OUTDOOR SPORTS FOR GIRLS
Source: Outdoor Sports and Games
Category: ONE HUNDRED OUTDOOR GAMES
What to wear--Confidence--Horseback riding--Tennis--Golf--Camping
A generation ago the girl who joined her brother in his sports would
have been considered a "tom boy," but in recent years girls have
discovered that with comparatively few exceptions they can join in the
sports and recreations of their brothers and in some cases attain a
remarkable degree of skill.
Girls' schools have done much to spread this idea. A rational outdoor
costume and a desire to be physically well also has helped "the
outdoor girl" to be regarded as the highest type of womanhood. Only
her grandmother sighs over tanned cheeks and muscular arms.
The girl who is not a good sport is the exception rather than the
rule. Besides, our grandmothers worked at their gardening, which is
out-of-door exercise, and a preventive, as Kipling tells, of the
"hump" we get from having too little to do. He says:
_"The cure for this ill is not to sit still,
Or frowst with a book by the fire,
But to take a large hoe and a shovel also,
And dig till you gently perspire."_
From a feminine standpoint the first question must be, "What shall I
wear?" There is no need to be handicapped by skirts, at least when
one's exercise is taken in company with a crowd of girls. The bicycle
introduced the bloomer girl and this costume is now generally regarded
as proper for outdoor girls. In camp one should in addition wear a
sailor blouse, and a pair of sneakers, which though rather heating for
the feet are very comfortable and very satisfactory for long tramps
through the woods. The rubber soles give a firm footing on slippery
moss and dead leaves, while high heels might cause a wrenched ankle or
a bad fall. It is perfectly allowable for a girl to wear a
broad-brimmed hat to avoid sunburn, which might be so serious as to
spoil a vacation. A gradually acquired coat of tan is much more
desirable. The hat prevents headaches or sunstroke, neither of which
may be dared with impunity by a delicate girl, unless she wears her
hair on top of her head.
In regard to hair, which is of great importance to its owner, though
very much of a nuisance after the age when it may be worn boyishly
short, the one word is that it must be fixed to stay without
re-pinning or tucking back at frequent intervals. For bathing, a girl
must either be willing to have her hair well soaked or else to put a
cap on so tightly that it cannot be loosened. To hesitate to try a
dive for fear of getting wet hair spoils much of the sport of
swimming. Each moment of hesitation makes her more convinced that
perhaps, after all, she had better not try that dive, because she
probably would not be able to do it anyway. The lack of confidence is
disastrous. I have known girls who could swim perfectly well in the
shallows but could not keep up at all in water out of their depth. And
yet they have not been touching the bottom in the shallow water, but
they _could_ if they wished. Learning to swim in water that is over
your head is really better, though it is more "scary" at first. If you
do learn in that way you can thereafter look upon the deepest water
with confident scorn.
Confidence is a necessary possession for the beginner in almost any
sport. It is so much easier to do anything if we are quite positive
that we can. Probably, because you are a girl and are modest, you
will have to assume this attitude, but in horseback riding, for
example, an instant of fear while on the horse's back will "give you
away" to the beast. Since he is as keen as a dog to know when you fear
and dislike him, he will undoubtedly take advantage of it. If you are
quite positive that you can learn to ride and that the horse under you
is harmless, you will keep a firm hold on the reins instead of
clinging to the saddle horn in a panic.
The trying part of learning to ride is that the first day's experience
is painfully stiffening. This applies to almost any unusual exercise.
But to withdraw on account of that you may as well resign yourself to
taking exercise no more severe than that afforded by a rocking chair.
It does not pay to stop when you are stiff. Sticking to it is the only
way that will train those hitherto unused muscles to perform their
duties with no creaking of the hinges. A good night's rest is the
utmost limit of time that should intervene between each trial.
A girl has the physical disadvantage of less endurance than a boy, and
she does have to care for herself in that respect, and leave untried
some forms of exercise that would be overexertion for her. A girl may
"paddle her own canoe," of course, without risk of overstraining
herself, but when it comes to moving it from place to place out of the
water, the feather-light canoe of poetry becomes heavy reality. Two
girls can carry a canoe between them for a short distance without much
difficulty, but if one is alone it is far better to drag the canoe
over the ground, which is not particularly hard on it, unless the
ground is rough. The boy's way of carrying it balanced upside down on
his shoulders requires considerable strength.
Devotees of tennis will claim first place for that among girls'
sports. The amount of practice and quickness of thought and motion
that maybe acquired in a game of tennis is remarkable; the fascination
of the game itself rather than the benefits to be derived from it will
hold the attention. The main trouble is in the learning, which
requires unflagging energy and constant practice. An overmodest
beginner will make the mistake of playing only against her likewise
beginning friends; the result is that she takes a discouragingly long
time finding out how to use her racket properly and never gets a
chance to return a really good serve.
It is really just as well at some point in your practising to see some
well-trained athlete do the thing you are trying to learn.
A girl can accomplish a great deal with her brain as well as with her
muscles in athletics. Some one once remarked that he learned to swim
in winter and to skate in summer. He meant that after he had in its
proper season practised skill in the winter sport, his brain, during
the warm months, kept repeating to the muscles those directions until
by the next winter they had a very fair idea of what they had to do,
and responded more quickly and easily. It is rather consoling to think
you do not lose time, but rather progress, between seasons.
The girl who goes camping with a crowd of boys and girls realizes how
much depends on the mere strength of the boys; at the same time she
herself has an opportunity of showing not only her athletic
proficiency and nerve, but also her superior common sense. She will
really have to leave the heavy work of pitching the tents and chopping
the wood to the boys, but she cannot sit down and fold her hands
meanwhile. She can be collecting materials for the beds of balsam on
which they hope to sleep in comfort, or she may gather chips for the
fire, or she may be helping to unload the wagon or canoes in which
they have come. When the tents are pitched she has a woman's
prerogative of "putting the house in order," and during the time of
camping keeping it so.
If there is actually a case of nothing for her to do, far better for
her to sit down and keep quiet than to get in the way of the boys and
bother them. A young man who in his first season as a guide in the
Canadian woods took out a party of girls from a summer school on a
camping trip told me that he would never do it again, because they
gave him no relief from a continual rain of questions. A case where
zeal for knowledge outruns discretion.
After the tents are pitched and the fire made by the boys, it is
plainly up to the girls to get supper. Let us hope they have practised
cooking for some time before they went camping. Every one gets so
desperately hungry in the outdoor life that meals are of first
importance, as tempers are apt to develop unexpectedly if many
failures are turned out. If the girls are good cooks, however, and
wash the dishes after each meal the division of labour will be fair to
A girl is more or less dependent on her boy friends for instruction in
sports and considerably anxious for their approval. Even if she has a
woman instructor, in nine cases out of ten she requires some kind of
praise from some man before she is satisfied with her performance.
Sister may tell her that she steers her canoe with beautiful
precision, but unless brother remarks carelessly that "the kid
paddles pretty well" she will hesitate to take her canoe in places
where expert paddling is required. When you know that you can do some
things as well as any boy you still have to rest content with the
grudging assurance that "you do pretty well for a girl."
Next: ALLAROUND ATHLETIC CHAMPIONSHIP