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How Has Sports Impacted Your Life? Share Your Story With Us

Today, there is a young girl picking up a basketball for the first time. This morning, there is a woman in the pool training for her first triathlon. This afternoon, a woman will be in the gym working out to maintain a healthy body and lifestyle. This evening, a woman will cheer on her daughter as she plays in a volleyball match.

Sports touch all of us in some way. From the casual fan to the professional athlete, we all have a unique story to tell about how sports have impacted our lives.

Today, as we celebrate National Girls and Women in Sports Day, we want to open a discussion on the impact of sports in our lives and the growth of girls and womens athletics in this country.

We have enlisted a cast of WNBA stars to share their stories with us and now we ask you to join them and tell your own story for all of us to hear.

Tamika Catchings, Indiana Fever

Sports has always been something that everyone in my family participated in. It started with my dad as a former NBA player, and my mom was pretty active as well in tennis in track n field. My older brother and sister were into sports so it just became natural for me to be involved as well. Participating in sports gave me something to look forward to at the end of the day after school. Growing up with a hearing problem, having to wear hearing aids and glasses along with having a speech problem, on the playing field I could work hard to excel at whatever it is I wanted, and no one be able to make fun of me. When I was happy, sad, mad, or whatever playing was what took my mind off of everything.

We all deal with different issues in our lives. I've had to deal with being different, not fitting in, and having to figure out what direction I wanted my life to go in. I can honestly say that playing sports has helped me with my confidence, with learning how to play and interact with others along with allowing me to experience things I don't know if I would've had been able to experience. Being able to travel around the world and play basketball along with seeing different cultures is something that Ive been blessed with to have that opportunity.

Ruth Riley, San Antonio Silver Stars

Sports played an instrumental role in developing and defining who I am as a woman today. Athletics taught me valuable lessons in setting goals, working hard, and the value of communication and working with others. As a tall, lanky, uncoordinated young girl, sports gave me a platform to gain the confidence I needed in myself on and off the court. Basketball has provided me not only with a wonderful education from the University of Notre Dame, but it continues to shape who I am as I engage in avenues of using basketball to create social changes around the world.

There are so many moments where I have witnessed the powerful effects of women in sports: young girls who have worked their way up from adverse situations to gain a scholarship to college, others who have been beat down by the pressures of society and have used sports to gain confidence in who they are, professional athletes who recognize the amazing platform that sports has given them to be a role model and positively influence the lives of others, and there are the young girls I have met in Africa who's participation in sports teaches them valuable lessons, gets them off the streets and positively changes the cycle of poverty and HIV/AIDS that is constant factor in their lives.

Nakia Sanford, Washington Mystics

Sports had an amazing impact on my life as a child. I ran track first, before basketball. Participating gave me something to look forward to everyday, It also gave me an automatic group of peers. This helped me because I was always so shy. Interacting with other children, I learned about teamwork and what hard work can do for you individually. Sports as a child, put me on the path to self improvement, self worth, and self motivation.

"My whole life is a story of how important sports are for young girls and women. I was teased to tears because of my height, my big feet, and my big hands. I was always different. I did things to try and fit in, and try to be accepted. Once I started playing sports, I didnt need that acceptance, I was too busy practicing. My focus changed, and my personality. I grew more confident and more outgoing. These changes contributed to my success, along with a support system of coaches and teammates. I used to get teased for being long and lanky, now I get paid for it.

Essence Carson, New York Liberty

"As a child in the inner city of Paterson, NJ, sports played a major role in most - if not all - all of the children of the community lives. It was a source of camaraderie and an instrument in teaching leadership, teamwork, and maintaining good time management. My involvement with sports since a young age has allowed me to not only develop the teamwork skills needed in many business avenues, but to also grow as a leader. Quite reserved by nature, it was difficult expressing my thoughts and ideas verbally. The full concept of team allowed me to develop that since of urgency and nerve to speak for the benefit of the group.

"In my life I have come across many young women that have been blessed with the ability to be a successful athlete in high school. Many in which aspired to be college graduates. Coming from families with financial instability made those chances of obtaining a degree from a four year institute seem slim. However, their ability to be successful on the court, field, track, classroom, etc. increased those odds. Not only were those odds increased, but many young women's dreams became a reality. As one of those children, although my grandparents promised to get me through college no matter the cost, it was a true blessing to uplift the burden of paying thousands of dollars to an institution off of their shoulders. I allowed them to live comfortable, enjoy retirement, and be a part of making my own dream of being a college graduate turned pro athlete a reality."