In 1972, Title IX of the Education Amendments federal law passed. From that moment on, no one in America — regardless of gender — could be excluded from participating in, benefiting from, or discriminated against within any education program or activity that receives any financial assistance from the Federal government.

Despite this legislation, a recent study conducted by the Women’s Sports Foundation found that 73 percent of adults in the United States still find inequality in sports. Specifically, high schools and colleges provide better support for sports programs for boys than for girls.

Calculating the benefits

It’s important for parents to understand the benefits that sports, from as early as kindergarten, can have for young girls. Starting girls out young with sports helps prevent a sedentary lifestyle and obesity and encourages positive body image.

There are many obvious benefits to playing sports, including physical and mental health and life-long friendships, but there are not-so-obvious reasons as well.

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According to Deborah Antoine, CEO of the Women’s Sports Foundation, “Winning and losing teaches the brain to constantly adapt to new situations, wanting to get better and figuring things out in a different way.”

According to an Ernst & Young online survey, an incredible 94 percent of women in C-suite positions played sports throughout their lives. The correlation is clear: Sports are important for girls and lead to tremendous leadership opportunities.

Searching for role models

Why is it so important for girls to have female, athletic role models? According to Antoine, “We want young girls at a young age to see women and girls in sports competing and leading. We want them to see that it’s ok to be fierce; It’s ok to work hard; It’s ok to sweat.”

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Serena Williams is the quintessential role model for female athletes. “She represents grit, tenacity, perseverance and strength,” says Antoine. Surely that has moved girls across the country — and around the world — to want to participate in sports.

Sports need to become cool for girls in the same way they’re cool for boys. And girls need more incredible role models, like Serena, to emulate, so they can see for themselves that women are competing and winning.