Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Women coaching men: The RI round-up

Here is a very "comprehensive" article about women who coach men/boys in Rhode Island. High school and college coaches and some of their achievements. The writer lists ALL of the women who coach men/boys and where they do so. There are 32 in total. No names or numbers about how many coach women/girls. Also the article kind of fails to critique the whole opposite gender coaching thing instead opting for a progress narrative punctuated, of course, by the above-mentioned list.

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Calling Wimbledon on its sexism

I have to admit I don't go to Wimbledon's official site to read the articles. I go for scores and schedules and draws. That's probably a good thing given the reporting the site did on Gisela Dulko's defeat of Maria Sharapova yesterday. The story, which was all about the sex appeal of the players, has been taken down but this columnist does a good job recreating and critiquing it.
Players and promoters and agents have, for the most part, embraced the sex sells mantra in an attempt to legitimize women's tennis (hint: you're actually doing the opposite!). But the columnist is right to note that it should not be on a tournament's own site. The article seems to have turned a sports contest into a beauty contest--which player looked sexier in her all-white attire? It noted that Dulko has been named to lists of the sexiest players.
It is especially unfortunate to see it on the Wimbledon site given that I have heard several stories now about how Wimbledon will not sell out. It does not have an excessive amount of sponsors or ads placed here, there, and everywhere. But it clearly has bought into the selling of the sex appeal of its female players.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

The Beat goes on

The Atlanta Beat, formerly of the WUSA, will join the WPS next year as an expansion team. The addition of the Beat was announced last week. It will be the 9th WPS team
As previously reported, Philly will host a team next year: Philadelphia Independence.
The name of the Atlanta franchise is a carryover from the WUSA (naming rights issues were what apparently held up the announcement) but colors have changed. Team colors will be "Ferrari red and gold."
Wonder which color they will go with for the skort??

Monday, June 22, 2009

Guess what I saw?

Pop Star on Ice: The Johnny Weir Story.
Yes the good side to this lousy weather that happened to come while I was on vacation in P-town (but thankfully a day after the bike ride here) is that it's a great opportunity to go to the movies. It was also really good for the Provincetown International Film Festival.
So when the weather took its gusty turn yesterday I headed to the program guide and was psyched to see the Weir documentary--which I had never heard of previously--on the schedule for the last day of the festival. And I also thought, "Pat Griffin would want me to see this movie." So I went. I thought it would be a big draw here in P-town among some of the gay boys but it was not sold out and the crowd was mixed in terms of gender, sexuality, and age.
And after seeing the documentary, I have a better understanding of why.
The filmmakers establish early on--in case you didn't already know--that Johnny Weir is a little bit different; that he knows what people say about him and his skating and what he chooses to pay attention to and what he simply puts aside. They do this using a timeline to frame the stories presented and move forward and backward along the timeline that is marked mostly with competitions. I thought the timeline as a frame was a little hackneyed but it was easy to ignore it because the footage was so compelling from Johnny's training sessions on and off the ice, to interviews with his coach and mother, to more candid moments with Johnny and his best bud Paris. There were the "infamous moments" when Weir makes metaphors comparing programs to drinking vodka and snorting cocaine. I never thought these comments were really that bad and when you see them in context they seem even less egregious. But then we see the fallout and how Weir has to deal with it.
Christine Brennan appears in the film and I believe it was Brennan who asked Weir the question that produced the best response by Weir. When asked about being a role model and if he thinks about how his behavior and comments are seen by kids he said that he was a role model to some kids and that no one could be or should be a role model for everyone.
And that is why I like Johnny Weir. Because he gets it. He is who he is and he speaks his mind--and note that nothing he says is that crazy, really. [I mean why doesn't he have a right to say that he thinks the free program is too regulated these days and contain too many spins?]
And he's right. He is likely a role model to some children. And he needs to be there. And that is why attempts to shame Weir into being more masculine or to kow-tow to the skating establishment are so misguided. Yes, figure skating has certain legitimacy problems but silencing Johnny Weir is only going to make them worse.
So in addition to these things that appeared in the film, I made two observations about what I am calling the Johnny Weir Effect. Butch men don't like him. Straight men like skater Evan Lysacek, who is undoubtedly Weir's biggest American rival and who comes off pretty badly in the film, go to great lengths to separate themselves from Weir. And gay men are not huge fans either. Brian Boitano tries to seem supportive but he is clearly uncomfortable with him. Brian Orser, who is part of Canadian figure skating governance, clearly has a problem with Weir's critique's of skating's rules. And of course there was the infamous discussion by gay commentator Mark Lund about Weir's flamboyance.
So men--even some gay men--find him a little disconcerting. But the women love him. And this was fascinating to me. Johnny's Angels is his fan group and it seems to be comprised of middle-class, middle-aged (or older) white women. So all these apparently normative women are in love with this very queer (regardless of his sexuality which he does not label) young man. What's up with that? Do they too wish they could be as outgoing as Weir--could speak their minds and dress how they want and challenge the establishment? Maybe. There's something here that I find so intriguing. And I think the world--the skating world and beyond--need Johnny Weir.

Sunday, June 21, 2009

Wimbledon is coming: So please be quiet!

Wimbledon starts tomorrow and the big news, rivalling the withdrawal of Rafael Nadal, is how loud it is going to be--more specifically how loud Michelle Larcher de Brito is going to be.
Check out One Sport Voice for a recent post on the gendered nature of the grunting controversy. Yesterday's Boston Globe also highlights the grunting on the women's tennis tour. But they do mention the men.
I don't know about all this. The tradition argument that Martina Navratilova is putting forth is little, well, hypocritical as the Globe hints at. After all, Navratilova was quite the non-traditional presence on the tour when she arrived and throughout much of her playing time. And sure, I like the quiet of Wimbledon, too. But I liked the crowd quiet. I don't really care what the players are doing. I heard de Brito from a court over at the French Open and yes, it was something new. But so was Seles's grunt when she came on the scene.
And the biological arguments are interesting but not entirely convincing.
In the end, the Globe article's mention of grunting on the men's tour and the suggestion that grunting is controversial because it is unladylike really lets the gender double-standard off the hook.
I guess we'll all have to watch Wimbledon and do our own case study and analysis.

Friday, June 19, 2009

Yes, women can coach men

Two stories about women coaching boys or men recently.
One at Hillsborough High in Florida where Stephanie Crawford was recently appointed head coach of the boys' basketball team. Crawford was the girls' team coach at a nearby school but had always wanted to coach a boys' team. Hillsborough is coming off of a successful season and Crawford is looking forward to the opportunity to coach a premiere team. Crawford grew up playing with boys but played at the collegiate and professional levels with women. There is, of course, the double-edged sword present here. As great as the opportunity is, it is somewhat disconcerting that Crawford felt she had to be a head coach of boys' team in order to have legitimacy as a coach, perhaps as a female coach, perhaps as a female coach of color. Or maybe she just likes the challenge and likes challenging the system.
Regardless, the hiring "sent shockwaves throughout the boys' basketball community." Shockwaves!
I didn't feel them up here in New England but maybe that's because the women-coaching-men issue has already gotten some press in the form Justine Siegel, coach of the Springfield College baseball team, who is now coaching the professional Can-Am League Brockton Rox. Siegel is a huge advocate for youth baseball for both boys and girls.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Who's bidding?

As I mentioned, softball made its bid this week for a (re)berth in the Olympics. But six other sports did the same: baseball, golf (Annika Sorenstam was part of that presentation), karate, roller sports, rugby, and squash. (Remember, women's boxing may be making its Olympic debut, but in 2012, because it is not considered a new sport because men's boxing already is in.)
ESPN has a brief synopsis of each of the sports that made presentations to the IOC last week.

PS According to Jessica Mendoza's Twitter page, the IOC was "wowed"--their words--by softball's presentation.

Softball makes its most important pitch

Making a pitch to get back in after an odd series of events got softball kicked off the Olympic roster, representatives of the sport were in Switzerland this week appealing to the powers-that-be. (You can read about some of the happenings at on Twitters--yes, I finally joined--by following Jessica Mendoza.) And they have the support of the Prince of Jordan.
Prince Feisal has said he believes softball can help women's rights in the Middle East. He sees the game, which he played and enjoyed while living in the United States, as ideal because it is inclusive of all age groups, able to accommodate different dress codes, social, and not a contact sport.
The group advocating for softball really stressed the international appeal and possibilities of the sport, especially in developing areas, and for Muslim women.
Most believe the IOC will announce which two sports will be allowed into the 2016 Olympics in August in Berlin.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Women's boxing getting closer to Olympics

Women's Olympic boxing is looking more and more like it will have a place in the 2012 Olympics. The IOC is in the midst of considering changes to existing sports and adding women to boxing is high among them. The changes being proposed by the International Boxing Association would allow three women and ten men on a country's boxing contingent. But the IOC, which has refused to allow women's boxing into the Games in the past, seems a little more supportive this time. Of course, they do need to accumulate some documents and get the facts and all, according to IOC sports director Christophe Dubi who said that the AIBA has "provided documents concerning the medical elements of the women's discipline."
That's cryptic. Let me see if I can translate that: we're worried about women's "parts" getting hurt. Probably not just the girly parts but injuries in general, though I am sure the girly parts are of primary concern.
Good thing men have that hard plastic cup thing that prevents injuries to their parts; it has clearly alleviated all concerns.
Let's face it: boxing is dangerous--no matter what parts you have. Because everyone has a head with a brain in it. And though it too gets protective wear--it's not a guarantee that your brain is safe when you take it into the boxing ring. And none of your other parts are completely safe either. So why the AIBA needs to submit some special medical evidence about women who box is a little worrisome and very 19th century.

Monday, June 15, 2009

Intersections of gender, race, and youth sport

This past weekend the NYT published a very good article on the access urban girls have to sport. The Title IX Blog has given some more of the details of the article itself (and provides a link), but I want to, especially in light of Golf Channel commentator Rich Lerner's questions to Lorena Ochoa the other day, comment a little further.
Because my worry is that while it is often the case that girls from Latino (and sometimes African-American as well) families bear much of the responsibility for childcare duties and other domestic chores that can impede their access to sports, these realities can engender some misconceptions, some judgment, and some passivity.
What do I mean? Well I worry that whenever we talk about trying to involve more urban girls and girls of color in sports we are going to encounter a defeatist attitude. As in, "well, it's just their culture. There's nothing we can do." I have already seen, in discussions of Muslim women's access to sport, some of these attitudes. We hear about male-dominated cultures; cultures that do not value women or support their physical activity. Perhaps we even hear something about acquiescence to the oppression.
But this could describe almost any culture. Just because young white, suburban girls participate in higher rates than their urban counterparts who are black or Latina, does not mean these white girls live in a culture that has eliminated patriarchy or gender bias or even provides them full support. Just look at all the Title IX complaints OCR is investigating in suburban schools. But white, suburban culture has the privilege of avoiding such attention.
Such impressions about a "culture" also may be a deterrent for school administrators who, with plenty on their plates already, just do not have the time and resources to find ways to work within communities in an attempt to negotiate solutions.
If Rich Lerner makes an assumption that the number one golfer in the world, who has a wealth of resources available to her, is going to be the "good Mexican woman" and stay at home--or at least off the golf course--once she gets married, how easy is it for others to make similar assumptions; to resign themselves to a situation in which young urban girls of color are just not going to be able to get out of their homes to play sports?
On a positive note, though, there are youth sports advocates around who are working on and with the situation(s) many urban schools are facing. The NYT article does mention some of the work being done--largely through the Women's Sports Foundation which supports many grassroots programs. My hope is that this work continues.

Sunday, June 14, 2009

Dear Rich Lerner:

How long do you think you will stick around the golf scene, doing commentary? You know, 'cause you're married and all?
Of course you've been married for a while now. You even have two kids! And yet you still work! Amazing!
And so I wonder why it is you asked the number one golfer in the world, Lorena Ochoa, how long she plans on sticking around golf--right after you asked her when her pending nuptials will take place.
Yes, Ochoa is getting married in December viewers of today's LPGA Championship found out. You know, there are a lot of players out there who are married. Some even have kids and have continued to play at very high levels--a la Julie Inkster. And there are plenty of married women and mothers who play sports other than golf.
This probably isn't just a gender thing, though, is it Rich? It likely has a lot to do with American beliefs about Mexican culture and the role of the woman/wife.
Thankfully Ochoa assured you that she fully intends to keep playing. To keep contending for majors, and to keep her number one spot. Because, of course, WHY WOULDN'T SHE??

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Boxing versus ski jumping

You're thinking: "where can she possibly be going with this? These sports have next to nothing in common."
True. But both are seeking inclusion in the Olympic Games--the female athletes of the sports because, of course, the men are already in.
Haven't heard much about ski jumping since the trial in April in Canada. But the inclusion of women's boxing in the 2012 London Games has been getting some press of late. Because apparently this bid for inclusion has some actual support by IOC members.
It also has the strong support of boxing's governing body, the International Boxing Association (AIBA), which has put forth a proposal for 40 female boxers in the 2012 games in 5 weight divisions. (There would be 246 men in 10 divisions.)
It would be an interesting project to compare the efforts of women's ski jumping with women's boxing. Like the line ski jumpers are getting now from the IOC, women's boxing was told in 2005 that their sport was just not ready for inclusion.
But both sports get that bogus opposition about injury, too. Ski jumping is too jarring for women's frames. Boxing is too violent and injury-prone for women.
You could also examine the stereotypes around the female athletes in the respective sports and how that might affect their bids. There are plenty of stereotypes around female boxers. Are there stereotypes of female jumpers? Not sure. But, like I said, a good project.
Neither the jumpers nor the boxers have been assured a place in the Olympics but it seems more likely that the latter will see Olympic entry first. (I am happy to be wrong about this, however.)

Tuesday, June 09, 2009

Random Tuesday Tidbits: Tweeting, cutting costs, and pics of the week

It's all about Twitter these days. I was listening to one of my favorite college radio station Saturday and was told I could tweet my request in. (Of course I am not on Twitter yet so I would have to be a little more traditional and email it or even--gasp--phone it in!)
But the Twitter/sports connection is also a hot topic. Check out Women Talk Sports for all the takes on Twitter and women's sports. And even SI.com is taking up the topic. Professional golfers and tennis players are twittering--but not from the course or court. Though I have to wonder if that is next. Might be a way to get around that whole coaching from the stands issue. (Not that that is really such an anomaly as I saw, in person, at Roland Garros this year.) Though members of the WPS are tweeting from the sidelines of their games. I wonder which sport(s) will be next. Baseball and softball seem likely candidates. Women's pro fastpitch could definitely use some twittering action, if, as some predict, Twitter can increase the visibility of women's sports. And, in addition to helping (if needed) their sports, athletes like Twitter because it gives athletes a voice. A voice in contrast, or in clarification, to the media. It also allows fans access without them getting too close, according to the SI piece. Though I have to wonder if this could backfire with more "intense" fans who would love to know exactly where their favorite player is headed on her errands.

Tidbit 2: The Pac-10, about to undergo a change in leadership with former WTA CEO Larry Scott taking over at the end of the month, held its annual meetings last week. Cutting costs was high on the agenda. And the conference has submitted proposals to the NCAA for such things as disallowing teams to stay in hotels the night before home games (unless the site of the game is over 25 miles from campus). Also on the table is limiting the numbers of staff and players who travel to away games. Gee willikers! What a great idea! Who would have thought??
No mention of who would be most "affected" by these changes (hint: it's football!) which is interesting because football has long had all these perks. (Of course I got all this info from a football blog so I guess it's implied.) A midwest DI team travelled to its bowl game in Florida one year with a whole trailer truck full of the equipment from their own weight room. Because apparently they don't have weights in Florida!
Also of note is that the conference wants to limit to once a week, weekday away football games while classes are in session. This seems to illustrate a commitment to academics. Let's hope Scott has a similar philosophy.

And finally tidbit 3 is the Washington Post's week in sports photos. There was some great photos including an amazing shot of an Austrian swimmer doing the breast stroke. The final photo in the series was Roger Federer kissing the trophy he won the other day at Roland Garros. I thought it was a little cliched--not at all like the other photos which were far more interesting. In other words, it seemed obligatory. Also disappointing was that there was not a photo from the women's final. Neither match was much of a contest so that WaPo would mark one and not the other was a little irksome.

Saturday, June 06, 2009

Feel so bad for Safina

Just saw Safina lose the French Open final. It was heartbreaking. I had a slight inclination to root for Kuznetsova, but still, I would have liked to see a better second set. And maybe even a third!

Good for Kuznetsova though. As someone who has fought the same nerves Safina had today, Kuznetsova had a great match. A great tournament which included an amazing match against Serena Williams. And Kuznetsova was quite gracious in her win. There was not a lot of exuberance--out of respect for Safina. (She was crossing herself quite a bit, though. I had not known she was quite so religious.)

And how amazing did Steffi Graf look in her off-white/beige suit?!

Thursday, June 04, 2009

Lots of press over some jerseys

I have been surprised at all the media attention over the jersey sponsorship of the Phoenix Mercury. USA Today's Christine Brennan comments on the sponsorship (she approves) and notes that two WPS teams already have jersey sponsorships.
I'm just not quite sure what's hidden in all this discourse. It could be an issue of purity and selling out. But give me a break. Women's sports are "pure" and men's sports, which have sold every inch of stadium space to the highest bidders are somehow exempt from this criticism? Women's sports should be resisting the temptation of the almighty dollar? Wouldn't that make us--gasp--socialists?
Is it a marker of success--that companies will pay for placement on women's jerseys? Or is it more the above selling out; something some may see women's sports having to do because they are "less popular" and more in need of these sponsorship dollars?
Brennan correctly notes that athletes who participate in individual sports have had sponsors on their clothing for some time now.
Many of us non-professionals who play team sports have already experienced this. When my softball jersey arrives this week it will have the name of a local law firm on it. I don't plan on over analyzing it.

Wednesday, June 03, 2009

The winners

Glad to have an excuse to post my pictures of Svetlana Kuznetsova (and her camp which includes her female coach, Larisa Savchenko) at this year's French Open. Kuznetsova beat Serena Williams today to make it to the semifinals of Roland Garros

Thirtieth seed Sam Stosur (pic from Wimbledon 07) is into the semis after her easy win over Sorona Cirstea.

Roger Federer also won today beating Gael Monfils in straight sets. I was really surprised by this result. When Nadal went out--actually before he went out--I picked Monfils to win the tournament. Mostly because I like long shots, I was tired of Nadal winning this tournament, and I really like Monfils for some reason. I like his style of play and think he is generally underrated. I have not seen the match yet, though I am sure I will get the opportunity what with the constant replays of Federer's matches. Seriously--how many times has ESPN aired his match with Tommy Haas?

Tuesday, June 02, 2009

Roland Garros: Day 2

Well my day two anyway. Went back to RG last Thursday when the skies were cloudy and the air cool and it was perfect. Had tickets to court 1 but only headed over there at the end of the day when Elena Dementieva was taking on comeback kid Jelena Dokic. Got there to see Dokic win the first set. Was excited to see how Dementieva would respond but unfortunately Dokic had what appeared to be back spasms early in the second set; she left the court for about 10 minutes, played out a game and a half and then retired--visibly upset at having to do so. Dementieva was quite nice and went over to Dokic's chair to check on her.

Saw a lot of doubles on the outer courts, which I always enjoy since I never get to see it on television.

Here are some pics:

The doubles team of Schnyder and Groenfeld

Azarenka and her partner beat the French team of Coin and Bremond.