BY OLIVIA SKIBIEL | EDITORIAL INTERN
Every sport is a type of universal language. Whether it’s soccer, basketball, volleyball, golf or water polo, sports are known worldwide. But the problem with the sports world is not the specific game, but the isolation of women’s sports. Many women love the sport they play, but are not recognized like men are. Furthermore, many stereotypes have affected women’s basketball drastically; the WNBA has been called “lesbian-ball,” the athletes are not paid enough; and some have called being drafted into the WNBA as a “dead end street.” As a high school volleyball and basketball player, I have been ostracized just because I’m a “girl player.” Over the intercom at our school, the morning announcements often announce boys’ sports games first, sometimes even skipping right over the girls’ athletic events. Growing up around sports, there’s no surprise when our community rallies behind every boys’ team in town and not girls’, and I know it frustrates every girl athlete out there. Our generation needs to change the common outlook for women of every sport, around the world. Many girls can and need to look up to women who dominate the sports they play. Sending positive messages to the younger generations will only make our future that much brighter.
The short film “When I Play,” created by ESPNW’s Allison Glock, portrays the theme of inspiring and recognizing girl athletes for who they are and promoting women’s sports. The video starts off by saying, “No boy has ever been told he shouldn’t play, couldn’t play. I am no longer interested in shouldn’ts or couldn’ts or rules not written for me.” Throughout the video, girl athletes talk about how they don’t play for anybody else but themselves and each other. It’s important to feel a desire and an ambition to strive to be the best you can be, despite what others say. The video wraps up by saying “This world, too small to hold me… my movement, a movement. This is not the end of my dream. This is where I wake up.” Just like the Awesome Sports Project, ESPNW wants to show everybody of all ages, gender and color that a movement is on the rise–and it will change sports forever.
Just as the video “When I Play” symbolizes equal opportunity for girls and boys, a few celebrity athletes have also spoken out on the topic. Serena Williams is one of the most iconic women athletes, and her name is often synonymous with sports equality. However, in a recent interview with Common, she talks about gender bias and how it is affecting her career as a professional athlete. Throughout the interview, Serena emphasizes the fact that if she were a man, she would’ve been considered one the all-time greatest at least seven or eight years ago. As the interview progresses, she makes a statement that really stuck with me. “We are doctors, we are lawyers, we are athletes, we are CEO’s. We are everything; women make up so much of this world.” Oftentimes, women are overlooked and thought to be powerless. Although it may be hidden in society, as Serena Williams states, women make up everything and are the power to many things. Williams also recited the poem “If” by Rudyard Kipling, which has a powerful message about becoming a woman if you are to do certain things. During the video, Serena changes the focus of the poem from becoming a man, to an ode to all women. This recitation really shows who Serena is, and what she stands for: equality for both men and women in the sports world.
As a high school volleyball and basketball player, I have been ostracized just because I’m a “girl player.”
Moreover, women’s basketball teams have been breaking records, and setting new standards for the sport. One of the most famous achievements this year is UConn winning over 100 straight games, and the program continues to grow under coach Geno Auriemma. However, with all the praise, there comes negativity on social media. As I was scrolling through my Twitter feed, I noticed a woman posted screenshots of comments on ESPN’s Instagram picture of the UConn women’s basketball team. The Instagram post congratulated Katie Lou Samuelson on shooting 10 for 10 from the three point line in their AAC tournament championship win a week ago. The Tweeter shared comments under the picture: “Nobody cares go back to the kitchen,” “It’s women’s, not really a D1 record if there ain’t no comp.” I couldn’t believe what I just read. The fact that people just assume women are not as good as men is baffling. Being an athlete who wants to move on and play at the next level, I see these comments all the time; however, this was one instance where I was very shocked at the intense negativity. While ESPNW is trying to send messages about creating a new perspective on women’s sports and Serena Williams speaks up for receiving more recognition for women’s sports, our society at large is still unaware about how this sexism affects us athletes. It’s time to make a change and a name for women’s athletics. Just because girls are different than boys, doesn’t mean we don’t have similarities. Our passion and love for whatever we do cannot be taken from us, and now is the time to change that.
Each month, our editorial interns research articles written by or about women’s sports. Our Sports Round Ups is a gathering place of women sports news and voices. Our mission is to spread awareness of women’s voices in the sporting field, to help tell the stories of our community, and to inspire her own understanding and voice.