Encyclopedia of Women and Sport in America

Encyclopedia of Women and Sport in America

Encyclopedia of Women and Sport in America

Encyclopedia of Women and Sport in America


The challenges and achievements of female athletes in the U.S. are the focus of this collection of nearly 300 articles and biographies that portray the diversity, depth, and meaning of their sports experiences. Written by prominent experts as well as by the athletes themselves, these articles offer a unique, authoritative perspective on topics ranging from women's earliest involvement in sports through recent events at the 1997 world and national championships.


A few years ago, while coaching high school basketball, I noticed something odd about our best player, a six-foot sophomore guard named Michelle. She was agile and selfless, averaging six assists and six steals per game. Yet when her name was announced, she would shuffle onto the court hunched over like an old woman with osteoporosis.

"Why do you walk like that?" I asked.

"I'm embarrassed," she admitted. She felt shy about being a star. Athletic excellence just didn't seem right -- in a girl.

Oh dear, I thought. This was 1994. It was not the 1950s. I wanted to lecture her: "Have you no idea how many women over the years have worked hard to get you to this position, where you can develop your talent, where you can play each week in front of hundreds of adoring parents and peers, where you can work toward a full athletic scholarship at a major university? Embarrassed by success? Michelle, it is good to be successful! It is good for girls to be successful. You're 15 years old. Hasn't anyone told you that yet?"

Somehow I managed to skip the lecture. Instead I asked, "Who do you look up to?"

"Sheryl Swoopes," she answered immediately. Swoopes had scored 47 points for Texas Tech in the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) championship game the previous season.

"How does she carry herself?" I asked.

"She looks proud," said Michelle, lifting her chin.

Two years later, Sheryl Swoopes and the national women's basketball team toured the country, winning 60 games en route to an Olympic gold medal. Michelle attended one of their games. By then Michelle had come to resemble Sheryl, walking with an air of confidence that inspired younger teammates. She had come to understand that "little girls need big girls to look up to," as basketball star Teresa Edwards put it.

The need for role models became a sort of theme song for the American women in the 1996 Olympic Games. Lisa Leslie, the starting center on the basketball team, said, "You recognize that you're representing your country -- especially the little girls who hopefully will follow in our footsteps. . . ."

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