Top five reasons to play sports

AP Photo/Elaine Thompson

For Jessica Mendoza, shown helping the USA win a silver medal in the 2008 Olympics, sports is about both feeling good and looking good.

Wednesday is National Girls and Women in Sports Day! It's our day to celebrate the amazing sports opportunities we have, and to make sure we continue to provide these opportunities for others. I honestly feel so blessed to be an athlete and to play pro softball for a living. Whether you're planning to try a new sport for the first time, you're on the JV team at your high school or you're an Olympic gold medalist, there are so many reasons to play sports. Here are my top five:

1. To stand out. We play to be different. We do not want to blend in; we want to be above the average. So we work harder, get stronger and learn how to be better than those around us.

2. To be confident. When we score a goal, finish a run or get a hit, we feel good. Really good -- about who we are and why we want even more success. We take that feeling to the classroom, to the boardroom and to the rest of the real world.

3. To look good. Muscles are hot. The harder we work, the stronger we get and the better we feel. We come in all shapes and sizes, and the more active we are, the healthier we become.

4. To be leaders. We know what it takes to be successful, and that the road is anything but easy: The harder the challenge, the bigger the reward. So we lead our teammates and ourselves to make the right decisions for success in our game and in life. Remember that scene from "A League of Their Own"? The hard is what makes it great!

5. Because we love it. I know I love it. The sweat, the camaraderie, the doubleheaders, the laughter, superstitions, winning, failure, handling failure, heart-thumping pressure, ridiculous nicknames ... even working out when no one is watching because you want to be the best. All of these add up to a lifetime of memories.

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