Thursday, September 13, 2012

Too Fat for Tennis? They've Got Some Balls.

Taylor Townsend is a 16 year old American who is currently the reigning junior Australian Open singles champion, the junior Wimbledon doubles champion, the junior US Open doubles champion and the number one junior tennis player in the world.
But apparently, she was just benched by the United States Tennis Association until further notice for being too fat.
Her coaches refused to pay her way into the US Open, not because she wasn't playing well and wouldn't win, but because she doesn't look like what a "fit" athlete would look like. But does it matter what you look like if you can perform? And what kind of message is this sending to kids? That rather than competing and being their best, they should just give up if they are chubby?
I think I can totally relate to this poor girl as I grew up studying intensive ballet, which is very similar to training competing at an intense level with a sport. And like with a sport, your body is important and there are certain ideals. In ballet, that ideal is the long, willowy, fatless, waif who can bend fluidly in every way. But I was not graced with such a physique. I am short and muscular and not fat, but not a waif. Despite that, I have enjoyed many successes as a dancer including performing internationally because I worked harder than every other girl and could do more turns and leap higher and dance with more passion. I suspect this is exactly how young Taylor Townsend is. Hopefully all the outcry, including from former tennis champ Martina Navratilova, will get the USTA to reconsider and get her back on the court. And hopefully this young woman doesn't end up with an eating disorder. She has a great opportunity to be a champion in another way, she can be a champion for everyone who was once told that they weren't good enough or were too fat or too small. Don't listen to all that racquet.

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