My parents have given me a lot of wonderful gifts throughout my lifetime. There was my childhood collection of beanie babies, my first set of hockey equipment, a trip to Space Camp (I was destined to be an Astronaut in 6th grade!) and most importantly, the encouragement and support to pursue my dreams. However, looking back now as an adult, I think the most important gift they gave me was the gift of movement.
I grew up in Minnesota in the early 90’s with a pond in our backyard where I learned to ice skate, a cul-de-sac out front that served as our baseball or kickball diamond, and, once our daily chores were complete, the freedom to play. Most days I followed my two older brothers around, determined to do what they did. If they climbed to the top of the swing set, I did too. If they were playing catch or riding their bikes, I had to keep up. When we complained about being bored, we were encouraged to go outside, to go build something, or to go play a game. We didn’t go more than a day or two without inventing a new game, which obviously came with plenty of arguments over rules and finding clever new ways to make sure the other sibling didn’t win.
Learning through play was a critical part of my childhood.
By learning, practicing, and developing fundamental movement skills (I didn’t know they were called this until recently) at a young age, I was afforded choice as I grew up. Being exposed to different activities allowed me to say ‘yes’ to new opportunities and experiences that otherwise might have been too daunting. I was the only girl pitcher in our town’s Little League. I tried out for my middle school basketball team despite being 4’ 8”. I volunteered when our track and field team needed someone to run the hurdles event.
Playing a variety of sports helped me to become a better athlete and a better teammate. And with each successful step, I gained confidence to be myself, to meet new people, and to say, “If I can do that, what else can I do?” That inner confidence and willingness to ask myself, “what else?” has opened doors that I never could have dreamed of as a child. It even helped me to fulfill my childhood dream of competing in the Olympics!
Unlike those beanie babies I eventually sold at a garage sale to purchase my first goalie helmet, understanding the importance of movement is a gift that I will keep my entire life. It’s a gift that continues to push me try new activities, to climb new mountains (figuratively and literally), and to prioritize my physical and mental wellbeing as I tackle life’s ups and downs. I teamed up with my former Olympic strength & conditioning coach to launch Movement in a Box in 2021 because I want every child to feel the pride of learning a new skill for the first time, experience the joy from laughing and playing freely with friends and family, and gain the confidence to say ‘yes’ to new experiences.
I am proud to be an Every Kid Sports Champion for those exact same reasons. Each year, Every Kid Sports grants provide thousands of kids with the opportunity to play sports, to learn new skills, to gain confidence, and to follow their dreams. Whether they play for just one season or one day become a college or professional athlete, the gift of movement they receive will last a lifetime!
Your words move us, Molly!
– Every Kid Sports