Women Olympians as Role Models
Since Title IX guaranteed equal funding for girls’ sports programs
40 years ago, we’ve seen the results in school, in the workplace and in women’s
self-confidence. Studies have shown that girls who play sports in high school
are more likely to to do better in science classes, complete college, avoid
substance abuse and join the workforce. And the more time they spend
participating in team sports, the higher their self-esteem.
fields. Now, for the first time in the history of the Olympic Games, there are
more women than men on the United States team in London. And we can look to
these women as role models for the positive traits we want to emulate. The
strengths they gain from years of hard work and dedication to their sport are
more than just physical. They also represent many of the character virtues identified by Positive Psychology researchers
Chris Peterson and Marty Seligman.
other strengths personified by the athletes. Consider how to integrate them
into your own daily life.
Douglas, dubbed the flying squirrel due to the actual height she
achieves as well as the high level of energy she exudes in her routines, won
the gold medal in women’s all-around gymnastics as well as in team all-around.
Her enthusiasm is contagious and she engages everyone around her with her electrifying
smile. With her passion to fulfill her potential, she left home to train under a
new coach and live with a “second family.” Her heart is big enough to
include them all in her zest for life – and for gymnastics.
for what energizes you and go for it all the way. You’ll feel more alive than
“Fierce Five” USA gymnasts are a close-knit group, supporting each
other through the Games – even when they are competing against one aother. Jordyn
Wieber, who had been best in world in all-around didn’t make the cut for the
Olympics all-around, yet congratulated teammates Aly Raisman and Gabby
Douglas who did. McKayla Maroney and Kyla Ross have been friends since they
were 8 and both took gymnastics at the same gym. When they all worked together
as a team, they drew strength from their friendship with each other and won the
gold medal in team gymnastics. You may not be reaching for the gold yourself, but the
commitment you and your own friends make to each other nurtures each of you and
creates emotional bonds that provide the foundation for a fulfilling life.
Vollmer didn’t even make the Olympic women’s swimming team four years ago. But
she persevered and worked harder than ever to make the team this year. All her
practice paid off when she broke the world record, winning gold medals at the London Games in butterfly as well a gold in women’s medley relay, with Missy Franklin,
Allison Schmitt and Rebecca Soni. When you are discouraged and tempted to give up working toward your own goal, believe in yourself and find the strength to hang in there.
has been approached time and again to make endorsements but has turned
down so could remain an amateur and swim for her high school and future
teams. With her bubbly personality, Missy enjoys her friends in school
devoted to them, to her family and to her hometown coach. Winning 4 gold
in backstroke and women’s team relay and a bronze in another team relay,
looking forward to getting back home and hanging out with her friends. Your own sense of responsibility for your community and the
value you place on generativity and giving back will help you remain true to
As you continue to watch the coverage of the London Games
this week, enjoy the spectacle of sport but also reflect on the strength of
purpose and commitment that the athletes – female and male – have developed
over the years. A nice Olympic ideal for all of us to follow.