#GirlsAre…By-products of Their Inner Athlete: By Bonnie Bernstein

When I was four years old, my mother signed me up for an acrobatics class. I was a pretty energetic kid (translation: ridonkulously hyper), and Mom’s objective for me basically mirrored her mission when she took the dog outside: run him around until he was ready to pass out. Trust me, my miniature schnauzer and I were much more manageable in a fatigued state!

Athletics quickly evolved from a cartwheel-til-she-drops proposition into a true passion. Youth soccer. High school track and field. A 14-year gymnastics career that culminated in a scholarship at the University of Maryland. There was simply nothing else that produced the incredible adrenaline rush that came with scoring a goal, or setting a new personal best in the javelin throw, or being flooded with teammates’ hugs after I nailed a critical routine on balance beam.

I lived for that surge. But as a kid, I never realized how athletics would truly shape my life.

Through my work in the childhood obesity space, I’ve learned about the myriad benefits of physical activity. We all know exercise helps reduce the risk of health issues like obesity, heart disease and type II diabetes; but research, time and again, now cites a correlation between physical activity and behaviors like improved concentration and attention span, reduced absenteeism, and ultimately, better grades in the classroom. So, you’re telling me the focus I developed to stay on that daggone 4-inch wide beam played a role in the “magna cum laude” inscription on my college diploma? #Winning

But it’s much bigger than that.

A recent report conducted by the EY Women Athletes Business Network and espnW details how sports can empower women throughout their careers, and even increase earnings potential.

More than 90% of female executives surveyed were former athletes, with half of the C-suite women competing at the university level or above.

Why?

The teamwork. The competitive fire. The ability to overcome obstacles. The strong work ethic. The time management skills. EVERYTHING we learn as athletes transcends the field of play, positioning us to thrive in the workforce! It enables us to lead in good times and bad. It keeps us hungry to climb higher and higher, never settling for the status quo.

Reflecting back on the scarcity of women in network-level sports broadcasting when I graduated from college, I know, beyond a shadow of a doubt, my inner-athlete catapulted me through that proverbial glass ceiling. There was sexual harassment, condescension, the countless naysayers who insisted, “Chicks have no business talking football since they never played.”

Still, I made it all the way to CBS and ESPN!

For me, it always has, and always will, come down to believing in myself. Being confident when I look in the mirror that, no matter what challenges lay before me, my passion, preparation, positivity and perseverance will win the day. I call it “My PhilosoP.” And so much of that mindset came from playing sports.

So, next time you happen to see a four year-old running around like a maniac, perhaps doing a half-baked somersault or swinging like a monkey on the jungle gym, keep in mind physical activity has the power to do more than just tire her out.

It could tee her up… for life!

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