Play Like a Girl

By Elise Bigley, NOWSA Co-Founder and Director of Marketing and Community Outreach

Growing up, girls are frequently encouraged by their families, friends, and educators to play sports in some capacity. And when we do, we are surrounded by back-handed compliments, insults or people who simply say we play “like a girl”. So we try harder and practice more to alleviate potential criticism and bullying. At that young age, sport is a key vehicle for making friends and building confidence. Later in life, for many, it even creates the opportunity for higher education and a career. There are so many positive outcomes to playing sports, so we tell young girls to get involved, give them options, and showcase the handful of professional female athletes they can aspire to. So we overcome those initial hurdles, become competitive, and put our all into playing at the high school or college level. Eventually, we graduate. And then what?

The reality is that most high school and college athletes don’t go pro or to the Olympics. But sports can continue to offer physical, mental and social benefits at any level.

Does society continue to encourage adult women to keep playing or offer them opportunities to coach or lead teams? More often than not, societal pressure tells women to prioritize work and families. The sports aspect of our identity is diminished and suppressed to accommodate the seemingly more important components of our lives. But at what cost? Athletes sacrifice so much for the sport and suddenly, in adulthood, we’re forced to sacrifice the sport itself and its positive elements to meet outside expectations. Our mental and physical health can decline as a result.


The Northeast Ohio Women’s Sports Alliance, or NOWSA, is focused on easing the obstacles of playing sports as an adult. We seek to make women’s sports visible and accessible. We form connections with community-based teams and organizations so that sport can empower adults, not be a burden. And when you need a temporary break or can no longer play, we can help you get involved as a coach or a volunteer. So go ahead, play like a girl. Be a part of the community of adult women’s sports. The future is NOWSA.

About elise Bigley

Elise is a marketing professional by day and NOWSA leader by night. She played softball throughout her youth and currently plays at the recreational level with North Coast Softball. She loves talking about the intersection of sports, mental health and social justice topics.