You guys know I’m majorly into anything that involves the empowerment of girls and women—as a woman and the mother of two little ladies, it’s kind of hard not to be. When Laura Bagnarol of Feisty Fems emailed me about her Pigskin Princess Project, I was immediately intrigued.
Bummed by the lack of group sports available to her daughter, this ass-kicking local momma took matters into her own hands and created her own program. Geared to girls in the 4-6 age range, The Pigskin Princess Project is a half football, half arts and crafts program aimed at empowering girls and keeping them off the sidelines.
Not looking to compare girls to boys, but rather to help unearth skills that girls might not otherwise know they have, Laura spends the first half of each session teaching girls about football (going through drills and obstacle courses that teach them the essentials) and the second half doing hands-on arts and crafts activities that help girls look a little bit deeper into princesses and what makes them smart, strong, creative and able—teaching them about strength (of mind and physically), self-determination, intelligence and bravery in the process.
I asked Laura a few questions to learn more about her and her mission and I’m pretty sure you’ll be inspired by her answers—whether you live close enough to get your girls involved in her program or not.
How did you come up with the program and get it off the ground?
When my daughter was 4, while looking for a summer program for her, I found an overwhelming amount of dance, cheer or gymnastic programs. I was more interested in a group sports camp for her (other than soccer or tee ball)—especially since she had recently shown an interest in throwing around a lacrosse ball. I quickly found that most of the group sports stuff started at age 5 or 6.
When I did find an out-of-state lacrosse camp for her age group, I ended up having a horrible experience and pulled her out early. One of the most upsetting things I noticed about that particular program was the way in which my daughter was treated because she was a girl. During the short time she was at that camp, I just kept thinking that I could run a program better myself, especially given my love of kids and sports combined with my social work background. (Since 1998, I have worked with survivors of violence who were in most cases women and girls.) And the more I thought about it, the more I wanted to do it.
When it comes to little girls, football doesn’t immediately come to mind. But I personally have always loved throwing around a ball and my daughter was now enjoying it along with me. Football is a great activity for kids of all ages as it teaches them about leadership and teamwork while keeping them physically active at the same time. Just throwing and catching the ball are activities that help teach the fundamentals of hand-eye coordination.
What usually comes to mind when our culture thinks about little girls is all things princesses. As a mom and social worker, I have become acutely aware of the limiting ways in which our girls are marketed to. So many products out there for them are appearance-based. Being a football enthusiast while also being disturbed by the way our culture treats girls, I thought it would be a cool idea to merge these two things—football and princesses—into an empowering program with the first part focusing on teaching skills related to the game of football and the second part focusing on princesses and the power that lies within them.
And so the journey began! I started talking to other moms about the idea, all of whom loved it. I founded an umbrella company called Feisty Fems, LLC—of which The Pigskin Princess Project is our first initiative. (Feisty Fems are gutsy females, determined to change the culture by creating and supporting programs that seek to dismantle rigid gender roles and inspire creativity.) I called and pitched the idea to a few sports facilities. When I received approval from both of them, I got my CPR and First Aid certifications in order, came up with a curriculum, held an Open House to introduce the concept and set the dates to make it happen!
I see this as a summer program that will eventually be offered as an after-school or weekend fall/winter program in Dutchess, Putnam and northern Westchester Counties. I’d like to offer it to girls in the 7-9 age range and even older, especially since stats continue to tell us that a girl’s self-esteem plummets in her teen years. This will be the first of many empowering programs for girls. Next on the horizon our “Supergirl, Superheroes” program!
Name a famous lady that encapsulates your idea of the Feisty Fem (and why).
I love Ellen DeGeneres. And when I think of feisty females, I think of girls and women who are gutsy, who are full of energy, brave, determined. Ellen is feisty in that she is enthusiastic, has this great zest for life, and is always looking to help people out. Several years back, she came out about being sexually abused which makes her, in my opinion, super courageous.
Who is your favorite female character in a kids book (and why)?
Big into picture books right now since my kids are 5, 3 and 1. Isabella in My Name is Not Isabella by Jennifer Fosberry is awesome because, inspired by the great women of our history, she dreams up amazing things she can accomplish. I also love Grace Campbell in Kelly DiPucchio’s Grace for President because after checking out a photo array of our country’s presidents, she appallingly asks “Where are the girls?”
What makes you feel powerful?
This work of investing in girls, getting through a set of good pushups, making my children explode with laughter, being loved and giving love, and good music all make me feel powerful. (And I felt pretty damn powerful after finishing my first Tough Mudder this past spring.)
Do you have a female role model? If so, who?
My mother has so many talents that I aspire to but don’t think I will ever master like she has. She is an amazing cook and gardener and is just very thoughtful. Eve Ensler is a playwright and activist who continues to inspire me – she is constantly stirring up good trouble and uses her craft to make the world a better place.
Are there any products marketed to girls that fit with your message?
There are four sites that I’m currently obsessed with that have a ton of different products that totally fall in line with what I am trying to achieve with this project. They are: A Mighty Girl, Toward the Stars, Girls Will Be and Girls Can’t What.
Laura currently has a couple of programs that are open for registration until July 15th:
Iron Horse in Mahopac, NY for the week of July 28th from 9 am – 12 pm.
Fishkill Rec in Fishkill, NY for the week of August 11th from 9 am – 11:30 am
This is a drop off program and costs $125 for the week-long session (with sibling discounts available!)
For more information, please visit www.facebook.com/pigskinprincess or contact Laura at 845.803.1749 or firstname.lastname@example.org.