Girls like 14-year-old Sophie Tillis who are bored with the traditional and gender-specific sports world are finding a place in the male-dominated sports of Gtramp and freerunning.
Tillis quit gymnastics after she got tired of the competitiveness. She had seen videos online of teenagers doing extreme flips in their backyards and also watched videos of teenagers flipping and twisting off concrete pillars or ledges, also known as parkour or freerunning when she started trying out some moves. “I still liked the flipping part, and I didn’t want to lose that. Without a coach, I can move at my own pace. I also feel a lot more confident without someone judging me,” she said,
All of these sports fall under the umbrella term “flipping” and are heavily dominated by males. Tillis is working to change that.
“I think some girls are afraid of what the boys might think or say,” said Tillis.
Even so, Tillis doesn’t let that hold her back. She practices up to three hours a day, posting videos of her tricks on Instagram where she has 3,879 followers.
Recently, girls across the country have been jumping into the sport. A short film, titled “Like a Girl,” created by eighth-grader Seneca Schwartz, showcases some of these girls who dedicate their time to parkour and Gtramp. The film gained traction on social media, catching the eye of female parkour pioneer Luci Romberg.
Romberg has won many professional competitions, is a stunt double for Melissa McCarthy and is co-owner of Tempest Freerunning. In 2009, she was the only female to compete in a professional freerunning competition and she was one of very few women for the next few years.
Romberg is impressed by the influx of young girls to the sport in recent years. She said, “It’s awesome how many girls are showing up and throwing down now. These young girls I see at competitions and on social media are absolutely mind-blowing. They train so hard and are so passionate about the sport.”
Even so, many female athletes face stereotypes every day. And many are told “You’re good…for a girl.” One young athlete, Emily Fields, a 16-year-old who was invited to participate in the GT Games, an invite-only Gtramp competition, was accused of taking a boy’s spot.
Often, parents can be their child’s worst enemy with the idea that girls shouldn’t participate in extreme sports because they are too dangerous. However, as the girls become stronger and more focused in the sport, parents become their biggest supporters.
There has also been a huge push in recent years for more gender balance in freerunning. The sport is relatively new, with few opportunities for professional freerunners. Even so, sponsorships from major brands are highly coveted for travel money, bragging rights, and a higher profile. Major brands have not yet sponsored a girl, yet choose dozens of boys each year. Brands chalk up the lack of women to the simple fact that women don’t do the bigger tricks and they don’t have as large of followings on social media.
Despite these setbacks, young girls keep flooding into the sport, gaining confidence, friends, and skills. No boy can hold them down.