|A Review byRebecca James|
|A Celebration of Women in Sports with Julie Foudy April 11, 2005, and
Game Face: What Does a Female Athlete Look Like? by Jane Gottesman & Penny Marshall
Julie Foudy's shoulder-length hair bounced around her face, streaks of blond gleaming from in between the tones of brown and auburn. There was a faint crease that circled from just below one ear, around the back, and touched the other side, like the soccer star had just unleashed a ponytail after a quick run. This impression was furthered by her freshly-scrubbed shining face, and my friend Cyndi's rushed and excited explanation that she had dropped off our evening's key speaker at the local park for an hour jog this afternoon. Not that Foudy looked like she'd just finished a workout, but her slim-fitting suit gave away the idea that exercise couldn't have been too far behind.
This evening, for which Cyndi was a co-chair, was called A Celebration of Women in Sports. Held at Allentown, PA's Cedar Crest College, an all-women's school and my alma mater, the evening was the result of collaboration between the college and the Women's Sports Foundation. While Foudy is not a spokesperson for lesbians in sports, the dinner before the lecture by Foudy certainly boasted some familiar women's faces.
The foundation itself was begun by tennis champ Billie Jean King, the gender-stereotype-battling woman who whomped Bobby Riggs in the 1973 match called "The Battle of the Sexes." In 1973 and 1974, King began devoting her time and energy to sports organizations such as the Women's Tennis Association and the Women's Sports Foundation. The Women's Sports Foundation is instrumental in current Title IX advocacy and legislation. Its most recent initiative branches into the lives of girls who are not involved in organized sports but desperately need physical activity.
The GoGirlGo campaign seeks to fight the statistic cited by another keynote speaker and health organizations nationwide that predicts this generation of children will be the first to have a shorter lifespan than their parents' generation.
The introductory speaker for the evening's event was the National Sports Hall of Fame's Donna Lapiano, Ph.D. A member of the U.S. Olympic Committee's Executive Board, Lopiano has an impressive sports record. The men's and women's college coach has been in 26 different national championships in four sports, including softball. Her primary role was to discuss the presence of women in sports. The lecture began with a fantastic video filled with inspiring images of athletes in a variety of sports from swimming to fencing to soccer. She emphasized the necessity of Title IX and the changes that have occurred in sports since its inception.
Many of these changes in the field of women's sports are depicted in a fairly recent book of photos and essays called Game Face: What Does a Female Athlete Look Like? The book grabbed my attention mostly because of its cover photo of soccer great Brandy Chastain, who teammate Julie Foudy mentioned several times during her portion of the lecture. Chastain made history and headlines at the 1999 World Cup when she ripped off her jersey in a display of victorious excitement, displaying evidence of her physical dedication to the sport (read: ripped abs). The book features dozens of women who challenge how the public thinks of women and women athletes, and it includes essays describing the women's contributions to sports.
Julie Foudy, the star of the evening, spoke for a powerful half-hour or more, sprinkling her personal insights and experiences into her easy banter with the audience. She explained the sheer exhaustion associated with more than 15 years' dedication to the U.S. Soccer team. She and teammate Mia Hamm began training with the national team as teenagers. Together, they watched the field of women's sports gain recognition on an international level. They finally retired from playing professionally, but still serve a larger purpose, using their status as role models to inspire women and girls to take action.
Foudy spoke of dreams in her speech. Realizing a dream, according to her, is a long, multifaceted process. She recalled the beginnings of her career, when most of the sports world questioned the young women's dedication to the sport in the absence of national and international competition opportunities. Imagining that these opportunities would eventually appear was part of reaching their dream. Her words could potentially apply to so many different kinds of people. I watch the public debate gay rights as it did women's rights and sometimes I get so frustrated. We have to believe that someday the opportunity for equality will emerge if we believe and work hard enough, as it did for these elite athletes.
Overall, the lecture was well received. Members of the audience included the College's athletes, older local athletes, the mayor, and a hundred other women, men, and children interested in women's sports. When Foudy finished, we were treated to a question and answer session that included the athlete's predilection for frost-flavored Gatorade (she's not sponsored by them; the question was just asked by a student). Finally, I was able to witness a huge swarm of young girls rushing the stage with posters and jerseys in hand, begging their favorite soccer star to personalize it and listen to their own promises that they, too, will be famous someday.
Rebecca James is an English teacher in Allentown, PA and a summer resident of Rehoboth.
LETTERS From CAMP Rehoboth, Vol. 15, No. 4 May 6, 2005