Mo’ne Davis’ school and community is a small yet passionate one. Success on and off the field is celebrated in equal measures, as are the students who achieve it. I know this because my alma mater is where Davis now attends; making her story hit home (so to speak) a little more than it normally would. That’s not the only reason I feel it striking a particular chord. For the last two years working at the United States Olympic Committee, I had the privilege to learn about the Olympic Movement and meet incredible athletes along the way. The reason we love the story of Mo’ne Davis is not unlike why so many of us love the Olympics. It gives us a tangible reason to believe in something greater than sport, larger than societal barriers.
The 5-4, 13-year-old pitcher has made headlines across the nation for breaking down barriers. She has become just the 18th girl to play in the Little League World Series since its founding 57 years ago. After throwing a shutout game for her underdog team, the Philadelphia Taney Dragons, and becoming the very first Little Leaguer to land on the cover of Sports Illustrated, the nation has done more than take notice at her incredible abilities; it has turned her into a hero.
However, as many have pointed out, Davis’ achievements reach far beyond those of just the sporting world. Similar to many Olympic athletes who suddenly find themselves in the spotlight, often also at a young age and often excelling in unconventional ways, Davis has captured the attention of so many because she doesn’t look or speak like your typical Little Leaguer. This in turn has helped to battle stereotypes – both athletic and educational – and opens the door for young women in more ways than one. Some have drawn comparisons to Mia Hamm’s performance in the 1999 World Cup.
"She has a huge strength of character. She stands up for students; she advocates for friends. She works hard in the classroom. I know people are looking for something negative to say, the way she's handling the fame is exactly who she is at school,” Priscilla Sands, president of Springside Chestnut Hill Academy, said of Davis.
Davis has become a testament to the fact that when given opportunity to flourish, despite who you are or what you look like, exceptional talents can emerge and also be recognized, making the possibilities for future achievement endless.
No one knows this better than an Olympian. Jazmine Fenlator, one of the three pilots of the U.S. Olympic Bobsled Team in Sochi, Russia, said, “I’m proud of her not just as a female in sport, not just of her accomplishments, not for rising above defeats, but for her resilience in going after her dreams. As I gear up for the upcoming season I have found additional motivation and inspiration in Mo’ne.”
As someone who walked the same hallways of the school where Mo’ne now attends and having followed the stories of Olympians, I can’t help but draw similarities between the two. The chills may feel the same, but they never get old.