Girls Aim High in Sports Camps

Girls Aim High in Sports Camps

- in February 2015, Summer Camps
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Federal legislation — in the form of Title IX — led the way for girls and women to participate on an equitable playing field. Before Title IX, which required gender equality for boys and girls in every educational program that gets federal money, just 7 percent of high school athletes were girls. Today it’s about 40 percent — leaving plenty of room for improvement.

More schools and organizations are providing girls sports activities, which is illustrated in the explosion of camps, classes and lessons now being offered.

It can be tough to sort through all the opportunities. High schools, colleges, recreation centers and private companies all offer sports camps aimed at making girls more skillful, stronger, confident team players.

 

The Camp Search

Lacrosse and soccer are the hot sports for girls today. Most facilities, such as Pinnacle Sports in Medina, a sports training facility, have sports camps in which boys and girls are participating together, with teams generally divided by skill rather than gender. The exception is softball and girls lacrosse ­because the games are either gender- specific or the rules (lacrosse, for ­example) vary widely for girls and boys.

Rich Garbinsky, general manager of Pinnacle Sports, has been in the youth sports business for 30 years and has seen a lot of changes, not just in ­participation but also in the range of sports that draw girls and young women.

“I think that sports in general teach life lessons,” Garbinsky says. “Some sports are divided by gender, but in life it’s not. In many of our camps it’s beneficial for boys and girls to be together.”

Garbinsky is on the national board of directors for the American Camp Association (acacamps.org) and is a state ACA representative. The group has a list of ACA-accredited sports camps and resources for finding a good camp fit.

Before beginning a sports camp search, Garbinsky said parents should figure out what they want out of a sports camp. For example, is skill development the most important take away, or is strength training, teamwork or nutrition information important?

A good place to start is the ACA website because the options can be overwhelming. The group’s camp standards can help whittle options.

Ask about the instructors’ experience. Will teams or camps be single-gender or have both boys and girls? Learn about what happens each day of the camp, the schedule and the ­expected outcome.

“Athletic competition and being part of a team mimics life,” Garbinsky says. “Girls become part of a community and a family, and they learn how to rely on others and to be accountable to others. It’s a huge confidence builder. It’s not just winning and losing. The right coaches are good role models and that’s vastly important.”

Northeast Ohio has many options for girl’s sports and skills camps and colleges are a good place to start.

Nicole Loudin is responsible for softball camps and clinics at John Carroll University. A January clinic drew about 20 high school girls.

“You can even feel free to contact (a coach) and ask about options,” Loudin says. “Even if we are not hosting a camp, coaching is a close network so we usually know about other camps. I know that personally as I just want to see the quality of athlete continue to improve and any way I can do that, I will.”

 

Game Play

Parents can encourage girls to take advantage of sport benefits by taking them to women’s games, finding a sport that suits their personality and building physical activity into their daily activities.

The Women’s Sports Foundation Go Girl Go! Program recommends letting your daughter know that it’s okay to sweat and to be athletic. The foundation advocates for girls’ sports access.

“Research shows that girls who play sports have a more positive body image, better overall physical health and lower obesity, better grades in school, a higher graduation rate and a greater likelihood to attend college,” says Deborah Slaner Larkin, CEO of Women’s Sports Foundation. “More than ever, sports, health and education programs are needed to lay the foundation to ensure healthy girls and women for generations to come.”

Also, injury prevention is something that coaches like Loudin and others take seriously.

“My goal with camps and clinics is to see athletes become more fundamentally sound so that they can play a large number of games and reduce the risk of some overuse injuries,” Loudin says.

Sports camps — whether divided by gender or skill level — can help girls of all ages. Exposure to positive sporting experience will lead to a lifetime of good health and good decision-making.

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A Bundle of Joy: Inspiring Hope in the Baby-Waiting Game

BabyStoryWhen Heather Pollock and her husband Matt Neidert decided to start a family five years ago, they quickly learned the truth. For someone like her – at the time she was 39 – who had never been pregnant, the odds were firmly stacked against conceiving.

Pollock went to her OB-GYN for a pre-conception checkup to assess her reproductive health a few months before their marriage. A blood test showed a slightly elevated follicle-stimulating hormone level. After more extensive testing, she was diagnosed with endometriosis, a condition she learned she had for years that can make conception difficult.

The news was sobering. The condition, combined with Pollock’s age and lack of prior pregnancies, meant that her fertility rate was at meager 3 to 5 percent.

“When I heard that, I was comparing that as if normal fertility was 100 percent,” Pollock says of what she thought was a very bleak outlook at the time.

She adds that she then learned even under prime circumstances, fertility rates are about 25 percent — and that rate is for a healthy 22-year-old with a previous pregnancy.

The challenge of infertility isn’t the monthly rollercoaster of disappointment or the invasive medical testing that comes with the condition, Pollock says. Nor is it the expense.

Infertility remains a “pointless stigma,” she says — a stigma that needs to come out of the shadows.

 

Successful Treatment

Though the news didn’t sound as grim after Pollock considered the overall odds of conception, her endometriosis, along with an issue with her husband’s own reproductive health, meant they were headed down a challenging road with no guarantee of success.

 

Despite the news, Pollock said she and her husband remained upbeat during the next two years.

“What’s the point of being married without kids?” she says. “I didn’t actually feel hopeless; it might have been naiveté on my part. I just knew I was going to be a mom. It never occurred to me that I’d live into old age with no kids.

“I didn’t tailspin,” she adds. “I just had a really serious recognition for the first time of how misconstrued our ideas of getting pregnant are.”

A handful of friends and acquaintances also were going through the struggle. Like her, they were surprised to find that getting pregnant isn’t all that natural for many people.

“We’re taught so seriously to work against getting pregnant for 30 years,” Pollock said, adding that doctors remind people to get mammograms and colonoscopies, but they rarely talk about assessing reproductive health.

Pollock’s singular regret is that she and her husband underwent seven rounds of intrauterine insemination over two years. She said because of their situation, they should have jumped immediately to in vitro fertilization, which manually combines the egg and sperm in a laboratory dish and transplants the embryo into the uterus. For them, IVF took only one try.

 

Parents at Last

Pollock’s doctor harvested two embryos. The couple learned April 24, 2012 that she was pregnant with twins. At 23 weeks, Pollock lost one. The pregnancy continued without complications.

Their daughter, Harper, who turns 3 this month, was born two days after Christmas, making her the ultimate gift.

She’s healthy and robust, easy and calm, Pollock says. “We went through such a hard time getting her here that now she’s easy.”

Pollock’s outgoing personality helped her share her experience during that time with supportive friends and family. She quickly realized that the struggle she and husband were experiencing was surprisingly common — that many people have trouble conceiving, but few people talk about it.

The classics professor is on an informal mission to share her family’s story and to offer advice and encouragement. It’s not hard to find an audience. Pollock, 44, says women reach their teens and 20s with the false idea that conception is easy.

To that end, Pollock encourages younger women to be tested early and to take steps to preserve their fertility. In some cases, it might mean harvesting eggs for future use or getting treatment for hidden conditions — like endometriosis — that can hamper conception.

“With each failure, I realized…I will never ask anyone, ‘Hey, shouldn’t you have kids by now?’ You never know what they’re going through,” Pollock says.

 

Set the Stage Early for a Successful Pregnancy

Getting pregnant — and staying that way — can be difficult for many women.

Pre-conception counseling can target fertility issues and help launch a successful pregnancy. Dr. Rima Bachuwa, of OB/GYN of Westlake, offers the following tips for couples who want to have a baby

  • Start early. Visit your OB-GYN either alone or with your partner to discuss your health history.
  • Smoking, drinking, weight and chronic health issues such as diabetes and high blood pressure all can have an effect on fertility.
  • Update vaccinations.
  • Stop or find substitutes for certain medications. Some forms of birth control can stay in your system for a long time. Depo-Provera users may not ovulate for up to nine months after their last injection, for example.
  • Take prenatal vitamins 6 to 12 weeks before you plan to get pregnant. The extra folic acid and DHA (omega-3 fats) have been shown to nurture healthy fetal development.
  • Chart menstrual and ovulation cycles. Women generally can get pregnant only during a single 24-hour ovulation cycle each month. Try an app on your phone to help keep track.
  • Too much sex can be a bad thing — or at least hamper conception. Every two or three days is a good frequency to allow time for sperm counts to build.

Infertility is defined as one year of having frequent intercourse without conception (six months if the woman is 35 or older). Between 10 and 15 percent of couples are infertile. Don’t let a timetable keep you from seeking help.