Twice WNBA MVP Elena Delle Donne wants to help keep young girls in the sport

Elena Del Done knows the impact that sport can have on a girl’s life.

Taller than most of her peers and struggling with her sexuality at a young age, Delle Donne was not comfortable with her skin. She was ashamed of the things that made her different and had no standards to show her that what she experienced was normal.

Playing sports helped Delle Donne realize the power she had as a teenager and she does everything she can to help today’s young man realize it as well.

“I can not even imagine where I would be if I did not take up sports to help me gain strength and confidence and learn so many life skills that led me to adulthood,” Delle Donne told USA Today. “It does not even matter that I am a professional athlete, because sports did a lot more for me in the aspect of life.”

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Former WNBA Rookie of the Year and two-time MVP recently partnered with Always and Dick’s Sporting Goods to work on campaigns focused on keeping young girls in the sport. Delle Donne also works on the Gatorade Women’s Advisory Council to address barriers to reducing women’s participation in sport.

In 2017, Gatorade’s “Girls in Sports” study found that girls quit sports at 1.5 times the rate boys do by the time they are 14. More than half of all teens stop playing sports by 17.

There are four main reasons why girls quit sports, according to a 2015 report by The Women’s Sports Foundation. The main cause? Girls do not see a future for sports.

“Oh my God, visibility is critical,” Del Don said. “It’s something we always talk about. I think one big reason for girls quitting sports is that they often believe that society does not see its long-term value in continuing to play.”

Women’s sports account for less than 6% of television sports coverage, according to a study by the University of Southern California. Although the number has increased in recent years, it is still remarkably low given the success and popularity of the WNBA and the U.S. National Women’s Soccer Team.

The fight against girls’ dropout rates in sports begins with increasing publicity on both television and social media so that girls can see what the future holds. It is also important to show what girls achieve in sports at a young age. Del Done said that the recent coverage of 14-year-old wonderful basketball player Zaila Avant-Garde after her victory in the Scripps National Spelling Bee made her “so happy”.

“It’s so important, especially for young girls who can look and feel like, ‘Hi, it’s me.’ “This is literally my peer,” he said. “So seeing the change in my life was huge. “It’s great to see young women come in and use their voices and platforms in a way that can inspire so many others.”

Former Olympian Delle Donne sees Tokyo 2020 as a great opportunity for young girls to see female athletes in action. He said the inspiration can come from athletes in any sport, regardless of which young girls play.

Brittney Griner of the United States, left, and Elena Del Done, right, celebrate with gold medals after winning a women's basketball game against Spain at the 2016 Summer Olympics in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, Saturday, August 20 2016. (Photo by AP / Eric Gay)

“I would say to watch all the sports, even the ones you do not participate in, as I grew up, I was more inspired by gymnastics and swimming,” said Delle Donne. “I think you can watch all the different sports and get inspired and connect with these incredible athletes in so many different ways, so I would not just say sharpen your favorite sport, watch it all and get inspired.”

The Olympics start on July 23 and the US National Women’s Basketball Team plays its first game on July 27.

Contact Emily Leiker at [email protected] or Twitter @emleiker

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