March is Girls Sports Month, and as part of USA TODAY High School Sports’ third-annual Girls Sports Month celebration, we’re speaking with some of the most influential female athletes, coaches and celebrities in the sports world. Team USA women’s football quarterback Sami Grisafe joined us to speak about how she has developed determination for both sports and expressing her mind from her time in football, and how it has helped her other career in music.
USA TODAY: When did you first know that you wanted sports to be a critical part of your life?
SG: I was pretty young. I knew I wanted sports to be part of my life the minute I was exposed to them. As a girl scout, and even before that as a daisy, I really didn’t enjoy doing anything we would do. A mutual friend of the family has a young boy who was playing tee-ball. That sounded like fun to me, so I started playing tee-ball and never looked back after that.
Playing football in high school, that was the first sport you play in the fall. We started training in the summer so I didn’t know anything different than playing with the boys. I knew I had a role and a spot to earn and I had to work my best to do that. It was good because they gave me the opportunity that every other guy had: I had to work hard and there were no ifs ands or buts about it if I wanted to make the team. I’ve carried that throughout. Excuses won’t get you anywhere in life.
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USAT: Why is participation in sports so important for girls today?
SG: I think participation is important for everyone, not just girls. It’d be great if the numbers for girls were better. Sports is a non-gender biased important thing. I think everyone needs to participate, especially right now when I think there is a big premium on hard work. Sports reminds you that hard work pats off, it teaches you compromise, leadership, collaboration and so many different things that become important when you grow up.
Like with boys, for girls it provides important things like confidence.
USAT: What was your favorite sport growing up, and why?
SG: Football, for sure. Hands down. It continues to be. The reason why football is my favorite is because it’s as challenging physically as it is mentally. It’s a sport where it invites different kinds of athletes. No matter what your body type or skill set, there’s a place for you on a football field.
The camaraderie in football is a different breed. You can’t find something like that. I think it’s because the stakes are high, and if you don’t do your job people get injured.
USAT: What is the biggest life lesson you have taken from your own competition?
SG: There are so many. The largest life lesson for me has been tied to losing. We lost two national championships before we won one. The lesson from there, and from high school, was that in football just like in life, you don’t necessarily know how far away you are from achieving your goals. You have to treat every situation in life as if it’s your last opportunity to give your all. You never know when you’re inches away from your dreams.
USAT: In what ways has sports made you a better musician?
SG: Let’s put it this way: As a quarterback I have to go out and lead a team and make sure everyone is doing their job to help move toward a common goal. That’s not unlike being a lead singer and songwriter. There are a lot of understanding different personalities, motivating them and then also dealing with the performance aspect of it. Playing live music is like playing sports in front of fans. From a songwriter perspective, sports and music have taught me just how important both those disciplines are. They can both bring different groups of people together, and it’s amazing how it can bridge both gaps. I think when we have such polarity where we are in apolitical and social way right now, they’re both more important than ever.
USAT: Why is being a role model for younger girls so important to you?
SG: I try to be someone that people would want to aspire to be like, or give that example. It’s a difficult position to be in. I obviously have a number of great mentors from growing up, and I want to do the same for young girls.
USAT: You’re an outspoken advocate for a number of causes you believe in. Do you think your experience in sports encouraged that self belief and advocacy?
SG: I think sports did instill in me the need to be outspoken. Sports proved that you should be judged based on your work and your character. I think people should be judged based on what they do and how they treat others. It should be action based. I think a lot of we’re getting caught up in politically and socially is getting upset about the wrong things, focusing on the brand rather than the product. One of my good friends who played for the U.S. Olympic rugby team made a great point to me recently that sports is one of the only things that you can’t be successful in by trying to convince people without doing the work. You can’t win in the Olympics if the numbers don’t show you’re winning. There’s no bias; you’re successful based on action.
USAT: What else is important for girls to know about sports and why they should take part?
SG: I think it’s really important for young girls to know that sports can do wonders for both sexes. While it may seem like sports are marketed more toward male figures and kids, it can do just as many great things for young girls. There doesn’t have to be a gender division there. We just perpetuate that. Barriers only exist until someone breaks through them. You can’t look at what has been as what will be. That was a very important lesson that I learned that developed a lot of my confidence that I continue to use to this day.
I think the main thing for me is that I very much believe in hard work and treating people with respect. I believe that anything can be done and that sports and music can help realize those things for other aspects of our life and world in society. I am very proud to be an athlete, proud to be an artist, and I really just wanted to do things in this world that can help move it to a better place. That and to be a good person to everybody whose path I cross. That’s kind of just my mission statement, to challenge myself to put good in the world. I think both sports and music require that.
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