It seems on Sunday I was one of the few people who did not watch the Women’s World Cup final for soccer. I hope that indicates that women’s sports is gaining momentum in the U.S.
I was not able to watch the game since I don’t have cable and was stuck at home with an uncertain car situation. But I do know that many of my friends and family members tuned in to watch the U.S. take on Japan. Apparently much of the world tuned in as well, since I read online that there were more tweets (Twitter messages) per second during the world cup than for any event ever.
What impressed me most was that men and women, young and old alike, watched the game. Often women’s sporting events don’t seem to attract the attention they deserve, but even my grandpa and guy cousins watched the game on Sunday. On the radio I heard several men say they tuned in with their sons and brothers to support team U.S.A.
I’ve long wondered why many people won’t take the time to watch women play sports, as if there is something unnatural or subpar about it. You can’t watch something like the Women’s World Cup and tell me that those women play with any less heart or train with any less discipline than men.
In college, I wrote a paper about media coverage of women’s sports. I gathered numerous research papers with studies showing that not only do women’s sports get a fraction of the coverage that men’s sports do, but when female athletes are featured, people often focus on things like their appearance. The study made me furious, so I decided to choose the sports beat when I took my first journalism class at Salem College. I attended a few basketball games and wrote stories about various teams on campus. Though our college did not have the most successful teams in the league, I was always impressed by the dedication and positive attitudes of the young women on the teams.
Before you say, “Oh, that’s crazy, female athletes get the same treatment as guys now,” I want you to go talk to the young women you know who play sports. Ask them if they have ever felt like their teams received less attention than the guys. Ask them if it has ever been implied or stated that they can’t run as fast or throw as hard or jump as high because they are girls. The answers might surprise you.
We should encourage our daughters, not just our sons, to participate in some sort of physical activity. Whatever positive lessons boys can get out of sports, girls can get, too. They learn the importance of discipline, physical fitness, grace under pressure, good sportsmanship and teamwork. There’s nothing unfeminine about a girl who can kick around a soccer ball or shoot a ball through a hoop. It just shows that she is well-rounded.
We need to support our female athletes. I know progress has been made over the years, and I hope it continues. I’m not expecting to wake up next year and read that the women’s NCAA basketball tournament surpassed the men’s in popularity; I’m not even implying that should happen. I’m just asking us all to open our minds and get rid of any stereotypes we have about female athletes. If I have daughters one day, I want them to grow up in a world where the sky’s the limit, where their athletic achievements are met with thunderous cheers.
Meghann Evans is a reporter with The Mount Airy News. She can be reached at 719-1952 or firstname.lastname@example.org.