Simone Biles at left receives a hug from one of her coaches. Both women are dressed in white tracksuits and wearing face masks.
Simone Biles receives a hug at the 2021 Olympics. Image courtesy @simonebiles on Instagram.

Simone Biles pulled out of the 2020 Olympics (held in 2021 due to COVID-19) and the world went nuts. While many were supportive of Biles’s decision, a noticeable amount of people were not supportive. And that’s a problem.

As I write, the world tweets and wages war over whether Simone is still a GOAT – the acronym for “greatest of all time”. Given her achievements, Simone is most definitely a GOAT – and her pulling out for her mental health makes her even more so. Soemone’s greatness should not be defined by whether they achieve without struggle. In fact, achievement itself dictates that one must struggle; the definition of “achievement” is “a thing done successfully, typically by effort, courage, or skill.”

It takes effort and skill to not only become an Olympic athlete, but to remain one. Think about it. GOATs like Simone face innumerable – and almost unimaginable – pressures. The schedules, health, exercise, media attention, sponsorships, friendships, news coverage, interviews…could you handle it? I can barely handle getting out of bed some days. How Simone has done all she has – and still had the courage to take a stand for herself, her team, and mental health – is practically unfathomable.

And it’s highly admirable. In Simone’s case, her struggle was evident before the announcement. Four days ago, on July 26, she posted to Instagram that

“it wasn’t an easy day or my best but I got through it. I truly do feel like I have the weight of the world on my shoulders at times. I know I brush it off and make it seem like pressure doesn’t affect me but damn sometimes it’s hard hahaha! The olympics is no joke! BUT I’m happy my family was able to be with me virtually🤍 they mean the world to me!”

– Simone Biles on Instagram, @simonebiles

It wasn’t easy. I have the weight of the world on my shoulders. Sometimes it’s hard.

I know that feeling. Don’t you? So why must we hound her? Being a GOAT doesn’t make Simone inhuman. It doesn’t negate her need for love, care, and rest. If anything, it makes those things even harder for her to have, because someone is always watching, someone could always be lying, and the pressure to perform is – quite frankly – insane.

What Simone’s courage in stepping out did is highlight a problem that the CDC has recently spotlighted. Growing up is hard. The pressures that girls and young women face – especially on top of the raging hormones of puberty (let’s face it girls, we all know that hormones can be a big fat B) – are already bad enough. 2020 made it even worse, as COVID-19 not only sent girls away from their schools and friends (two critical support systems), but also exposed many more to increased domestic violence, the trauma of having COVID or losing loved ones to COVID, the collective turmoil of politics and disease run rampant, and the awareness of something truly global that may be one of their first big encounters with the great wide world and all the people in it. It’s daunting. It’s scary. Hell, it’s downright terrifying!

All this to say, Simone is drawing attention to an issue in sports, but also in girlhood, that we need to be paying attention to. On July 30, the CDC released a new report detailing how suicide attempts by young girls aged 12-17 increased 50% in the past year. The past year. That comes on top of new studies detailing how nearly a third of parents inherently believe that boys are better than girls at sports.

So Miss Simone, THANK YOU for calling attention to this. THANK YOU for not only showing girls they can be GOAT – but that being GOAT doesn’t mean being perfect. Because perfection is a myth. It’s harming our girls. And it’s time we stand up for our girls – including our girls in sports – and let them know that if they are struggling, that is okay, and we will get them the resources they need to thrive again.

So if this past week has given us anything, let it be this: Our girls are struggling, and we pledge to support them.

– Tiffany R. Isselhardt
Program Developer

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