Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Girls Weightlifting Builds Muscle And Confidence

As a kid, Stefania "Maresca never found a sport that she felt good about. Volleyball was too fast-paced. Soccer involved too much running. She wasn't tall enough for basketball. Then, as a freshman at Timber Creek High School, she discovered weightlifting. ‘I really didn't think I could do it. But once my coach showed me how, I took to it. I really love it,’ says Stefania, 15. When Florida's high-school athletic association announced that girls weightlifting would hold its first state championship in 2003 -- and became the only state in the country to do so -- many observers wondered how many girls would show up. But girls weightlifting has been a surprise to some coaches -- and many girls. What they've found is a sport where 90-pound girls are able to compete -- and girls who weigh 250 pounds are also valued -- and both can feel good about their bodies. And along the way, they've discovered another plus: growing self-esteem. ‘Just doing something that they didn't think they could do helps their confidence,’ says Lonnie Beckel, a former football coach and now the girls weightlifting coach at St. Cloud High School. Beckel says girls pick up good techniques quickly because they're not embarrassed to lift a light weight and to learn the correct form. Boys, on the other hand, want to prove how macho they are and usually start with weights that are too heavy. And the girls aren't manly. In recent years, he says, many of the homecoming queens have been girls who are on the weightlifting team. Likewise, at Timber Creek, coach Tyrone Harvey says ‘My girls are girlie-girls. They just happen to be strong, too.’Being a girl in a male-dominated sport isn't always easy . It's worse outside the high-school weight room. When Emily goes to her local health club, she can feel everyone watching her. ‘Instead of heading straight to the cardio area, I went straight to the dumbbell racks,’ says Emily, 18. ‘I definitely got some looks.’


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