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Unlocking the power of girls in sports

At Thirty-One Gifts, our mission to empower girls and women runs deep. That’s why we were so excited this year to find a new and meaningful way to tap into the power of athletics to help build young girls’ character and confidence for life!

Get ready for March Madness!

Thirty-One Gifts is proud to be a contributor to the Columbus Local Organizing Committee that’s bringing the 2018 NCAA Women’s Final Four to our hometown March 30 and April 1! We’re honored to help shine a light on the importance of supporting girls and women in athletics, as well as the significance of engaging local girls with athletes of this caliber – right in their own backyard.

“As Columbus prepares to host the 2018 NCAA Women’s Final Four for the first time, it’s an opportunity for our city to showcase our support of women in sports,” says Linda Logan, Executive Director of the Greater Columbus Sports Commission. “I am confident that community members will come out in droves to ensure the student-athletes, fans and visitors feel our enthusiasm for the advancement and celebration of women in sports.”

The city has become a top destination for girl’s and women’s national championships, playing host to USA Junior Girls’ Volleyball (2012), USA Synchronized Swimming (2016), NCAA Women’s Volleyball (2016) and USA Track & Field Half Marathon (2016, 2017). As the state capitol, Columbus also hosts many Ohio High School Athletic Association girls’ state championships annually.

Real-life role models come to town

More than 40,000 fans are expected to visit Columbus for the Women’s Final Four, which will be nationally televised on the ESPN family of networks. But the upside of bringing events like these to the community extends well beyond economics and national attention for the city: During the Women’s NCAA Final Four, local girls will have the opportunity to see strong women competing at the highest level on a national stage.

The Commission is working hard to ensure that the NCAA, WNBA and USA Basketball players in Columbus for the event are very accessible to young fans. Its staff believes that the opportunity to see, meet and interact with many of the world’s top athletes is an invaluable one to helping build young girls’ confidence and character by motivating them to engage and participate in athletics themselves.

“This event is more than just three games,” Linda explains. “It’s a platform for young girls and women alike to see themselves mirrored on the court and be inspired by all that sports can teach us. Leadership, teamwork and perseverance are just a few of the traits watching and playing sports can instill within each of us.”

Lasting benefits for girls in sports

The benefits of athletics to girls’ physical health and well-being are well documented: The Women's Sports Foundation’s 2008 Go Out and Play study found that girls who play sports were found to have stronger immune systems and a reduced risk for obesity, osteoporosis, and chronic illness later in life, such as heart disease, high blood pressure, diabetes and endometrial, colon and breast cancers. They also self-reported better heath during the study: Female athletes were more likely than non-athletes to describe their health as “excellent” – including three times as many female high school athletes as non-athletes.

But the value of athletics certainly doesn’t end there.

Extensive research has found that females, especially young adolescents, benefit greatly from sports in ways that go beyond physical fitness. The Women's Sports Foundation found that girls who play sports enjoy mental health benefits over those who do not play sports, including higher levels of confidence and self-esteem, and lower levels of depression. The Mayo Clinic accounts for this by linking physical activity to the brain’s release of endorphins – chemicals that boost mood and help prevent and relieve depression.

Girls in sports also tend to have better grades and more community involvement, which extends into adulthood. Marietta College researchers confirmed that the mental and emotional benefits can last throughout a woman’s life. Because athletics teach life skills such as leadership, discipline, commitment and perseverance, it’s no surprise that more than 90% of female C-suite leaders played sports growing up, according to the Greater Columbus Sports Commission.

Finding inspiration on and off the court

Visitors to the 2018 NCAA Women’s Final Four will get to witness the launching pad for these student-athletes’ futures. Some will go on to play professionally, while others will become doctors, lawyers, teachers and more. No matter where life takes these gifted athletes – and the young girls across the world who look up to them – sports will have played an enormous role in building their confidence, character and success.

Want to watch the action?

Tune in to ESPN2 Friday, March 30 at 7 p.m. and 9:30 p.m. for the semifinal games. The national championship game airs on ESPN at 6 p.m. Sunday, April 1.