I got the eye of the ti-ger,
The music is blaring.
a figh-ter, dancing through the fi-re
The floor is shaking.
Cause I am a champion and you’re gonna hear me roarrrr
And the dance floor is full . . .
Women of all ages, from teenagers to grandmothers, more than one hundred of them . . . and all waving their arms in the air and shouting out the lyrics to Katy Perry’s Roar. This is Howe Cup Women’s Team Championships Saturday Night, and while I love seeing a sports club full of women playing very competitive squash and cheering very loudly for their teams, it’s a dance floor full of these same women that makes me even happier. When one of Howe Cup’s theme songs—Dancing Queen—comes on and everyone belts out, You can dance, you can jive, having the time of your life, I’m in girl-power heaven.
I felt a similar euphoria a few months ago while attending a college reunion at my alma mater, an all-women’s college. Hanging out for forty-eight hours with female friends and then filing into the college quad to watch a few hundred young women graduate gives you some powerful feelings of sisterhood that has become stronger as I get older. I was a proud Smith College graduate in what still doesn’t seem that long ago, but I took that sisterhood for granted. I made some great friends, but I didn’t fully realize that women who are cool with spending four years of their lives with other women are very cool precisely because they made that decision. Living together, learning together, and shooting the – well, you know – together 24/7 can remind one of those middle-school slumber parties where you can wear whatever you want, eat whatever you want, and – as the hour gets later – say whatever you want. There’s an unpretentious honesty that develops with women who spend a lot of time together, and an appreciation that deepens over time.
Of course, Howe Cup isn’t a lot of time; it’s only one weekend a year. But something happens when you get a few hundred women together with a similar purpose. The sense of belonging to a powerful tribe begins to grow—like lionesses in a pride—and while occasionally the claws come out, they’re used in the spirit of athletic competition.
I witnessed one exquisite example of this when a player with a long white ponytail had to dig in her claws to beat a teenager on our team with raw but obvious talent. The older woman couldn’t have been more grateful and gracious when she came off the court as she explained how much this match meant to her, that it proved she still had the moves to win. There were limited opportunities for women’s athletic competition when she was her opponent’s age she said. Title Nine was decades away.
“Title what?” my young teammate said.
As the woman patiently explained, I felt incredibly grateful myself. That’s why we’re here, I thought, to learn from each other. I know that my young teammate was disappointed to lose, but I could see her begin to wake up to the fact that the very chance to compete had been the greater victory.
What other sports make these meaningful exchanges possible? How many activities bring together women who are 30, 40, even 50 years apart? Even my reunion weekend was mostly segregated by age. At Howe Cup, you’re often playing against, or sitting next to, or cheering on a player years older or younger than you . . . which makes it indeed an extraordinary event, and one that I hope to attend until well after I tuck my own future white hair into a ponytail. Besides, where else can I sing at the top of my lungs with a hundred other women? Sorry guys, you’ll just never know what you’re missing. . . .
Louder, louder than a lion
Cause I am a champion
and you’re gonna hear me roar!