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Posts Tagged ‘women’s sports’

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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It seems that the rivalry between the University of Connecticut and the University of Tennessee, established through tough competition in women’s basketball play, is extending to football – the two football clubs have agreed to play each other in 2015-2016.

I don’t think too many people would disagree with the fact that Pat Summit’s Tennessee program and Geno Auriemma’s UConn program have drawn both incredible talent and great media coverage for the sport (and women’s sports in general).

But I thought it was really interesting ESPN actually went out on a limb and reported on it, saying that the football teams “don’t have quite the same pedigree.” I couldn’t believe my eyes when I read that!

Apparently, the USA’s women’s basketball powerhouses are actually being given some credit in their ability to draw attention, even in the “big dog” world of college football. This is the first time I’ve ever seen it happen.

Here’s what ESPN had to say:

Connecticut and Tennessee’s rivalry is moving from the basketball court to the football field.

Connecticut announced Thursday that Tennessee will visit Rentschler Field in East Hartford in 2015, and the Huskies will travel to Neyland Stadium in Knoxville the following year.

The two women’s basketball powers had met annually, until Tennessee canceled the series a year ago. The schools’ football teams don’t have quite the same pedigree.

Tennessee won the 1998 national championship in football and has 13 Southeastern Conference titles to its credit. UConn is beginning its sixth season in the Bowl Championship subdivision and is coming off a 9-4 season and its first Big East co-championship.

Needless to say, I’m going to watch this game, and see if the commentators happen to say anything about how the women’s basketball programs have built a rivalry that has extended beyond their sport and gender. My guess is it will be mentioned, briefly.

If only they’d announce women’s sports schedules that far in advance on ESPN….

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Tennis is one of the women’s sports (along with women’s golf) which has been able to attract a large amount of journalistic attention. Part of that, in my opinion, is due to the Williams’ sisters ability to perform, and perform well against each other. Wednesday night’s match between Serena and Venus did just that.

According to The New York Times, last night’s quarterfinal match at the U.S. Open went to Serena, 7-6 (6), 7-6 (7), giving her a 9-8 lead in this series. However, Venus’s 125-mile-an-hour serve is definately something to watch. Can you imagine trying to hit that?

Do the sisters like playing against each other? The NY Times says,

Serena, a few weeks shy of 27, was on record as saying that it stinks to have to play Venus, just turned 28, so early, but the competition itself seems to have become business as usual, as the sisters play for themselves.

Because the Williams sisters played on the court named for Billie Jean-King, they discussed her opinion of the sisters, as well as her new book, Pressure Is a Privilege: Lessons I’ve Learned From Life and the Battle of Sexes (LifeTime Media, Inc).

In the book, says the NY Times, King describes the thrill of watching Venus accept the champion’s check of $1.4 million at Wimbledon in 2007, and how Venus said live on the BBC, “No one loves tennis more than Billie Jean King.” And then Venus addressed King: “I love you. I wouldn’t be here if it weren’t for you.”

Whether the sports ability to draw attention is due to icons of the past like Billie Jean King or phenoms of the present like Serena and Venus, or the Open’s decision to hold a subsequent match between Nadal and Fish immediately after the Williams’ show, we’ll never know.

It should also be noted that another possible reason W.T.A. (Women’s Tennis Association) is able to draw so much attention is due to their innovative marketing skills and strategy. For instance, WTA just announced a new revenue sharing plan for players and a revamped ranking system to emphasize the important tournaments. Plus, the W.T.A. officially approved on-court coaching for next year – they’ll be wearing microphones to bring fans “closer to the game”.

But having bloggers from The New York Times following every serve, volley and replay of the U.S. Open, discussing women’s competition regularly and fairly, is truly an accomplishment for us in general. I hope other sports can soon follow in their footsteps.

To follow the action of the tournament, check out the U.S. Open site.

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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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Thanks for this one, Total Pro Sports. Seems like I’m getting more and more evidence every day.

Included on this disgusting list are Jenny Finch, Kerry Walsh, Misty May-Treanor, Dara Torres, Chen Xiaoli. Ok, so all five are stars. Four are from USA. One is randomly from China, and hers has my favorite comment,

“Almost two meters of Chinese hotness.  I bet she has a pair of chicken balls under those shorts.”

I think “DanD” wins on the “Beyond ignorance: sexism PLUS added racism = I’m stupid” award. Any company who advertises or associates with that blog is plain stupid. Law suit waiting to happen.

These women have been working hard their whole lives on becoming Olympic athletes, and once they get to this level, they’re immediately materialized by their male counterparts’ fans. So typical, and so disappointing.


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According to The Nutz blog, it seems to be only what we look like, not so much how well we play…

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Here’s a bit of news that you wouldn’t find on any mainstream sports blogs…

Claiming the 2008 World Championship of Women’s Football, the H-Town Cyclones beat the West Michigan Mayhem 39-10. This is the first time in history the South has won the Women’s Football championship.

Rassin McIntosh took home Offensive MVP (first picture, below) and Renee Cosby took home Devensive MVP (second picture, below)

To be honest, I didn’t even know that the NWFA exited until today. This is a sport that displays aggression and strategy, and could really use some publicity, particularly online.

NWFA has teams located in most major cities (check out their site).

Some interesting information about the NWFA:

“The NWFA was formed in August, 2000 by well known sports and entertainment entrepreneur, Catherine Masters. Masters, who has more than 25 years experience in the top levels of these industries, decided it was time for women to have the chance to play full contact football in a well organized and professionally run league. Starting with two teams, the Nashville Dream and the Alabama Renegades, the league held a pre-season showcase of six games. This pre-season ran from October 14, 2000 until December 2, 2000. The pre-season was a rousing success with thousands of fans in the stands and incredible support from the media worldwide.

In the years that followed, the NWFA expanded to include over 40 teams from Maine to Florida and from Baltimore to the West Coast and everything in between.”

Very, very cool. Who is going to be the first to start an NWFA team in Washington, DC?

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