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Archive for October, 2008

I stayed up late last night reading a story that truly moved me.

I came across it on ESPN Rise, an online publication that celebrates high school athletes. It was there that I found the story of Tierra Rogers, a young promising basketball player from San Francisco, California.

[I’m going to try and explain it, but I’m not going to do it justice. I highly encourage you to read the whole story on ESPN Rise].

Basketball had been a big part of Tierra Rogers’ life and relationship with her father, “Terray” (Terell) Rogers.

Like many dads, Terray was Tierra’s biggest fan.

As a former gang member (and ex-con), Terray’s life was changed when Tierra, his daughter, came into the world. He decided to dedicate himself to “cleaning up some of the mess he created”  on the streets. He often acted as a mediator to street arguments and conflicts, saving lives and bringing together the community.

As Tierra grew up, she and her dad spent many days on the basketball courts of San Francisco. Also, her “godfather” Guy Hudson, a former friend of Terray’s from the streets, started coaching Tierra privately.

It is on those courts in San Francisco that Tierra got good… real good. So good, in fact, that she went on to play at Sacred Heart Academy.

Of course, her dad was her biggest supporter. He gave her pep talks before games and was the loudest fan in the gym… always sitting in the first row, cheering her on.

But when Tierra was in her junior year, her cousin, Zakeel, was murdered on the streets (rumor is it was gang related).

This is something that affected her father, Terray, very deeply , and he stopped mediating the streets and started showing signs of frustration. Rumors were going around that he wanted to seek “revenge” on those that killed Zakeel. These were untrue, but Terray showed signs of concern.

And then it happened.

On January 12th, 2008, Terray was at his daughter’s high school basketball game.

At halftime, when he went outside for his typical cigarette, he was gunned down by two strangers.

And Tierra was left alone to cope. No more pep talks, no more first-row cheering. A few days later, ESPN wrote a piece about how she was struggling to cope.

I can’t even imagine the pain she’s been through or how she even begins to feel about basketball.

But what I can attest to is her strength – her strength to move on. Because she promised her dad that no matter what, she would always play, Tierra is still playing hard.

She’s set to play at Cal next year – and hopes to make the McDonald’s All-American Team.

I’d like to wish Tierra the best of luck – and let her know that she has my support. Cal is lucky to have grabbed her.

[To read the entire story, go to ESPN Rise].

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On November 4, for the first time in American major motocross publication history, a female rider will be  featured in action on the cover or a major magazine.

Ashley Fiolek, the 2008 WMA Women’s Motocross Champion, will be featured on the cover of TransWorld Motocross Magazine.

Fiolek, a 17-year-old rider, is the leader in the only women’s professional motorsport series in the U.S. this season. All this – and it was only her first pro season, she’s deaf, and she suffered a midseason broken wrist.

That’s right – Fiolek is a deaf rider. EXPN reported that in addition to her WMA win, Ashley also was a contributor to a monthly column called “Silence” in TransWorld Motocross Magazine.

“Though their numbers are few, women’s racing is an important part of our sport,” said Transworld Motocross’ Editor-in-Chief Donn Maeda.

“Amazing not only because she’s deaf, but also for her talent on a bike, Ashley Fiolek will help take women’s motocross to the next level. I am proud to have her on our cover.”

Transworld is, in fact, making an investment in girls as riders. For example, on Thursday, October 23rd, they held their first ever TWMX Girl’s Learn to Ride day at the Honda Rider Education Center in Colton, CA. Girls from every part of the motocross industry came out to get dirty and learn how to ride a dirt bike like a pro.

This is a great accomplishment for both Fiolek and Transworld Motocross magazine. I should expect to see many more women’s faces appearing on that publication.

Because Donn Maeda mentioned that it’s an important part of their sport, I should expect that importance reflected in the editorial content of the publication (and all other motocross publications for that matter).

For more information on Ashley, check out AshleyFiolek.com.

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Each week, I will be featuring Her Sports Rounds, a blog round-up of the best postings on women’s sports.

From stories of the best athletes to funny YouTube videos and Presidential nominees’ comments on Title IX, the women’s sports blogosphere brought a lot of great information to the table this week!

Sheila Weaver over at She Loves Sports reports on Europe’s sports woman of the year, Olympic pole vault champion and world record holder Yelena Isinbayeva.

At the Athletic Women Blog, Rob Mars posts a video of female athletes (namely Vicki Unus) in the circus from the 1960’s. Totally cool!

Over at C and R’s Stanford Women’s Basketball Blog, there are some funny YouTube videos that made me laugh – and wish I were somewhere near Stanford to see their games. My favorite is the Media Day video, found here.

Over at The Final Sprint, U.S. middle distance runner Sara Hall blogs about how she is re-inspired and motivated to start a new season.

Over at the Title IX blog, Kris discusses Senator McCain’s comment on Title IX and his concern for popular athletic programs that have been cut due to the need for equal funding for male and female athletic programs. Kris says,

“I have yet to see (though would be happy to) an athletic department that is equally funding its men’s and women’s programs.”

At Pretty Tough, Jane Schonberger praises Sports Illustrated for Faces in the Crowd, which covers females and males equally (shocker – because this publication usually doesn’t). Jane says,

“In addition to featuring athletes in sports such as soccer, volleyball and cross country, the magazine highlights girls who are participating in less traditional pursuits.”

Over at Women Like Sports, in her “Tales from the Inbox” post, Apryl Delancey discusses Lyndsey D’Arcangelo‘s new book, The Trouble with Emily Dickinson, and the Women’s Sports Foundation’s V is for Victory video campaign.

At the Women’s Hoops blog, Steve posts about Northwestern’s new coach Joe McKeown. Steve says, “seems to me he’s a good fit for the place.”

Over at the Women’s Sports blog, they discuss how Lorena Ochoa was featured in the Mexican version of British gossip mag Hello!. They say,

“It gives  lie to the yammerers who keep insisting she’s not that popular in the U.S. because she’s ‘unattractive,’ while at the same time emphasizes stereotypical class privilege and femininity at the expense of being real.  Ah, the magazine industry.”

– If I missed a great blog post, please be sure to add it to the comments below!

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I’ve written a few times about Elite EC Mixed Martial Arts (MMA) fighter Gina Carano, one of the best female fighters in the country.

Needless to say, when I read that Carano’s future is in limbo because her company, Elite XC, is filing for bankruptcy, I was a bit disappointed.

From Pretty Tough:

“The fighting future of top MMA draw Gina Carano is in limbo as word emerged today that the mixed-martial-arts organization Elite XC will file bankruptcy and cease future operations, according to parent company, Pro Elite Inc.

Elite XC, which produced seven of the 10 most-watched MMA matches in U.S. history on two CBS specials in recent months, will be closing its doors at the end of the week. This leaves a roster of fighters, including Carano, looking for work.”

That’s really a shame.

Check out this cool YouTube video from 2007 filmed by Showtime which will give you a good idea of what she’s like:

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A study was recently conducted about the perceived gender-equity barriers in college coaching and administration. In this study, which will be available on the NCAA website in November, it was found that 51.7 percent of female student-athletes said they would prefer their coach to be a male, with only 40.7 percent preferring their coach to be a female.

In a blog posted on the Double-a Zone, the writer skims the surface for what may be the cause of this, (at first glance), alarming finding:

“Before Title IX, sports were the jurisdiction of men and boys.  … Without early encouragement, which often came from fathers, many women may never have picked up a glove or shot a basket.”

Good point, Marta!  If it weren’t for my dad and the competition and influence of my male cousins, I probably never would’ve been as interested in sports as I eventually became.  By the age of 10, I was playing basketball, soccer, softball, and swimming all year round.  As many of my coaches as I can remember were male.  The only female influences I had as an athlete were my teammates, an assistant high school softball coach, and the men’s high school swim coach.  (Yes – the men’s team had a female coach, and the women’s team had a male coach, in 1996 nonetheless!)

It wasn’t until I got to the college level that I had my own personal experience with a female coach.  As a competitive, enthusiastic, and athletic female I was starving for female leadership.  The little interaction that I had with female coaches in high school was enough for those women to become my mentors and people that I idolized, not only as women, but as coaches, and leaders.  It is the lack of female leadership and mentoring that I had growing-up that has driven me to coaching and teaching.  To be able to influence a females life through athletics can provide one with great confidence, opportunity, self-esteem, and the strength to carry that female athlete through the rest of their life.

As a collegiate assistant coach of females and males, what is alarming to me is the low number of representation of females as coaches of women’s team.

In a study titled Women in Intercollegiate Sport, Linda Jean Carpenter, and R. Vivian Acosta, update an ongoing their longitudinal national survey, spanning 31 years.  The website also includes a one page synosis of Title IX, and other interesting information.

The two women, both professors emerita of Brooklyn College of the City University of New York, have been involved in Title IX and gender equity issues for over the last 30 years, and have also published a book titled, Title IX.

Now for the findings …

“42.8% of women’s teams are coached by a female head coach.
57.2% of women’s teams are coached by a male head coach.
2 to 3% of men’s teams are coached by a female head coach.
20.6% of all teams (men’s and women’s) are coached by a female head coach
WHEN TITLE IX WAS ENACTED IN 1972, OVER 90% OF THE HEAD COACHES FOR WOMEN’S TEAMS AND ABOUT 2% OF THE COACHES OF MEN’S TEAMS WERE FEMALES”

Don’t get me wrong, there were favorable findings to this study.

For example, participation of female athletes is at it’s highest ever, with 9101 teams across the board.  Also at an all-time high are the number of paid assistant coaches of women’s teams, the highest representation of female athletic directors since the mid 70s, and the highest ever number of females employed in intercollegiate athletics.

The study goes on to research the difference in number of female coaches per division, and the impact the sex of the athletic director has on the percentage of female coaches.

This study was reported on in Time magazine and the Associated Press in the summer of 2007.  The article in the Time’s, Where are the Women Coaches?, provides some answers.  There has been an increase in the attractiveness of coaching women’s teams with the increase in funding, publicity, and prestige, these jobs have become much more desirable to men.

Because of 80% of college athletic directors are men, this leaves these men, who decide to entire the world of coaching women, with a clear advantage over women.  When we fill these roles with men, we are not showing women that they can do anything.  We are showing women that they can succeed and excel in a male dominated world.  As a result:

“Their own expectations, their own aspirations are limited and distorted as a result,” says Marcia Greenberger, a co-president of the National Women’s Law Center.

In the Associated Press article, Deborah Rhode, a Stanford University law professor states: “Title IX opened so many more opportunities for women athletes, but it also made positions coaching women’s teams much more attractive to men.  Often women are facing barriers to getting those jobs that weren’t there when they were competing with other women and running those programs.”

From Where Are the Women Coaches?:  When the WNBA started in 1997, seven of its eight head coaches were women.  Now nine of its 13 coaches are MEN.  “Just as opportunities are opening up for women coaches, [these jobs] seem to be escaping them,” says NCAA president Myles Brand. “It’s ironic, even a bit cruel.”

Why is this happening?  Is this because the female athletes PREFER male coaches, or because the administration and the corporate offices PREFER male coaches?

I will be interested to read the complete findings of the NCAA gender equity survey, and you can be sure to read a blog here when those results are released to the public!

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I’ve been seeing more and more of this V is for Victory campaign flying around the blogosphere. For example, it can be found on one of my favorite bloggers’ sites, Women Like Sports.

The Women’s Sports Foundation is sponsoring/pioneering this campaign – which I completely support. (Hell – anything is something, right?)

Essentially, these are a series of videos dedicated toward getting girls to recognize if their schools are in compliance with Title IX regulations. Which is extremely important. But it can be done better.

I have to be a little bit critical of its transparency and its lack of digital creativity.

1) WSF should have their name all over it – should be completely transparent that this is where these messages are coming from.

2) The URL should not be confusing (which it is). Vis4victory.org. Wow. It’s far easier to just remember womenssportsfoundation.org. Why not create a micro site with its own (non-confusing) URL? Why is that so difficult? I mean, if you’re going to spring the $ for the video, why not spring for a place it can live permanently?

3) The videos (although true) are a bit unrealistic. Sometimes the inequity isn’t as obvious as these videos make them out to be. Case studies and testimonials would work much better. (not sure of legal issues surrounding that)

4) The questions in WSF’s poll are completely directed toward parents. This needs to change. The girls (themselves) should be answering these questions. It makes girls seem like passive watchers instead of active participants.

5) This campaign needs to be interactive (similar to Gonzaga’s inspired season). Why not have the poll in the video? Why not make this a YouTube video? Why doesn’t WSF create a YouTube video channel and hold contests for girls (i.e., best sports moment caught on film)? The possibilities are endless here.

I hope WSF is watching – and paying attention. Their campaigns could go so much further if the right perspectives were brought in.

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Awhile back, I wrote about how Kacy Staurt, a 13-year-old field goal kicker got booted from her team, Georgia’s New Creation Center Crusaders, for being a girl.

Since then, Kacy’s mom has been fighting to try and allow her to play (she even commented on my blog – see link above).

Well, the story has caught major national attention (it even made ESPN) and it seems the publicity has worked!

Well, I just read that she’s cleared to play! So exciting!

Hank St. Denis, the head of the authority governing Georgia High School football, would not discuss the case, simply saying, “She’s playing, isn’t she?”

Apparently, this story is deeper than I thought.

SportingNews.com said that when the East Atlanta Mustangs played the Crusaders, they sent them a statement prior to the game about the religious implications of having a female kicker:

“The East Atlanta Mustangs didn’t play us under protest but they were allowed to read a statement on their beliefs about female football players,” [New Creation coach Ken] Townley said. “They used biblical verses from the book of Romans. I was very stunned by that.”

WHAT! hahahaha! First of all, Kacy is a kicker. Not a linebacker. Second, even if she was a linebacker, this makes them look nothing but scared.

Citing the bible? Are they kidding? Hilarious!

For the record, Stuart converted three extra points in her game against the East Atlanta Crusaders in a 39-8 victory.

YESSSS! GO KACY!

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Perry Lee Barber is one of the first female umpires in baseball history. Today, she’s sharing her story – and it’s a great one.

Women everywhere should listen.

An interview with Barber is posted on the Women’s Sports Foundation. Also, you can read Barber’s commentary on her personal blog, Officially speaking…

The interview on WSF is awesome – discusses how she grew to love Baseball (which is evident on Officially speaking…). She also mentions how the idea of umpiring came from her mother’s encouragement. (love it!) WSF writer Kelsey J. Koenen says,

“Barber’s work as a professional baseball umpire has blazed a trail for women umpires and begun to chip away at one of the last sports careers presumed to be reserved for men.”

This is evident in the picture at the left-hand side of this post (below). In that picture, the University of Michigan head coach and Mets manager were meet at home plate during a February spring training game with the first all-woman umpiring crew: Perry Lee Barber, Ila Valcarcel, Theresa Fairlady and Mona Osborne.

SO COOL!

But the journey to this point in time has not been easy. Barber mentions that she often feels alone in an occupation dominated by men.

WSF reports,

“At times, it was daunting, especially as a female, and the need to be confident and aggressive was vital. Soon Barber realized the good ball players learn control and claim their own power, not giving it to the umpire, who, Barber said, is merely a “conduit through which things flow.””

And when you’re alone, it helps to have some support. With more than 20 years of experience behind her, Barber has built a support network for female umpires. As WSF says, “Barber’s network continues to grow, and her plans are nowhere near through.” Barber says,

“I want to make sure there’s a mechanism in place by the time I die,” Barber said, “that women have of reaching out and finding and encouraging one another to view umpiring as a possibility in their lives, as one that’s fun and rewarding and that might eventually lead to one or more becoming major league umpires.”

I love this idea – and appreciate the fact that Barber is thinking beyond her own needs and situation toward a future of other women umpires.

Personally, I think her network should start on the blogosphere. She should encourage female umpires to create their own blogs and network online. That way, friendships and alliances can be built throughout the country and their voices will be heard. (Opposers will think twice before casting their public opinions when they know these ladies have blogs and online networks.)

Regardless, I’d like to wish Barber the best of luck. What she’s doing is truly special and means a lot to female athletes (and future umpires) everywhere.

More information can be found at perrybarber.com.

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Sunday night in Indianapolis the NCAA announced Nkolika “Nicky” Anosike 2008 Woman of the Year.  Anosike led the Lady Vols of Tennessee to back-to-back Women’s Basketball National Championships.  Being an avid watcher of the NCAA Women’s Basketball Tournament and regular season play, I could not be happier with the NCAA’s decision!  Not only is Anosike a household name, at least in my house, but a woman with tremendous talent, who carries herself with such pride and confidence!

Anosike’s success spans across much more than the basketball court.  Anosike has many noteworthy achievements.  Her academic and athletic success combined is incomparable to most, and I do not think anyone will disagree on how deserving she is of this award.

Academic achievements: Graduated in May 2008 with a triple major in political science, legal studies and sociology. SEC Academic Honor Roll, 2005-08. ESPN The Magazine Academic All-American second-team, 2007-08. Boyd McWhorter Postgraduate Scholarship winner for Tennessee, 2008.

The recipe for determining the winner: “The annual Woman of the Year award recognizes outstanding female student-athletes who have excelled in academics, athletics, leadership and service. A committee composed of representatives from NCAA member schools and conferences selected the top 30 – 10 from each division – from 130 conference and independent nominees. From the 30 honorees, nine finalists – three from each division – were chosen.”

The NCAA Committee on Women’s Athletics selected Anosike from nine finalists:

“1.  Susan Ackermann, Salisbury (lacrosse), Capital Athletic Conference
2.  Nkolika Anosike, Tennessee (basketball),Southeastern Conference
3.  Jennifer Artichuk, Delta State (swimming and diving), Independent
4.  Shanti Freitas, Smith (swimming and diving), New England Women’s and Men’s Athletic Conference
5.  Arianna Lambie, Stanford (cross country, track and field), Pacific-10 Conference
6.  Samantha Mitchell, Mount Olive (volleyball, track and field), Conference Carolinas
7.  Lindsey Ozimek, Charlotte (soccer), Atlantic 10 Conference
8.  Sarah Schettle, Wisconsin-Oshkosh (track and field, cross country, swimming), Wisconsin Intercollegiate Athletic Conference
9.  Heather Walker, Georgian Court (volleyball, softball), Central Atlantic Collegiate Conference”

I think that this is an amazing award and a great way to showcase female athletes.  Only ONE winner of this award has been a Division III Athlete.  EVERY other winner competed at the Division I level.  Now, I understand Division I is the highest level of competition, thus you are going to find the most successful and talented women competing for Divisioin I.  HOWEVER, having been a: 4 year varsity athlete, 2 time NCAA All-American, team captain, 4 time All-Conference, and a 4 time NCAA qualifier, in Division III swimming, something is to be said for the Division III student-athlete.  Where is the recognition for non-scholarship athletes?  The athletes that compete simply for the love of the game.

The athlete that gets out of bed every morning at 5:30am for swim practice, goes to class all morning, comes back to the pool to swim again, and then hits the weightroom, just to go home, eat dinner, do some homework, and wake up to do it all again.  All the meanwhile, maintaining a 3.95, still finding time to volunteer for various activities and programs, not to mention being a darn talented swimmer!!  This swimmer I am referring to was one of the 30 finalists in attendance Sunday night, Michelle Coombs.  Coombs, a 2008 graduate of SUNY New Paltz, was the 2007 NCAA Division III National Champion for Women’s Swimming in the 100 freestyle, and the first female National Champion at SUNY New Paltz.  As an assistant coach at SUNY New Paltz, I had the pleasure of coaching Coombs for the 2007-2008 swim season!  Much like all of the candidates for Woman of the Year, Coombs excels in academics, athletics, and in the area of service and leadership.  Congratulations to Coombs and all of the other finalists on their amazing honor to be nominated.  Most importantly, congratulations to Anosike for winning the title of Woman of the Year, and best of luck as you all go forward in your lives and look to excel outside of your specific sports arenas.

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I came across this interesting article in the New York Times. It turns out wrestling has been a growing sport for women for the last twenty years. Girls are walking out onto the mat everyday across America, standing up, and utilizing their right to wrestle. According to the article, Women Want to Wrestle; Small Colleges Oblige,

“The inclusion of women’s wrestling in the Olympics beginning in 2004 provided a huge boost to the sport’s popularity and credibility. Five thousand girls nationwide wrestled in high school in the 2006-7 academic year, yet only eight colleges offer it as a varsity sport. Three of those eight programs are starting this fall.”

The more girls that wrestle in high school, the more girls that want to wrestle in college, and the more girls that move on to compete in the Olympics. The sport is growing, and it would be a shame for the girls to be limited or shut out of competing, because their university or institution did not have a women’s wrestling program. Wrestling has been under attack by opposers of Title IX. Unfortunately, wrestling is a sport that regularly gets cut in order for colleges and institutions to comply with Title IX rules and regulations. One supporter of women’s rights to wrestle has a great solution to everyone’s problems! Joey’s Wrestling room is a page dedicated to women’s wrestling. In “History of Wrestling” he states,

“At the collegiate level women’s wrestling is an ideal choice for creating new opportunities for women. In fact, women’s wrestling fits the NCAA criteria for emerging sports programs. Many schools that support a men’s wrestling program are out of compliance with Title IX – and money is always a factor. Adding women’s wrestling to an athletic program can save the athletic budget alot of money. Think about it. The coaches, the equipment, and the facilities are all in place. All that is needed is singlets and travel expenses. Economically it is the smart choice.”

Pretty Tough has already started to highlight the immerging sport of women’s wrestling. In a blog posted she states some of the facts about the sport:

  • “About 4000 girls wrestle at the high school level in the U.S. (compared to 239,000 boys), according to the USA Wrestling Association.
  • High school girls’ wrestling has only been sanctioned in two states: Hawaii and Texas (both since 1999).
  • Until girls’ wrestling teams are numerous enough to get state sanctioning, girls have to compete at informal divisions or meets instead of state tournaments�or compete against boys. In 2005, there were 17 girls who qualified for boys’ high school state tournaments around the country, and six of those girls placed.
  • The U.S. Girls Wrestling Association claims to be the future of the sport. They provide information of USGWA tournaments and events, as well as a discussion forum for female wrestlers and coaches.”
  • Hopefully in the next couple of years we will begin to see an increase in women’s wrestling and less cutbacks of men’s programs. After a highly publicized summer Olympics I don’t recall any coverage of women’s wrestling. Guess we have a ways to go.

    CORREECTION: (by Megan Hueter)

    Wrestling has not been under attack of the opposers of Title IX. The only thing that COULD BE criticized by wrestling coaches is the opportunity for women’s wrestling to be classified as an “emerging sport.” Wrestling has not made the NCAA’s seven-sport list to be classified as “emerging,” so there is really no argument here.

    Above, when I saw “wrestling coaches,” I am not referring to ALL wrestling coaches. I am referring to some (and it is coming directly from the New York Times),

    “Dozens of men’s teams have been eliminated over the past three decades, a phenomenon many coaches attribute to Title IX.”

    As you can see, it’s clear they are critics of the law. However, it’s not Title IX that has eliminated those programs. It’s the institutions and their decisions to distribute funds to other men’s programs which they may deem more valuable. (which is unfortunate)

    Also, to note, it’s not Title IX that is not allowing women’s wrestling to be classified as an emerging sport. It’s the NCAA. The problem is not with the law (it’s a good law that has created millions of opportunities for female athletes). The problem is with the institutions that govern the law and the politics that surround those decisions. It’s unfortunate for men AND women (sometimes) that this is the case.

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