Women & Access to Sports

My team is always working and playing hard on the platform so it is nice to do something completely different, and last Saturday we cheered on the Angel City Football Club.  If you have never heard of them, then you have been missing out because they are an amazing football (soccer) team!

As I watched this game, my mind became filled with memories about the first women’s sporting event I ever went to, and what it took for these high-level female athletes to reach the pinnacle of their sport.

It was mid-1997 and I was eagerly waiting for the pre-sale to open to buy tickets for a game that is now known as a watershed moment in U.S. women’s soccer and women sports in general.  With diligence it happened, and for many days thereafter I could not believe that I managed to get two tickets to the Final Game of the 1999 FIFA Women’s World Cup at the Rose Bowl! 

Fast forward two years later in the Summer of 1999, and I am upstairs in my parent’s room where my mom humors me early that morning as she hair color sprayed the American flag design on my pulled back, ponytailed hair (mom did great by the way).  The colored hair was part of my All-Americana outfit that I was going to wear along with the American flag as my cape all the while embarrassing my poor dad who I had asked to join me for the game.  He has always loved the sport so I was excited to go take him to a women’s soccer game, a first for both of us.  The game went into shootout which is exciting for the spectators and a hell of way to win a hard-fought match where the U.S. women were victorious finishing 5-4 against the Chinese team.  The public interest that this Cup generated was tremendous, especially the Final Game which opened doors, and led to the creation of what is now known as the National Women’s Soccer League where Angel City FC is one of its teams!

By the time my dad and I went to that game, I had been weightlifting for three years and competing at the national level.  I eventually got to represent Team USA internationally as well, which is something that would never have happened without the opportunity and access that I was given to the sport.  And even though Title IX, the civil rights law that was codified in 1972, which prohibits sex-based discrimination and opened the door for women to participate in sports, unfortunately is still a work-in-progress.  It is frustrating to know that it has been twenty-five years since that historic game and access to sports for women is still an issue.  In 2021, the NCAA came under scrutiny for providing different amenities to the men’s and women’s basketball teams during March Madness, a stark example was in their weight rooms where the women were provided with a small single rack of dumbbells (30 lbs. worth) and the men had a full room of weights, bars, etc.  We will not be able to achieve equality without effort, so the work must continue for all of us in and out of sports to make this a more just place.

With these things in mind, I am grateful that I could share this experience with my dad, my team and the many little girls and boys in the stadium that night.  And I am especially grateful that somewhere along the way someone believed in each of these female athletes to give them a chance.  Access creates opportunities that can be life changing.