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Posts Tagged ‘women athletes’

Why Playing On A Team Can Save You

In behavior, sports on August 4, 2010 at 2:30 pm
Players at the Homeless World Cup 2007 in Cope...
Image via Wikipedia

I’d never heard of the Homeless World Cup. Now, for the first time, a women’s version will be held.

From The New York Times:

Earlier, during the end-of-tournament celebration, a moment of pride engulfed T K Ajiboye of Far Rockaway, N.Y. Ajiboye served 18 months on a drug charge, he said. After his release, he worked at various jobs and eventually joined the Street Soccer New York team and moved into the HELP Supportive Employment Center of Wards Island.

Ajiboye, now working as a waiter, was named to the 12-man player pool from which the eight-player United States team that competes in the 2010 Homeless World Cup in Brazil in September will be selected.

“Being part of this scene means a whole lot,” he said. “No one person has it worse. If you meet the next person and you hear his problems, you’re ‘Oh my God.’ It makes my foundation even stronger.”

For the first time, a women’s Homeless World Cup will be held. Wrightsman was named to the 10-member pool from which the eight-player United States team will be selected. Later in the day, she added the USA Cup’s most valuable player honors.

“I’m honored, shocked, “ she said of making the national team. “I’ve worked harder to do this than anything in my life.”

I’ve been playing team sports competitively since I moved to New York in 1989. It’s deeply ironic to me that, having moved to New York to carve out a place in journalism — a ferociously crowded field in a relentlessly elbows-out city — my sports pals and coaches, (and all that athletic competing), has proven my balm and refuge.

I didn’t grow up playing team sports seriously, but as an adult find them intensely satisfying. If nothing else, and it’s a lot, I find there a level playing field with bells and lights and whistles, rules and yellow cards and umps and judges. The best win, the weaker lose.

I was a nationally ranked saber fencer in the mid 1990s, then took up sailboat racing and now have been playing co-ed softball for eight years. In every sport, in every venue, it is always my team mates and fellow crew who truly know me best.

However cliche, sports competition within the matrix of a good team with a smart coach, can elicit our deepest, most hidden strengths and, sometimes, tame some of our demons.

I hate losing, and it’s inevitable — at least your team shares defeat with you. In victory, each plays a part. Even until very recently, with a severely compromised left hip, I was still playing second base and hitting to the outfield, albeit with a pinch runner. I love the inter-reliance of my team sports, the high fives and long lunches afterward to debrief, celebrate, commiserate. I am in awe of one team-mate, a man in his 60s who had a multiple organ transplant last year, who runs the bases.

I think this experience of being accepted and valued — and coached and pushed — is essential for every young girl and woman, even if briefly or unsuccessfully. Women, especially, are told their bodies are only valuable when thin, pretty, conventionally shaped and/or producing babies. Athletic achievement offers us a clean and potentially powerful place to (also) appreciate our stamina, strength, flexibility, self-discipline.

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Here's A Soccer Story You Will (Guaranteed) Enjoy

In sports, women on June 15, 2010 at 12:59 pm
A football (or soccer ball) icon.

Image via Wikipedia

Loved this story in The New York Times:

About 1:45 p.m. Sunday afternoon, a caravan of luxury cars and sport utility vehicles roared into the park where hundreds of supporters had been waiting. President Jacob Zuma had arrived. The president was in this town, about 260 miles northeast of Johannesburg, to commemorate the life of Peter Mokaba, an antiapartheid activist.

Five days before the start of the World Cup, the stars of the celebration were a soccer team — a group of 35 women ages 49 to 84. After the speeches and ceremonies, the team, Vakhegula Vakhegula (Grannies Grannies), would play an exhibition game.

Beka Ntsanwisi founded Vakhegula Vakhegula five years ago as a way of providing inspiration for older women. The team usually plays its league games on Saturdays, but this was a special day with the president coming. And Ntsanwisi wanted to have a word with the president.

From the team’s meager beginning, Vakhegula Vakhegula have become well known in the region, and news of the team has spread to the United States. The team received an invitation to compete in the Veterans Cup, a tournament for teams with players 30 or older, next month in Lancaster, Mass.

I posted last week a story I wrote for the Times about my suburban adult softball team, with whom I’ve been playing for nine years, a group of men and women whose friendship — and athletic skills — have made my life incomparably more joyful.

Like the Grannies, our games are intergenerational and as much about having fun with people we truly enjoy as competing in a sport. I love knowing that sports, and sports-related friendships, are enjoyed just as much by other women around the world.

For Onica Ndzhovela, the Grannies helped her spirit from being broken. She had 12 children; 8 of them died.

“People were saying I was mad,” Ndzhovela said. “I was not mad; I had a lot of stress. It’s not easy to lose eight.”

The Grannies became her family; the soccer competition became an emotional outlet.

Female Athletes Almost Invisible On Television — Except Abby Sunderland

In sports, women on June 11, 2010 at 10:12 pm
Lorena Ochoa (MEX) on the day before 2008 Mast...

Lorena Ochoa. Image via Wikipedia

Women athletes are getting even less visible (if that’s possible) on television, according to a new study.

In 2004, they got a big 5.6 percent of network news coverage and today get — wait for it — 1.6 percent.

This, in the era of awesome women like race car driver Danica Patrick, golfer Michelle Wie, tennis stars Serena and Venus Williams, (recently retired) golfer Lorena Ochoa — and the wave of Korean women now dominating the LPGA.

Here’s an interesting post on what this might do to young girls who dream of sports careers. If you don’t see people like you (hello, men’s pro sports) playing at the highest levels of amateur, elite and professional sport, let alone talking about how they train, recover from surgery and injury, choose and work with their coaches, caddies and trainers — how will today’s eager young girls know it’s possible for them as well?

Anyone remember the media frenzy over soccer star Mia Hamm, who won Olympic gold in 1996 and 2004? Athletic little girls, and teens, need powerful, cool women role models much more than little boys — there’s no lack of guys on TV playing sports.

I burst into tears of pride and awe when the U.S. women took bronze, silver and gold (!!!) in saber fencing at the 2008 Olympics — because I was one of the first women (of about 300) to compete nationally in saber, back when it was considered too dangerous for women in the Olympics. That was only in the 1990s…Women who make sports history are often inspired by other women.

Ever heard of Isabelle Autissier? She’s my idol, a solo sailor in some of the world’s toughest races. She had to be rescued when her yacht went down mid-race.

I bet you Abby Sunderland, the 16-year-old sailor who’s been making headlines this week, knows exactly who she is.

Why are women athletes deemed so non-newsworthy?

This Kick-Ass Athlete Isn't Skinny (And Wears $1,000 Heels)

In sports, women on May 26, 2010 at 11:58 am
HAVRE DE GRACE, MD - JUNE 09: Christina Kim (U...

Image via Wikipedia

Love this profile of pro golfer Christina Kim, from The Wall Street Journal:

It’s worth noting, as always with Ms. Kim, what she was wearing Monday night: a low-cut black sheath dress, spectacular jewelry and lacy, high-strapped, 4-inch René Caovilla heels which must have cost at least $1,000 when she bought them in Dubai last December. “They’ve even got sparklies on the bottom,” she told an admiring cluster while demurely balancing on one shoe to show off the sole of the other. A few minutes earlier she had smashed a few 250-yard drives on the range at Chelsea Piers, just behind the party room, wearing said impossible shoes.

The title of Ms. Kim’s book, appropriately enough, is “Swinging From My Heels: Confessions of an LPGA Star.” Written with Sports Illustrated’s Alan Shipnuck and structured as an account of her 2009 season, it’s just the kind of saucy tell-all you’d expect from perhaps the Tour’s most flamboyant personality…”I’m loud, I’m not thin and I say what I think. I’ve got a bunch of good friends among the Koreans, but it’s complicated.”

She’d already earned her first million dollars by the age of 19. I love her ambition, talent and determination to be her own woman. In a world where some women start reaching for Botox and Restylane in their 20s, and spend more energy wrestling with body issues than actually doing sports, Kim’s not afraid to be herself, at any size.

(Doing anything athletic that requires accuracy well in high heels is tough; I once trained on a Glock 9mm at Quantico, FBI’s headquarters, in three-inch heels.)

A talented female athlete who’s loud, not thin, kicks ass both on the golf course and in rhinestone-studded four-inch heels? Bring it on!

With A Smile, A New Husband — and $15 Million — Lorena Ochoa Leaves Pro Golf Tomorrow

In sports, women on April 27, 2010 at 7:38 am

How refreshing — a golf story that isn’t about infidelity.

This week, Lorena Ochoa, 28, a rarity as a Hispanic woman in the elite world of professional golf, (dominated of late by Korean women), is retiring to focus on her husband and starting a family. She is the number one player in women’s golf.

She plays her final tournament in Morelia, Mexico this Thursday. Here’s her website announcement.

From The New York Times:

“I do want to be remembered for the things outside the golf course,” she said. “I’m going to work really hard, and this is the compromise I have to myself, a responsibility to give back in order to help others to make a change in their life. I’m going to work on that. That is my goal.”

As she has shown, she is very good at achieving the goals she sets. As for the game, to be sure, Ochoa lost the desire to travel the hard road of professional golf. She was candid in saying she had lost the drive required to remain No. 1, a position she occupied for the past three years.

“Once you reach your goals, it’s really hard to find that motivation,” Ochoa said. “You need to be brave to see that. Just to really listen to your heart and your feelings and be able to see that and make a decision.”

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