. This hindrance prevents girls of color from receiving the full benefits of sports participation such as, increased confidence and higher self-esteem, a more positive body image, better overall physical health and lower rates of obesity, better grades in school, a higher graduation rate and a greater likelihood to attend college.

In conjunction with Black History Month, we created a research brief – an overview of the topics impacting girls and women of color and covered by our report ‘Her Life Depends On It III.’ This research brief highlights how physical activity or the lack thereof influences the health and well-being of girls and women of color.

Through our Sports 4 Life program, a national effort to increase the participation and retention of African American and Hispanic girls, ages 11-18, in youth sports programs, the WSF is committed to creating equality across all fields of play by providing access to sport at the grassroots level. By doing this, we can provide all girls with the recommended dosage of physical activity so that they may reap the benefits it offers and ensure that we have more Serenas, Elanas and Gabbys.
Download the Brief >>