Upside My Head: Women’s World Cup Soccer and being a female athlete

In case you weren’t paying attention, yesterday Japan beat the U.S. in amazing match for the Women’s World Cup Soccer title, complete with a shoot-out at the end.

This morning, I read this amazing piece on Tumblr by Holly, a woman who was on the 1995 U.S. team (they were third that year). Read it all – it’s inspiring – but here is a highlight:
“…The stinging consolation for today’s loss is that we’ve arguably never fielded a more fit, more disciplined, more talented squad of women. The parity of the women’s game signifies more than just an isolated 4-year cyclical interest in hot chicks with pony tails and toned legs competing in this game invented by men.  Today’s loss continues to symbolize Our Arrival. Our collective ascension to the podium where little girls can look at these women and announce with conviction, “I want to be like Hope Solo when I grow up…”
Back in 1999 when the women’s team won the World Cup final in another stunning game, I was a mother of a soccer playing 13 year old girl, and ruminated about that win, and what it meant to me, a competitive Pre-Title IX athlete in the 70s, in my own commentary.
That commentary was published by the Star Tribune, and I am inspired to share it once again. Since that was pre-Internet links, here it is below, the original text I submitted to the paper. The march towards parity and equity continues:

I was a pre-Title IX female athlete.  Twenty-seven years later, my 13-year-old daughter is one of the thousands of soccer-playing girls riding high after the women’s U.S. World Cup soccer victory.  I can say from personal experience that the recent Republican-sponsored House resolution to pay tribute to the U.S. women’ soccer team without acknowledgement of Title IX and its impact on the evolution of women’s sports was grievously wrong.
In 1972-1973, I was a junior at a suburban Minneapolis high school. The coach of the boy’s varsity ski team asked me to tryout for the team.  While I skied competitively for a local ski club, there was no girls varsity ski team at my high school, and thus, no opportunity for me to compete in varsity sports, at least in my sport of choice.
So I tried out for the boys’ team and made the third-pace slot.  However, the Minnesota State High School League, the governing body for Minnesota high school sports, had a rule that girls could not compete on boys’ teams, even if they legitimately earned a place on the team. The League informed my school that the entire team would be disqualified if I competed in a varsity ski meet.
My parents decided to challenge the rule and took the issue to court.  The courts ruled in our favor and I was allowed to compete for my high school.  Suddenly, much to my embarrassment, I was in the news as a barrier breaker.  In 1972, girl athletes such as myself who trained hard, developed muscles, and thrilled to aggressive competition, were typically viewed, especially among our peers, as weird.  The last thing my fragile self-esteem needed was more attention for being a jock. I just wanted to ski.
However, I am absolutely grateful that I happened to be in the right place at the right time, and thanks to Title IX, did get to ski for my high school and earn two varsity letters, something for which I am very proud. 
Since then, I have thrilled at the change in both opportunity and attitude for women’s sports and athletics.  1n 1999, from the Sunday afternoon jogger to the serious athlete, girls and women now have a full array of competitive sports and fitness activities in which to participate.
My athletic daughter is coming of age at a time when sports, sweat and muscles are just a normal part of being female. She started playing soccer when she was nine at the neighborhood park because all of her friends were signing up to play.  She now plays in a competitive girls’ soccer league full of other girls who love to play hard.  They yell, “Be aggressive!” at the beginning of games. They are praised for being tough on the field, for teamwork, for pushing to the max.
I think the best thing about the post-Title IX world of female sports is that these young girls don’t think twice about being competitive athletes. They have no idea that 27 years ago there were far fewer athletic opportunities for girls.  They have no idea that the general attitude toward female athletes was indifference at best and contempt at worst.
My daughter didn’t even watch the U.S. Word Cup victory live. She had me tape it for later, when she got back from the mall.  For her, it was not, as it was for me, a rearrange all your plans, historic, not to be missed event. It was a cool and important thing, but just one part of the fabric of her adolescent life. Yet, thanks to Title IX, she and millions of other girls don’t have to want to be like Mike when they imagine themselves champions.  They can want to be like Brianna, Mia or Christine, and think its no big deal. Now that’s a revolution.

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