How to be a Team Girl…as a bloke

1 September 2020

Suncorp Team Girls recently caught up with Mark ‘Howie’ Howard on what it means to be a part of Team Girls and the importance of dads encouraging their daughters to play sport.

The day my wife and I had a daughter, was the day my life changed forever. Here was this tiny little wriggling bundle of sweetness that grabbed my heart on day one, and hasn’t let go since. She is everything to me and I want to be the best father I can possibly be for her.

This is when I began to learn about how to be a team girl, as a bloke.

There’s no built-in manual here. In fact, I’ve found being a dad to a little lady can at times be a complete mystery. The day she joined a ballet class and needed help putting on her gear, (which apparently isn’t called gear, but a tutu and wrap) had me baffled. What goes where here?

But when she was at ballet, she was a completely different person. Normally our young lady was a shy little thing. Throw in 15 other girls, a teacher and some encouragement, and before our eyes, our daughter was a laughing, noisy, pink, spinning whirl of happiness. This team of ballet legends had given our daughter confidence! Lightbulb moment for me! I began to understand. All the positivity that sport has given me, I could now help pass on to my daughter. What a gift to give!

Now, the little ballet dancer has hung up the slippers and replaced them with sneakers. The arabesques (I’m still not sure what they are) are no more. In ballet’s place has come running, triathlons and netball. Sport has become a big part of her life. The tri and running has been interesting. She is learning to push herself in her training group to get faster and stronger. That’s cool. But what’s even better from my position, is that she is learning resilience. Sometimes she wins, sometimes she doesn’t. This is where I come in as a member of Team Girls. My job is to encourage her all the way. To congratulate on her effort, not on the result. The resilience she is learning through this process is setting her up for life. She’s learning how to overcome.

Then, there’s netball. I love watching her team of little legends playing netty. At first, they couldn’t get the ball as high as the ring. A goal was a once-a-game occurrence. Now they’re banging them in from everywhere!

It’s through netty, that I see everything that is good about sport, being absorbed by my daughter. Her team is being taught to pass and shoot and make position. But the real benefits are the confidence she is gaining being part of a team. The connection she is developing with her crew and the joy she is getting from having a voice and being part of something.

Post-game, she is buzzing: “Did you see this Dad? Did you see that Dad? Did you see my goal Dad?”

“Yes sweetie – I saw it all.”

I see, through sport, that we have a beautiful happy, confident strong girl who is getting ready to take on the world.

I don’t tell her that seeing her like this, watching her on court, seeing her joy, can bring tears to my eyes. It gets windy at those outdoor netty courts. That must be it.

So that’s me as a Team Girl. Proud, encouraging and thankful. Here’s to sport and the connection it can give! And here’s to netty, because those bibs are easier to put on than leotards.

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