ESPN.com reports that, on the eve of the Women’s World Cup, the U.S. women’s soccer league, the WUSA, is shutting down. This both saddens and frustrates me because I know so many Beacon girls’ soccer players loved the WUSA.
As a coach of a girls basketball team, I have been following the WUSA and the WNBA with really high hopes. On some level, it bothers me that it’s going to take successful professional leagues for women’s sports to truly be embraced by mainstream America, but that’s probably the truth. Until then, lots of girls are going to have to keep fighting to convince people that they play a "real" sport.
Even at Beacon, where women’s sports are respected and thrive, it’s taken several years for the boys’ basketball coaches to finally put "Boys Basketball" on their signs, rather than just "The Basketball Team." (And thank you, John and Ninji, for not thinking I was crazy for bugging you about that.) But it’s still true in a lot of schools that girls sports are not taken seriously or the female athletes do not get the respect the boys do.
The exposure of the WNBA and the WUSA raised the bar. There’s a lot of baggage that goes with pro sports, but women’s pro sports have changed the way a lot of young girls have looked at themselves… their identities… their bodies. I went to a WUSA event last year, and to see the way the young girls looked at the athletes was to realize what power having a pro league had.
On the eve of the Women’s World Cup, it’s a shame that the WUSA couldn’t find a way to stay viable. Perhaps the WWC will respark the league, but even if it does, it appears that both major women’s sports leagues will have to struggle to survive in the immediate future.
And what message does that send to our young female athletes?
[Updated: ESPN.com has published another story talking about much the same ideas that I was writing about here.]
It’s 6:08 am, and I’m about to leave, coffee mug in hand, for Ultimate practice with the Beacon team. Seven years ago, I had to convince 10 kids that this was a sport, and we practiced on the North Lawn softball fields in Central Park, often getting chased out by baseball teams… now, we return eighteen veteran boys who bug me to start 6:30 practices as early as possible… we will have a girls team for the first time ever… and it looks like, given how many kids have asked me to be on the team already, we’ll have a JV squad as well.