Olympian Val Arioto Talks Women in Sports

Team USA fastpitch player and Wilson Advisory Staff member, Val Arioto, gets real about women in sports.

 

When I think back on my decade as a member of Team USA and try to put it all into words, a few things come to mind and tie it all together: the power of women.

·       Boss Women – A huge part of my success has been having powerful women around me – women who are role models to me and inspire me daily. Platforms like The Wing, the Female Founder Collection and the Women’s Sports Foundation bring women together to network and inspire the next generation of Boss Women.

·       Girl squads are the best squads – These are the people who keep you grounded during the grind, your go-to friends and the people you run to when times get tough. No matter what life throws your way, they’re always there for you.

·       Women achieve more together – A group of women is an unstoppable force. Through shared morals and experiences, we can come together to change the game we love, the communities we call home and the world.

Over the years, playing sports has changed my life. I’ve gained an unbelievable support system that always makes me feel loved and appreciated, have a core group of individuals who always have my back and have grown to become a leader, both on and off the field. Without the community that came with playing, I would have never played as long as I have – nor would I have enjoyed the success I’ve had.

Women are sports. Young female athletes stop playing sports younger and at a faster rate than boys. This leads to too many girls missing out on the life lessons and the positive atmosphere that comes from being a member of a team.

But not every girl has these opportunities.  It’s up to us to break down barriers, shatter glass ceilings and not only expand existing options, but create new chances for young female athletes to get involved in sports.

I know the value that playing in sports from a young age carries for girls and women. It’s changed my life in too many ways to count. So let me tell you a little bit about how these three pillars have shaped how I play the game and live my life.

·      Boss Women

My mom is a straight boss woman. She has always guided me, supporting me unconditionally. More than anything, she’s real – a genuine, caring and strong person who has always been my role model.

My mom taught me to open my heart to others and that the best success we can have each day is in the relationships with the people around us – not an individualistic ego-driven agenda. Looking up to such a positive woman has helped me strive to be not just a better player, but a better person each and every day.

·      Girl squads are the best squads

No matter what’s going on, my girl squad has my back and I have theirs. Personally, I find the mental side of the game to be one of the most underrated and least talked about parts of softball.

If 90 percent of the game is mental, then why don’t we train our minds like we do our bodies? My girl squad keeps me in check when my mind gets fogged up and I’m not thinking straight. They push me to be mindful and to keep that balance in my life. And, of course, they make sure I don’t take things so seriously (a good laugh really does the trick sometimes).

·      Women achieve more together

All of us on Team USA have made sure the culture focuses on the whole – not the individual. We’re dedicated to being good teammates above all else and believe the rest will take care of itself.

This isn’t a typical sports atmosphere – it’s the biggest stage possible. But that hasn’t changed how we treat one another. We’re committed to choosing one another over everything else. That bond is what will get us to the top of the podium in Tokyo.

“Sometimes you, sometimes me, always us.” 

Some of my most vivid memories from my softball career are from when I was a young girl playing in my town’s rec league. All the local girls got together and played and we’d all hang out afterward.

To this day, that community is the main reason I continue to play. Softball is family to me. I love it as much today as I did then, and a big reason is because of the people around me and the incredible community atmosphere in the game.

So here’s to the boss women of the world, the unrivaled girl squads who are keeping it real and all the women out there supporting one another in all that they do. Let’s change the world.