My daughter has never really liked sports.
She's almost 6, and despite the fact that her daddy studies sports for his job, she's never really shown a lot of interest in them. She's a theater kid, her mama's girl, which is awesome.
This summer, she's taking swimming lessons at the local rec center. Like with everything she does, she's having the time of her life. Between the lessons and overhearing my wife and I talk about the Olympics, she's been very into swimming lately.
Hey kiddo, I said to her before breakfast this morning, do you want to watch some swimming from the Olympics last night?
There's a girl I think you're going to like watching.
"What's her name?"
Katie. Katie Ledecky.
(Yes, I know Katie Ledecky is a young woman and not a girl. When talking to a 5-year-old, you work at their level).
We found the highlights of last night's race, the 200m freestyle. My daughter, who's never watched more than five consecutive minutes of any sporting event, watched with the intensity she usually reserves for Broadway videos and Scooby Doo.
The whole time we watched, my daughter kept saying Katie's name.
"Whoa, look at Katie swimming ... Katie's so far out in front! ... Why does Katie have a cap on? ... Katie's winning!"
My daughter now wants to vote for Katie for President. She can't wait to tell her teacher at swim lessons tonight about watching Katie.
This is the power of representation, the power of saying their names. Just watching swimming wouldn't do it. But watching Katie, who's the same age as her teachers at the rec center, dominate the Olympics makes all the difference.
I'm sure my daughter won't be an Olympian. She's got the genes of a sports writer, not an elite athlete. But that's not what matters.
What matters is that my daughter has another strong young woman as a role model, showing her that anything is possible, that dreams really can come true.