It really doesn’t seem that long ago I first fell in love with sports. In my mind, it seems like just yesterday, that I excitedly came home and asked to play softball after flyers for the local girls softball league were posted in my elementary school. I remember my parents searching high and low for a left-handed glove small enough to fit my undersized hand. I remember how much I enjoyed the smell of the dirt and pinging of a bat as it made contact with the ball. Most of all, I remember how much I loved competing and the thrill of accomplishing something I worked to hard to get right.
As a six-year-old, of course, I wasn’t aware that such opportunities hadn’t always been around for young girls. A child of the nineties, I’m really not that far removed from the a time when opportunities didn’t exist for girls, period. Truth be told, for much of my twenty-eight years of this earth, I didn’t give much thought about Title IX or the women’s sports “revolution.” I was busy reading about the social and economic side of the broader women’s rights movement and didn’t really see how the two were really related.
As I’ve gotten older, I’ve come to realize and understand how important athletics are to the broader women’s rights movement and how important what we gain from youth sports really is to our physical and mental development. This is true even for someone like me who at no point in time would have been mistaken for an “elite athlete.”
I’ve also come to realize that in order to undetstand where women’s sports are in this country as well as worldwide currently, it’s imperative to know about the pioneers that laid the foundation to get where we are and simultaneously educate myself about the challenges that women’s athletics face today.
Now that my formal education has ended (finally!), I now have time to read what I want to read. My Amazon Wish List is full of books related to women’s sports both from a historical perspective but also works that examine the societal constructs that are barriers to the advancement of women in sports.
I’ve decided to share a few books today that I’ve read that helped expand my knowledge in some fashion or another. Hopefully, I’ll inspire someone to pick up a book. Here five books in no particular order:
This book examines women’s sports from the beginning of last century in a variety of different sports and different settings. It discusses how the perceptions of female athletes have changed and also how they haven’t. Topics discussed in Cain’s book range from the battle to let women compete at the intercollegiate level to homophobia in women’s sports.
This book is a good primer to an oft-discussed yet rarely fully understood area of the law. Written by a law professor, this book explains what Title IX does and just as importantly, what it doesn’t do. Professor Brake explains the framework of Title IX and how schools can comply and also examines controversial topics like “leveling down” and pregnancy among college athletes.
I probably could have saved myself the trouble and told everyone to just go read everything by Jean Williams, but in the interest of providing a wide array of voices on women’s sports in this post, I decided to include just one work by her. This book looks at the development of women’s soccer in four different countries: the United States, China, England and Australia. It’s interesting to see how the challenges faced by each country differ and also how they are the same.
If you consider yourself a serious fan of women’s soccer, you must read this book. Period. Grainey provides a solid history of women’s soccer in the United States but also provides much-needed information about the sport in other areas of the world that isn’t available elsewhere.
Billie Jean King is the most iconic figure in women’s sports movement of the 1970’s and her fingerprint is everywhere. Case in point, the Women’s Sports Foundation she created is behind NGWSD. To put it simply, if Billie Jean King didn’t like something, she challenged it and worked to change it. The book is part biography, part a history of the broader women’s rights movement.
Let me know what you think of this list and please add books you’ve read and enjoyed in the comments!