- Abbie Cole Hillis
A Letter To Young Athletes
A Letter to Young Athletes:
I remember sitting in the gym, crying my eyes out, curled up in a ball in the corner, with my back against the wall. I remember this feeling all too well because it happened more times than not with coaches who did NOT respect me. I also remember making some of the best relationships and friendships in that same gym. I remember memories of sleep overs after long practices, I remember traveling with my teammates to such fun places to compete, BUT I also remember feeling like I was never good enough. I remember being so afraid to tell my parents the truth about practice because they would stand up for me, and it would ultimately cause more issues at practice the next day.
If you are a young athlete now, I want you to hear me when I say this:
You have a voice and you are just as important as the coaches and parents that guide you.
You have the right to speak up when something is scary. You have the right to speak up when a coach disrespects you. You have a right to not compete when you are injured. You have a right to heal your injury and not be forced into competing or performing again quicker than doctor’s orders. You have a right to have your body be respected. This means no coach, mentor, teammate, or doctor should touch you inappropriately or make you feel uncomfortable. If they do, you need to speak out. You need to make sure changes are made so that it does not happen again.
I know you feel like you don’t have a lot of control because you are younger but that isn’t true. You do have a voice and that voice deserves to be heard and listened to.
You see, when I was younger, I feared speaking out. I thought it would ruin my gymnastics career. I thought it would make my parents so angry they would disown me. But the reality is, I didn’t speak out and I still didn’t compete at collegiate level like I once wanted to. I learned that had I spoken out a long time ago, I could have changed a lot of the issues around the way that coaches and doctors treat athletes. I could have made a difference, even as a young child.
I am not saying that speaking out doesn’t have repercussions because speaking out is hard and emotionally draining. But what it does do is demand change. It demands that you be respected, and it demands that children in this world grow up in a more endearing and safe environment.
You are worthy. You are enough. And you deserve to be heard and respected.
Stay true to yourself,