Image of Claressa Shields from the film “T-Rex,” directed by Drea Cooper and Zachary Canepari
As the month of March comes to a close, I’ve been reflecting on National Women’s History Month. There are many inspirational women in this world, and as a female athlete, I’m glad I can inspire others to learn, grow and become the best they can be. When I became the first American female to win an Olympic gold medal in boxing at the 2012 London Olympic Games, I achieved a dream that I had been working toward for many years.
On my path to the Olympics I met many strong women who greatly impacted my life. Learning about their journeys showed me that with hard work and dedication, my goals were achievable. Now as a member of the USA boxing team, I know that I can advocate for women encountering barriers that may hold them back. No matter your background or previous experiences, females have the power to inspire and impact each other.
When I first started boxing at the age of 11, I was the only girl in the gym. Some judged me, others made comments here and there, but I always considered myself one of the best. When people said “boxing is a man’s sport,” it didn’t bother me because I was confident in myself and my passion for boxing. To me it didn’t matter that I was a girl; in my eyes, God chose me to show others that boxing isn’t a sport just for men.
There were times when I wanted to hang out with friends or do fun things, but I made sacrifices because I knew I wanted to be better. My real friends stuck by my side, and I realized that people who made me feel bad for being different weren’t the people I wanted in my life. For girls trying to pursue their dreams, it’s important to stay motivated, no matter the environment or criticism. I always tell myself to ignore what others say and to keep moving forward, because it is up to each of us to place a higher standard for ourselves and live up to it.
I used to have anger problems, but with the help of my coach I learned how to carry myself, speak to others, and channel my anger through boxing. My coach trained me step-by-step and I wouldn’t have learned had I not been willing to listen.