ANW star Meagan Martin wants to know: Why are girls losing interest in sports?
By age 14, girls are dropping out of sports at two times the rate of boys.
"American Ninja Warrior" Meagan Martin has made keeping girls in the game a goal of hers.
Martin partnered with Athleta, an athletic apparel line, in celebration of National Girls and Women in Sports Day to encourage girls to stay in the game and to push themselves beyond their limits. "We're trying to empower girls to be active," said Martin, who is making in-store appearances for the brand to promote the initiative.
Additionally, Martin mentors young female athletes and uses her various platforms to encourage women of all ages and backgrounds to continue to play the sport of their choice.
"You can't just make everything easy; if there were no challenges, it wouldn't be fun," she said, adding that she uses her own experiences of starts, stops and detours as examples for young women.
Martin, 29, was a born into a family of athletes. Her father, Gerald, was an accomplished gymnast who competed in the 1984 Olympic trials. Her mother, Beth, is a long-time gymnastics coach who trained her as a child.
Martin, who competed at Vanderbilt as a pole vaulter, is the oldest of three girls. Their parents expected them to be active. "Sports was kind of the thing we were supposed to do," Martin said. Her youngest sister, Mikaela, went on to run track for the Naval Academy, and Moriah was a standout gymnast at the University of Denver. "Basically, we were [in competitive sports] since [we were] born."
As a kid, Martin dropped out of gymnastics due to a sudden fear of tumbling backward. She turned a hobby of climbing trees, however, into a career path. By the time she turned 11, she was climbing competitively. "I hope every kid is inspired to get out and be active," Martin said. With the continued support of her parents, an adventurous Martin unlocked her inner ninja. She exchanged tumbling on a mat for climbing rocks and scaling walls.
Nearly 20 years later, climbing -- or bouldering, as it's also known -- continues to spark joy within Martin. Earlier this year, she summited Lover's Leap, a 600 ft. climb in El Dorado County, California, Martin's tallest to date.
In 2014, Martin's rookie season of "ANW," she made history by becoming the first woman to complete the jumping spider and the halfpipe attack on Stage 1 at Nationals. "You have to kind of just go and you never feel secure," Martin said. "There are so many elements that go into everything, so you're always trying to figure out how to make this work."
She added, "From your toes to the tips of your fingers, everything is engaged."
Martin thinks keeping girls in the game is a matter of them seeing women who look like them excel and be in engaged in a sport. As a child, seeing the 1996 Olympic gymnastics team -- The Magnificent Seven -- competing on such a high level inspired her. "I thought Dominique Dawes and Shannon Miller were amazing," she said.
After she transitioned to climbing, she knew she wanted to be that example. "When I was competing as a little kid, there wasn't anybody [that looked like me] ... and at an elite level, it's rare to be competing against anybody else that's African-American," she said.
In 2020, climbing will be an Olympic event for the first time. Though Martin won't be competing, she hopes to commentate, a skill she added in 2018 while covering USA Climbing competitions for ESPN.
"It's going to be awesome though to see people I've climbed with for years get a chance to have their Olympic moment," Martin said. "I'd be over the moon if I get to witness it from the broadcast booth."
Though Martin's day-to-day role in competition is evolving, she wants the next generation of girls to see sports as a lifelong outlet.
"Sports has completely shaped my life," she said. "I want it to do the same for the next [generation of girls].
"They shouldn't be ashamed of their power."