Alison Stephens: “It Is Ok To Want To Be Big And Strong”

Alison Stephens NCAA

Alison Stephens competing in the hammer throw for the University of Arkansas at Little Rock

Alison Stephens knows the pressure of balancing athletics, training, competition, and academics. But the University of Arkansas at Little Rock thrower, also knows the pressure that comes with being a woman, and competing in a power sport.

“I hope that young girls think it is inspirational for women to participate in power sports like throwing and that it is ok to want to be big and strong,” says Stephens, who won Provincial and National U20 bronze medals in discus in 2019.

“I want them to see that there are multiple types of athletes and that athletes come in all shapes, sizes and abilities. I don’t want them to think throwing is masculine and that it’s a men’s sport. I want them to see these women for what they are, which is athletes. People have this idea that throwers are these massive, unhealthy, brute people who are only strong. Throwers are more than that and are just as healthy and athletic as any other kind of athlete and I hope that young girls see that when they see throwing.”

For Stephens, who has had success in the weight throw even this season, including the second farther throw in school history, and a 17th place finish at the Sun Belt Conference Championships, understanding the conflict between societal pressures, and the desire to be the best athlete in her sport, is a personal one.

“In the past I struggled a little bit with my body image. I have never been the “feminine,” “dainty” or “girly” girl that people admire and praise,” Stephens explained.

“I used to hear girls say things like “I don’t want to lift too heavy because I don’t want to get ‘bulky” and boys would say things like “I would never go out with a girl that was “bigger” than me.” Hearing these things as an adolescent and teenager was hard because I wanted to be good at my sports, but that meant I would have to go against the typical standards of what people thought a girl was, which was feminine.”

According to Stephens, the presence of strong female coaches and role models, such as her throwing coach back home in Chatham, Courtney Bovin, was pivotal in the way she saw herself.

“She has been a big part of my acceptance of myself and helped show me that being strong is beautiful and that this is the body that allows me to be good at what I do so I should love it no matter how it looks. I have come to a point where I am able to now embrace the way I look and I now look forward to getting stronger every day because I am more than the labels and ideas that society expects women to be.”

In her own words, “sports mean absolutely everything” to Stephens, who is finishing her first season of NCAA DI competition with the University of Arkansas at Little Rock.

A competitive hockey and soccer player growing up, along with track and field, Stephens hopes other young girls find a sport they love, and never look back.

“There is a sport for anyone. Find one that you absolutely love, and run away with it. Whether you have dreams of doing it at a high level, or are content with doing it as a hobby, I want girls to be involved, active and to stay with it for as long as they possibly can out of sheer enjoyment because that is what participating in sports is all about.”

While it’s not always easy for any young athlete, especially girls to see themselves in sport, Stephens wants young women to keep working, and to know they belong.

“Putting yourself into an environment that can be uncomfortable or is seen as somewhere you don’t belong is a feat of its own. Regardless of if it is in sports or not, be unapologetically happy with yourself and everything you do. You are allowed to take up space and be anything you choose.”

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