I did not grow up in world where women becoming professional athletes was a realistic dream.
All that changed my junior year of high school when the WNBA formed. Of course there were other leagues that existed before the Women’s National Basketball Association was founded, but nothing even remotely comparable.READ MORE: River Fire Grows To 2,400 Acres; Zero Containment Reported
The mere backing of the NBA was enough to provide not only credibility but possibilities for countless little girls who may have daydreamed such opportunities would one day be available to them.
The year of 2017 is a much different world than 1991 when I first joined an organized sports team. The examples of female athletes at the college and professional level are ample. It is no longer far fetched to support a young girl to dream and achieve such things.
Yet, one thing has not changed. The perception of girls in sports is still antiquated to a certain extent due to the gender roles still associated with children.
Not only do I remember being referred to as a “tomboy” as a young girl, but it was a title I embraced. I let it define me and ultimately that is how I got where I am today.
I recall a point during high school when my mother said, “You know Kayte, you really should wear makeup to school.”
My response, “Why would I do that? I wear sweatpants everyday.”
That was over 20 years ago, but not much has changed since then. It may actually be worse.
That comment was not an insult in any way shape or form by my mom whom I love dearly and who has ALWAYS supported my aspirations to be whatever I wanted to be. Gender roles did not apply in my family in that way and I am lucky they didn’t.
The makeup comment speaks more to the generation from which my mother came from. My response speaks to my state of mind at the time.
Take my Grammy for instance. This is a woman who to this day I have probably seen without makeup on and hair done a total of three times in my life. She is a product of her generation, and she raised my mother the same way.READ MORE: Search Continues For Driver Who Hit And Killed Caltrans Subcontractor On Highway 99
For me not wearing makeup and feeling comfortable paying no mind to my appearance was more about embracing that “tomboy” persona. I was an athlete and if you were a girl and an athlete at that time that is what you were. A tomboy.
The lines were very defined.
Fast forward 20-plus years to me in full hair and makeup holding a microphone on an NBA sideline talking sports in a male-dominant world. I have evolved and learned throughout the course of that evolution that beauty and sports can coexist.
I can be into shoes, clothes, makeup…all that girly crap and still be an athlete. Still hold my own in a room full of men and go head to head with each and every one of them regardless of what I look like or their perception of me.
Sport is a tool to teach lessons to children that will guide them throughout the course of their lives. Not everyone will go on to become a professional athlete, but everyone can take and apply those lessons during the course of their lives.
Sadly though, those gender biases when it comes to sports have not evolved the last 20 years. I grew up in a much safer world than young girls today. I didn’t watch TV, there were no magazines on the shelf or the existence of social media screaming at me daily telling me who I should be or what I should look like.
I embraced being a “tomboy” and I allowed it to define me because I chose that.
Things are harder in 2017 and the perceptions, images and dialogue surrounding young girls is a much more difficult reality to maneuver.
Sean Maddison, a producer for CSN, came to me in May of 2016 with an idea he was working on. He asked me to meet him and have a conversation about examining social issues through the lens of sports, specifically gender in sports. I was happy to take part in the conversation.
Sean’s labor of love has delved into cultural pressures young women today experience when it comes to sports. His documentary is premiering March 10, 2017 at 8 p.m. on CSN Bay Area.MORE NEWS: Bicyclist Killed In Hit-And-Run In Modesto; Suspect's Vehicle Identified
Set your DVRs. It’s something I can guarantee you won’t want to miss.