She may be an Olympic gold medal-winning gymnast, but a tennis lesson from pros Billie Jean King and Maria Sharapova still made Aly Raisman a bit nervous. On Tuesday, the three women were featured guests at the second annual ANA Inspiring Women in Sports conference, an event dedicated to celebrating some of the most accomplished and inspiring female athletes. Moments like Raisman's tennis lesson are awesome examples of how uplifting it can be to have women encouraging other women.
"I'm not very good at sports, but I'm very competitive, so I will try my best to pick it up quickly," Raisman said in an interview following her tennis lesson on the Mission Hills Country Club golf course. "Being able to be coached in tennis by Billie Jean King and Maria Sharapova's definitely one of the cooler things that I've gotten to do — it was really cool. I was actually a little nervous because we were on camera and I haven't played in, I mean, so many years. It's probably been around like 15 years, so I was a little embarrassed at first, but they said I was pretty good. They were helping me."
At the conference, Raisman and and professional golfer Lexi Thompson gave a talk titled "Serious Starpower: The Marketing of America’s Top Female Athletes." During it, the two women discussed the topic of their public images, how it felt to be representatives of the United States during the Rio Olympics, and how to maintain a positive state of mind while facing the pressures of the outside world.
"I always come away from these events more inspired, not necessarily more inspired to be a better athlete but to be a better version of myself in general," Raisman said in an interview after the event.
"When I posed naked for the ESPN The Magazine Body Issue, I got some negative reaction," Raisman said during the talk. "It took me a while to realize it didn't matter what others thought. It was one of the most fun experiences of my life. And I worked very hard to look like that. I'm very proud I did it, and that's all that matters."
Raisman has been outspoken on the subject of body positivity throughout her career. She's admitted to having felt insecure about her muscular arms in the past, something made worse by taunts she received from boys during her childhood. Fortunately, Raisman has embraced this part of her body and even thanked her old bullies for having pushed her to learn this lesson in an Instagram post she published as part of Reebok's Perfect Never campaign.
Shoutout to all the boys from 5th-9th grade who made fun of me for being "too strong". Thanks for forcing me to learn to love myself and my body. My muscular arms that were considered weird and gross when I was younger have made me one of the best gymnasts on the planet. Don't ever let anyone tell you how you should or shouldn't look. There is no such thing as a perfect body type. I love being a part of the #PerfectNever campaign. #GirlPower#Supporteachother
Raisman, as well as the rest of the athletes at the ANA Inspiring Women in Sports conference, got — and gave — invaluable advice and lessons that'll help them keep killing it in sports for years to come.