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Archive for the ‘inspiration’ Category

Paula Radcliffe, the winner from England, ran at the young age of 34.

According to the New York Times, women are getting older… and better at sports.

Take for instance this past Sunday’s New York City Marathon, where 41 elite female athletes competed at the average age of 33.

These women were distributed a $301,000 purse, up from $165,000 just a decade ago.

Sunday marked the participation the oldest groups of elite women in the history of the race. Nearly half of the rest of the participants are 35 and older.

2/3 of the runners are 30 years or older including Paula Radcliffe, the winner from England, ran at the young age of 34.

Kara Goucher of the United States (30 years old) came in second, and became the first American woman on the podium since 1994.

Gete Wami of Berlin (33 years of age) finished close behind Goucher.

“It’s unusual to see so many really good women of that age, but this is probably a fluke that they are all so good at once,” Mary Wittenberg, the race director, said. “I do expect to see a changing of the guard because we are probably looking at the end of a superstar generation.”

Experts say that in the 30’s, distance runners are often at their “prime” because their bodies are used to the mileage required to train for the 26.2-mile race. (I can’t even imagine having to run that much. And I’m 23 years old.)

Kara Goucher of the United States came in second. She is 30 years old.

It’s important to note, however, that many of these women only started running marathons only after they had built a foundation in shorter races, to prevent burnout and injuries.

Something that is totally cool is that women are starting to earn more money in marathons.

According to the New York Times, the top five women in Sunday’s race have made at least $1 million in prize money in their careers. The top 10 winners will also receive prize money.

First place is worth $130,000 of the $301,000 purse, second place $65,000, third $40,000, fourth $25,000, fifth $15,000 and so on down to $1,000 for 10th place. In addition, bonuses ranging from $5,000 to $70,000 are paid for reaching certain time standards.

Twenty years ago, though, the total women’s purse in the New York City Marathon was $134,500, organizers said, and a decade ago, it was $165,000.

This is all very cool stuff. I’m glad to see women excelling at such a grueling sport as they enter the prime ages of their lives. And the increase in money over the years is very hopeful.

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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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Check this out – found it on Women Like Sports blog.

As part of its Pan-European ‘Here I am’ campaign, in which Nike strives to inspire a new generation of women to experience the impact of sports on life, Nike is launching a series of animated films featuring five young female European athletes. Each film shows the unique athlete’s journey towards mental strength gained through sports. As of today, the animated films will be viewable online at nikewomen.com.

A little bit unusual (especially the music) but the ending is pretty cool. I feel like they definitely could have done it a little bit better. I just couldn’t help thinking how weird it was.

Interested in hearing comments about this new effort by Nike.

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I recently had the unique opportunity to interview a pioneer who has dedicated her career to bringing a voice to women’s sports, Jane Schonberger. Jane is the founder and “Chief Trailblazer” for Pretty Tough, a #1 site for female athletes and fans of women’s sports.

Geared toward young girls and their growing desire to play sports, Jane established the Pretty Tough (PT) brand to demonstrate that a woman’s femininity and desire to play hard can be strong and can co-exit. Not only does PT do an excellent job of conveying this message to an audience who needs to hear it the most, but the site also has some of the best comprehensive, up-to-date coverage of women’s sports available.

I am a strong supporter of this site and this company, and I wish Jane the best of luck in her future endeavors. (You might see me guest blogging for PT in the future).

Check out the below interview. I hope you enjoy her words as much as I have. Thank you, Jane, for your inspiration and taking the time to speak with me.

(MH) Tell me a little bit about yourself, your background and your role at Pretty Tough.

(JS) After a successful career as content developer and entertainment/brand marketing executive, I wanted to focus my attention on something I really cared about. I have two teenage daughters – both athletes – who are my role models.  I wanted to create a brand that spoke to them – and other girls of their generation – demonstrating that a woman’s femininity and desire to play hard and be strong can co-exist.

I teamed up with friends and colleagues that I’d worked with at Disney, Fox and other studios to develop and market the brand. I serve as the Chief Trailblazer but I have help from a talented group of writers, designers, consumer product gurus, licensing professionals, athletes and coaches.

(MH) Have you ever played sports? If so, which sports and how have they had an impact upon your current career and involvement with Pretty Tough?


(JS) As a kid I mostly played sports on a recreational level. I played tennis and swam competitively for a couple years but wasn’t a super serious athlete. The impact on my adult life comes primarily from lessons learned about goal-setting, perseverance and mental toughness.

Today I still play tennis and swim – I also love to hike and bike – and I play basketball on a Moms League at our local park.

I’m also an avid spectator – one of my daughters is an elite level soccer player, the other is a fencer – and I love going to youth sports competitions as well as college and professional sports events.

(MH) Tell me a little bit about the background of Pretty Tough (the book) and how the Web site and sports blog evolved from there. Does Liz Tigelaar have any continued impact on the site?

(JS) One of our early goals when we established Pretty Tough was to publish a series of books that featured young female athletes. We wanted stories about pushing limits and busting stereotypes – e.g. the popular jock can just as easily be a girl as a guy.

Razorbill, a division of Penguin Young Readers, shared our vision and bought the series. Pretty Tough was the first book. Playing with the Boys was the second in the series and we’re working on the third and fourth books now.

Pretty Tough novels illustrate the life of female athletes in a way that’s never been done before. We wanted to show the grittiness and sweat that athletes must endure to be the best they can be. The books also delve into the lives of the athletes—their friendships and romances—stuff that appeals to girl readers.

We created the Pretty Tough book series because we love to read, and as teens, we could never find good books with a female athletic main character. We hope readers can identify with our characters and see how they deal with a lot of the same issues teens face today.

Author/screenwriter Liz Tigelaar was brought on board because she supports girls in their quest to be both strong and tough athletes without losing their sense of girlie-ness and femininity.  She loved the idea of writing books about teenagers for teenagers that sends a positive message and she’s done a terrific job capturing the voice of our characters.

(MH) I noticed there is a PT Team. I’m curious, how did this group of people come together? How did you find so many voices to represent so many different sports?

(JS) We developed a sponsorship/ambassador program last year to recognize girls in diverse sports. We have an application process and girls on our team benefit on a variety of levels.  PT Team members get exposure on our site and via our marketing campaigns; they receive a free cap and shirt, stickers, and other promotional material. They also earn discounts on products purchased through our online store and commissions on sales generated by their efforts.


(MH) In my opinion, Pretty Tough covers sports better than many other resources out there. Who is in charge of updating and keeping track of all the latest female sports news? How do they do it?


(JS) Given our limited staff, the task of keeping the site up-to-date is my responsibility. We work with a talented group of girls and women who contribute material specific to their sport and occasionally assign articles we think will be of general interest.

We’re always looking for new writers and experts and want to provide a forum for all female athletes so hit us up if you think you have something to contribute.


(MH) I noticed there is a “Life & Style” section to the site. What is the purpose of this section, and do you think that section is important in order to attain viewers?


(JS) At our heart, we are a lifestyle brand and I think it’s important for girls to understand how sports and leading active lives are core to a healthy lifestyle. By profiling certain personalities and depicting popular culture, we are essentially connecting the dots and demonstrating how sports and sports themes impact our lives positively on a daily basis.

(MH) How does Pretty Tough profit from the site?


(JS) The site was originally established to develop brand awareness for Pretty Tough and serve as an online shopping destination for Pretty Tough products. It has since evolved into a marketing/advertising vehicle for complementary companies as well.


(MH) I was once told by a female sports blogger that a main reason women’s sports publications such as Sports Illustrated for Women have fizzled out over the years is because they can’t compete with the fashion and consumer magazines and publications, and there is limited interest in the sports news alone. What do you think about this?


(JS) I think that print publications in general are finding it difficult to compete with the internet and other content delivery options. Women’s sports magazines just happened to be at the forefront of pubs experiencing financial difficulties. The current trend is in niche content and given the targeted demographic, I think marketers will find women’s sports sites a more cost-effective way to reach their audience.


(MH) I’ve written about this a few times on my blog, but something that really is annoying to me is that male sports bloggers often only cover female sports when the participant is “hot” or attractive. Have you seen this or come across this? What are your thoughts on male sports bloggers?


(JS) Objectifying female athletes is a favorite pastime of many male bloggers. It’s obvious that “hot” or attractive personalities are going to garner more media attention (whether it’s David Beckham or Amanda Beard) but bloggers only interested in T&A are abhorrent. I love to see female athletes in the spotlight but it’s important to recognize their athletic talents and achievements as well as their physical attributes.


(MH) If you look back to the WNBA fight that happened a few months ago, why do you think that was so successful in grabbing so much attention?


(JS) Although it might not have been the kind of attention the WNBA wanted, the mini-brawl did shine the spotlight on the players momentarily. Female athletes are just as competitive as men and when pushed to the edge they are obviously capable of exhibiting the same lack of control.  The bigger question should be: Now that the women have shown they can fight like the NBA players – can they get paid the same as the guys too?:-)

(MH) Since I started covering the Olympics this year, my site traffic jumped. There seems to be a strong interest during the Olympics which fizzles out over the year. Have you seen this as well? What are your thoughts about the Olympics and its ability to generate an interest in female sports?


(JS) With all of the media hype and money spent on the Olympics, it’s no surprise that interest in all sports was heightened during the event. Athletes such as Nastia Liukin, Shawn Johnson, Allyson Felix, Sanya Richardson, Dara Torres, Kerri Walsh and Misty Misty May-Treanor received well deserved attention. Equally important was a focus on athletes like fencer Mariel Zagunis, pole vaulter Jenn Stuczynski and martial artist Diana Lopez. Hopefully interest in them and other female athletes will continue.

(MH) What do you think about women’s softball being eliminated for the London games? Do you think there’s a chance to bring it back?


(JS) Softball’s elimination from the 2012 Games sucks and since the basis of the IOC’s decision was nebulous at best, I think there’s a good chance they’ll reconsider for the 2016 Games.

(MH) It seems there is a large disconnect between the millions of girls and women (through college) who compete in sports on a daily basis and the few of us who cover and follow women’s sports as adults (after college). What do you think about this? Do you think there is a market out there for adult females who want to learn about and follow women’s sports?


(JS) I’m sure there is a market for adult females who want to follow women’s sports – albeit a small one compared to the male market. At PrettyTough.com we try to focus not only on the sports but also on the lifestyle aspects. Our audience is one that lives a “sports-inspired life” and is also interested in the health, beauty, and entertainment aspects of athletics.

(MH) What do you think is essential in capturing this market? What is holding it back from taking off right now? Why aren’t advertisers interested and investing (i.e., Sports Illustrated for Women got dropped a few years back)?


(JS) As mentioned before, niche content and a targeted demographic provide marketers with great opportunities. The cost of producing and distributing a magazine is significant but there are a number of alternative methods for delivering content that provide marketers and advertisers with cost-effective solutions. Companies seriously looking at the bottom line recognize that women involved in sports and living a healthy lifestyle are a valuable demographic with enormous spending power and they should be finding efficient ways to reach them.

(MH) What do you think the future of women’s sports will be? Do you think we’ll generate more attention, or do you think it has leveled off?


(JS) I believe this is just the tip of the iceberg. Just as college sports has exploded in the past 20 years, women’s sports will be the next huge growth area. College basketball games used to be played in empty arenas  – the first nationally televised game wasn’t until 1968 (UCLA vs. Univ. of Houston). Today there are entire cable networks devoted to college sports and they’re big business for all involved. Women’s sports will follow a similar trajectory.

— I’d like to thank Jane Schonberger again for taking the time to speak to me. Her words and mission at Pretty Tough are critical in our ongoing fight to bring a voice to women’s sports online.

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On Tuesday night, we all watched in anticipation: could the USA women’s gymnastics team clinch the gold from China, to win their first since 1996? Apparently not. Instead, the girls walked out of National Indoor Stadium in Beijing on Tuesday with the silver. So what happened?

Earlier in the night, USA’s chances looked pretty good. They entered the final two routines with an excellent shot at snatching the gold from the Chinese. But their hopes came crashing to the floor as captain Alicia Sacramone fell off the balance beam, and subsequently fell in her floor exercise.

And the Chinese won, 188.900 to 186.525. This is the first Olympic gold medal for China’s Olympic women gymnasts.

But we can’t truly say that the gold isn’t tainted. Every athlete knows that there’s nothing better than a home court advantage, and now we all know that this is especially true when it comes to presentation of passports at the Olympics.

The Chinese continue to face questions about the age of three of its six medal-winning athletes, and Beijing Olympics officials are assuring critics that they turn 16 this year, as required under Olympic rules. This was all spurred from a report by the New York Times last month that showed online records that indicate two members of China’s women’s team, He Kexin and Jiang Yuyuan, may be only 14. Personally, I think they look like they’re about seven or eight years old. But maybe that’s just me.

In a sport where many of the athletes are under the weight of 80 pounds, I’m not so sure what goes on in women’s gymnastics is all that healthy.

Many experts say that the reason women’s gymnasts’ bodies look so small is due to the huge amount of stress they undergo at such a high level of competition. That’s precisely the reason they reinstated the rule in 1997 that athletes must be 16 during an Olympic year in order to compete in the Games.

But really, let’s think… these girls train for many years before they get to this level (as is common for most elite athletes), so what’s the rule doing for their overall well-being anyway? It’s still destroying their bodies.

Interesting quote from Helene Elliott of the Tribune Olympic Bureau

“It’s difficult to write about female athletes who compete in sports that put a premium on small, compact body shapes. Calling them tiny seems disrespectful and sexist. They’re athletes who happen to be small, no less an athlete than a basketball player or swimmer. These Chinese gymnasts are tiny. Pre-teen tiny. Haven’t-lost-all-their-baby-teeth-tiny.”

Yes, they’re tiny, which is different. And Lord knows we don’t (especially in America) accept anything that is different.

At the end of the day, it’s important to remember that these women work very, very hard. And it has to be difficult for Sacramone, especially as captain of the American team. They should be congratulated on their hard work, shake hands with their (possibly younger) opponents, and keep their heads up in pride.

After all, the “honor is in competing,” (not winning) right?

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According to the Women’s Sports Foundation, today, American Natalie Coughlin became the first woman to repeat as Olympic champion in the 100-meter backstroke. She set a USA record with 58.96 seconds.

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