Simone Biles using new clothing line to get empowering message across to girls

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Young girls are getting a pep talk from Simone Biles as they head back to school.

Her latest Athleta GIRL collection, geared toward girls ages 6 to 12, features the tagline, “Because I can.” That was Biles’ response when she was asked two years ago why she was continuing to do difficult tricks even when international gymnastics officials refused to give them their full credit.

“It’s that little Simone on their shoulder, or that little reminder to have confidence, keep going and never give up,” Biles told USA TODAY Sports on Tuesday. “It helps them just put that first step forward and then keep pushing throughout the entire school year.”

When Biles signed with Athleta in 2021, part of the four-time Olympic champion’s reasoning was that she wanted more say in the products that had her name attached to them. The messaging behind them, in particular.

Biles freely acknowledges it took her a while to find her voice, or at least to feel comfortable using it. She was called arrogant for saying she was the best, though no one bats an eye when LeBron James or Tom Brady says it. Even with all her titles and medals, there are still days she doubts herself.

She wants it to be different for the next generation of girls. By speaking out and owning her many accomplishments, Biles hopes to inspire little girls and young women to be confident and bold.

The new Athleta collection, released this week, is meant to drive that message home. It currently features shorts, tights, flares, crop T-shirts and tank bras, and the bras and Ts have “Because I can” emblazoned across the front.

“It’s just a little reminder they can do anything they put their minds to,” Biles said.

That message applies to women of all ages, but it’s especially important for young girls.

While it’s long been recognized by parents, teachers and coaches that girls lose confidence as teenagers, a 2018 survey showed just how devastating those years can be. Confidence levels plummeted 30% between the ages of 8 and 14, the survey of almost 1,400 girls ages 8 to 18 found. Three in four teenage girls worried about failing, and almost 8 in 10 said they wanted to feel more confident in themselves.

This has an impact socially and academically, where girls begin shying away from STEM classes in high school. It also shows up in sports, where the Women’s Sports Foundation found girls are dropping out of sports at twice the level boys are by age 14.

“I think it is important, especially at this age, when they’re growing and going through puberty, to stay in tune with who you are and still have that confidence,” Biles said.

“If I can do that with these clothing items, have those little hidden messages or just be straight across the chest − anything that I can help these kids with that, that’s what we’re going to do,” she said.

A slogan on a T-shirt might not reverse that drop in girls’ confidence. But it certainly can’t hurt.

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