"Playing like a girl" used to be a bad thing. For years, the phrase was used as an insult to taunt boys and girls who didn't run, kick, or throw like their peers. Of course, women have been busy breaking these harmful stereotypes in nearly every sport. For example, in the 2015 Women's World Cup, not only did the U.S. Women's team break World Cup records with their 5-2 win over Japan, they turned a stereotype on its head. After watching talented players like Hope Solo, Tobin Heath, Abby Wambach, and the amazing Carli Lloyd, many on Twitter were inspired to see "playing like a girl" as a good thing.
That's exactly what the women's team was hoping to accomplish this summer. As part of the push to get American fans ready for the World Cup, the USWNT launched the #SheBelieves campaign specifically to engage more of their youngest female fans. The campaign was developed by the players themselves, in hopes of encouraging young fans to set and achieve high goals for themselves. In a news release, team captain Christie Rampone said, "Our fans have shown us how much they believe in us, and we believe in them, too. We want everyone to have that confidence on and off the field."
The shift toward empowering more young women and girls has been a long time coming for women's sports. Perhaps the deeper story behind the emotional, gripping game on Sunday night is of the decades-long push for more women and girls to have access to sports programs and scholarships. And as one might predict, the more exposure that young girls have to opportunities to compete in sports, the harder it is to keep up the old lie that girls aren't any good at sports.
The 2015 Women's World Cup wasn't just a victory for the U.S. Women's National Team. In a night of record setting and record breaking, perhaps the biggest win is that young girls around the world got to see a team of powerful, talented women making history as champions in a sport they love.
Here are some tweets that show how the Women's World Cup inspired more fans to wish they or their children might have the strength, skill, speed, and dominance to "play like a girl" one day.