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Archive for the ‘Sportsmanship’ Category

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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This June, Nike opened the doors to The Stringer Center for Child Development at its 177-acre campus in Beaverton, Ore.

I tired to find pictures online, but unfortunatley had no such luck (the picture on this post is of the front of Nike headquarters).

The Stringer Center is a 35,000-square-foot facility that houses 26 classrooms, providing care, learning and development for approximately 300 children between the ages of six months and 5 years old.

According to the Women’s Sports Foundation, Stringer is the third woman, the second coach, and the first African-American woman to have a building named after her on Nike’s campus. She has directed Rutgers to two Final Four appearances during her 13-year tenure. In 2000, she became the first coach, male or female, to take three different programs to the Final Four. This past season, Stringer became just the third women’s coach and the ninth coach overall to record 800 wins.

Wooo Hoo! Go Vivian, Nike, and Rutgers!

I bet Nike’s campus is something incredible. I’d love to go see it someday.

Nike is a strong supporter of women in sport. The commercials often say women will be stronger, healthier and more independent if they are allowed to play sports.

These are messages that need to be ingrained in the minds of our youth, and I’d like to commend Nike for their support of our efforts on the playing fields.

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The Women’s Sports Foundation is holding a poll/contest on their Web site to select two champion athletes (one team, one individual) for their Sportswoman of the Year Award.

Award winners will be announced on October 14, 2008, and honored at the Annual Salute to Women in Sports Awards Dinner at the Waldorf-Astoria in New York City. Cast your vote by midnight, September 2, and you’ll be entered in a drawing to win one of five items autographed by your favorite sportswomen.

The nominees for the “team” category are:
– Patty Cisneros
– Anastasia Davydova and Anastasia Ermakova
– Sandra Kiriasis
– Jessica Mendoza
– Hannah Nielsen
– Candace Parker
– Misty May-Treanor and Kerri Walsh
– Marta Vieira da Silva
– Hayley Wickenheiser
– Venus and Serena Williams

The nominees for the “individual” category are:
– Mao Asada
– Veronica Campbell-Brown
– Natalie Coughlin
-Ashley Fiolek
– Allison Fisher
– Yelena Isinbayeva
– Nastia Liukin
– Lorena Ochoa
– Lindsey Vonn
– Rebecca Ward

I guess I’m a fan of the Olympics (or that’s what’s on the top of my mind) because I voted for Misty-May Treanor for the “team” category and Nastia Liukin for the “individual” category. I know the contest is based on more than just Olympic performances, but I just couldn’t help myself.

I encourage everyone to vote!!!

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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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An exciting weekend in international sports as Beijing gets started. It’s only been just over three days and we’ve already seen some incredible performances. Below are some highlights of what’s happened for the women over the weekend, broken down by sport.

I thoroughly enjoy the positive impact that Wikipedia has made on my life, as well as to the quality and access of information available. Therefore, trusting the online contributors, I took what’s there and compiled a list of updates on women’s performances from the weekend. If you have anything to add, please do so in the comments field at the bottom of this post.

Friday, 8/8

Soccer:

Norway beat defending champion United States 2–0 in group G for soccer (women’s football).

Norwegian striker Leni Larsen Kaurin‘s second-minute goal was the fastest-ever goal in the women’s Olympic football tournament.[2] Meanwhile, reigning World Cup champion Germany drew 0–0 with Brazil in group F.[3] Host China won its opening game by beating Sweden 2–1 in group E.[4]

Saturday, 8/9

Archery:

South Korea set an Olympic record in the ranking round of women’s team archery.

Weight lifting:

Chen Xiexia of China won the Women’s 48 kilogram (that’s 105 lbs) Weightlifting competition, successfully completing all her attempts winning the gold with 95kg (209 lbs) in the snatch and 117kg (257.4 lbs) in the Clean and Jerk for a total of 212kg (466.4 lbs) a new Olympic Record.

Fencing:

The United States swept the medals in the women’s sabre event, the first U.S. podium sweep of a fencing event since 1904. Mariel Zagunis took gold.

Soccer:

Norway qualifies for the quarterfinals of the women’s football tournament with a 1–0 win over New Zealand.

Air Rifle:

Kateřina Emmons of the Czech Republic wins the first gold medal of the games, setting an Olympic record for both the qualifying (with a perfect 400) and final scores, in the women’s 10 m air rifle.

Sunday, August 10

Archery:

South Korea set a world record for a 24-arrow team match, in their victory over Italy in the quarter finals of the women’s team archery event.

Air Pistol:

Guo Wenjun of China wins gold in women’s 10 metre air pistol and sets a new Olympic record for final score with 492.3 points, after Natalia Paderina of Russia had bettered the Olympic qualification record to 391.

During the medal ceremony, Pederina and bronze medalist Nino Salukvadze of Georgia shared a symbolic embrace as their two countries continued to war; the two had been friends since they both competed for the Soviet Union. (see picture to the right)

Swimming:

Australian swimmer Stephanie Rice sets a new world record in women’s 400 m individual medley, winning Australia’s 400th Summer Olympics medal. Second place Kirsty Coventry of Zimbabwe also finished below the previous world record.

The Netherlands team wins women’s 4 x 100 m freestyle relay final with a new Olympic record of 3:33.76.

Darra Torres won the silver in the 400m Free Relay.

Weight lifting:

Prapawadee Jaroenrattanatarakoon of Thailand wins gold in women’s 53 kg weightlifting and sets a new Olympic record for clean and jerk. This is Thailand’s first medal in the 2008 games

Cycling:

Nicole Cooke of Great Britan took the gold medal in the Women’s Road race.

Women’s Springboard:

Guo Jingjing and Wu Minxia of China took the gold medal in the women’s synchronized springboard competition.

Judo:

Xian Dongmei of China took the women’s Judo gold medal.

Swimming:

Inge Dekker, Ranomi Kromowidjojo,Femke Heemskerk, Marleen Veldhuis of the Netherlands took the gold medal in the women’s 4x100m freestyle relay.

… and much more to come later.

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Last week, Olympic officials set up a “gender determination lab” to test the gender of female athletes suspected to be male. This spurred a beautifully written Op Ed in the New York Times. I encourage all readers (female athletes in particular) to take a look.

The subject of a “sex test” began back in 1968 when it was believed that Communist countries were using male athletes in women’s competitions.

But a “sex test” really describes the world’s obsession with the difference between what is male and what is female. Because excellence in athletics can sometimes blur that line, test are required to make sure no one crosses it.

Jennifer Finney Boylan, the writer for the NY Times Op Ed, says,

“The Olympic hosts seem to want to impose a binary order upon the messy continuum of gender. They are searching for concreteness and certainty in a world that contains neither.”

On the surface, the test seems fair. That is, until you consider where the tests are being conducted, and what type of cultural bias might be on the table.

Boylan says that China’s tests are likely to produce the wrong answers, because they measure “maleness” and “femaleness” differently. Also, the test is looking for a Y chromosome, and androgen sensitivities (a fairly common problem) could cause many females to test “positive” for “maleness.”

We can see the type of impact this result can have by listening to the story of  Santhi Soundarajan (pictured above), a runner from India who was “sex tested” in Asia in 2006.

“[Santhi Soundarajan] was stripped of her silver medal in the 800 meters at the Asian Games in 2006 for “failing” a sex test. An Indian athletics official told The Associated Press that Soundarajan had “abnormal chromosomes.” She was ridiculed in the press, and her career was destroyed. In the wake of her global humiliation, she attempted suicide.”

This test is not safe nor fair, and faulty results can cause public humiliation and shame. It could pose a serious problem for the women who we are sending overseas to compete, and is a topic that needs to be further discussed on a broader level.

In terms of putting this subject into words, listen to Ms. Boylan…

“It would be nice to live in a world in which maleness and femaleness were firm and unwavering poles. People can be forgiven for wanting to live in a world as simple as this, a place in which something as basic as gender didn’t shift unsettlingly beneath our feet.

But gender is malleable and elusive, and we need to become comfortable with this fact, rather than afraid of it.”

It will be interesting to see if we hear more on the “gender determination lab” which will test female athletes suspected of being male in Beijing.

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