Editor's note: In honor of National Girls & Women in Sports Day, we sat down with 2014 Olympic ice dance champion Meryl Davis and talked about her role in today's virtual 2021 Girls Fest, as well as what it was like growing up in the sport of figure skating and how that experience shaped her into the woman she is today.
By Haley Maxwell
When it comes to empowering girls and women, Meryl Davis gets right to the point:
“It’s OK to take up space,” said Davis, a two-time Olympic medalist and two-time World champion. “I think that is something more women and girls need the opportunity to learn and the sporting community helped me to understand that I am my own best self-advocate.”
The life skills she uses today can be traced back to her time as a competitive athlete.
“I learned so much in my years in sport that I hope to continue to take [those lessons] with me in my life off the ice, my life outside of the world of sport,” Davis said. “Growing up in sport, it taught me that it’s OK to take up space; when you are on the ice and you are performing, it’s your turn and it’s your time. It took me years to realize it’s OK to take that moment.”
And now Davis is using her experience and energy to give back to the sports community. As the founding cochair of Figure Skating in Detroit and an ambassador for the Women’s Sports Foundation, Davis is someone who is leading the charge of getting girls and young women involved in sports.
“It’s such a pleasure to be a part of this community and world to give back in some way,” Davis said. “To have women from all different sports coming together to make the world a better place for girls and women who are already participating in sport and increasing access in sport across the globe is such an honor.”
When asked what advice she would give herself if she could go back in time to the days when she was a competitor, her response was simple: “Value your own self-worth, your own opinion of yourself and to not seek external validation.”
In this era of social media and the saturation of information that everyone experiences, being true to oneself has never been more important, she said.
“I think in today’s society with social media and the Internet, it is so easy to hear the noise around you and to listen to the voices, and to lose sense of your own balance,” Davis said. “It is important to value your own self-worth and opinion of yourself. I think that is a piece of advice that I would continue giving myself.”
Davis will be one of the main contributors for today’s virtual Girls Fest, which is hosted by the Women’s Sports Foundation and streamed on its YouTube page starting at 4 p.m. ET (click here to join). She’ll share the platform with other top athletes, including Jessica Long, a 23-time Paralympic swimming medalist. Girls Fest is designed to encourage and inspire girls to become involved in sports.
“Celebrating what it means to be a woman in sport, what sport can provide young people with, and creating access to sport can be so life changing,” Davis said. “To celebrate movement, health, wellness and our global sporting community, I think it is going to be a lot of fun.”