Libby Cravens

As Interviewed By Ashton Wong, March 25, 2016

Libby Cravens: In Her Own Words

I was a runner as an elementary student. I entered my first race, I think I might’ve been 8 years old, and I ran a 5k, and I won. I was the fastest person, and I remember that they tried to give me the first place girls trophy, and it was about half the size of the first place boys trophy, and I had beat all the boys, so I insisted that they give me the first place boys trophy because it was bigger, and that was my first ever race experience.

I started playing co-ed soccer at age 4 or 5, and that was at the YMCA, my dad was my coach, so I think in terms of my sports origin, not originally. They do a pretty good job about not speaking out about gender or, if you’re a boy or girl at that age, you know, it’s pretty much chaos, just trying to hit the ball in the right direction.

As an adult, I play a lot of informal frisbee, which is called pickup, and I play in a league of ultimate so I’m better than most people that play recreationally, male or female. When I first get there and someone doesn’t know me, they automatically assume that because I’m female that I’m worse at the sport than them because they’re men, which is not usually the case. They either won’t throw to the women at pickup, or they will insist on the frisbee back instead of letting us throw downfield. So a lot of adult men that play co-ed sports I think do a very poor job of being aware of how they’re treating the women on the field.

We talked about a lot of things, a lot of really awesome things [at the conference]. Right now I have 41 coaches for the youth league that I run and 38 of them are male, and I really wanted to make sure that they were, really paying attention to how we are coaching our girls, and so a lot of the information I learned at my conference applies to that.

A lot of what we talked about [at the conference] was about recruiting and retention. How it is more difficult to get girls to join sports and to stick with sports. A lot of girls play sports younger and then slowly drop out. I saw that girls have two times the dropout rate in sports than boys do, and research shows that girls are more likely to doubt their ability than boys. So if girls are having trouble and struggling with something, instead of sticking with it and thinking, oh I can do this, I just need to work harder or need to learn more, they think, oh, I can’t do this. Whereas boys will be less likely to doubt what they’re doing and stick with it, so they’re more tenacious about sports. How we communicate with our players was a lot of what was discussed, and we talked about how we need to be telling girls, “yes you can”, and reinforcing that more

One of the themes was called If You Can Be Her, You Can Beat Her. That context basically means that girls need female role models so they can understand that sticking with a sport, and sticking with what they’re doing, they can achieve awesome things. There was a female olympian that was one of the speakers, and she was incredible in various ways, and girls don’t have a lot of exposure to female role models like that because, most of their coaches are male, and most of their athletic peers are male. So we were talking about how we need to get more moms coaching, and we need to get more college players helping high school players, and high school players helping elementary players, and waterfall a sense of support from adults down. We need to be taking time to recruit more girls, and getting them engaged, and getting the community built.

So one of the other themes was basically that girls play sports for a different reason than boys play sports. They called it the 80/20 Rule. So 80% of girls are playing sports just for the relationships and the connections they feel, as a team aspect of it. 20%, and I would consider myself and a lot of my friends in the 20%, would play a sport whether or not there were other girls, they would play even if they were discouraged. They would play because they like to win. They like to work hard, they don’t like getting hurt. So 20% of girls would play with almost all boys, 80% of girls wouldn’t enjoy that setting.