Change in Perception of the Female Athlete

Female athletes in previous generations were victims of stereotyping. The combination of being a successful athlete and a woman was not as accepted in years past. Common stereotypes of a successful female athlete would entail questioning her sexual orientation or the legitimacy of her gender. As time has passed the general public has changed the negative tilt on female competitors into a more positive perception.

The first example is that women competitors can be considered beautiful and instead of being ridiculed for how they look they have become objects of affection. Sports Illustrated and other forms of print media have replaced the traditional model with the now conventional female athlete. One message that can be implied from this process is that women can compete at the highest level in their selected sport and can be considered beautiful by the masses.

Second is that women competitors are just as tough as tough as their male counterparts. At every level all athletes will obtain bumps, bruises, and injuries. These injuries can range from sprains, broken bones, and torn ligaments but the woman athlete still goes through rigorous physically therapy to recover from the injury and compete at the same high level.
It can be argued that the biggest star in Mixed-Martial Arts (MMA) is Ronda Rousey. Rousey shows her toughness by dominating a sport where the objective is to pummel your opponent.

A third element in the modern female athlete is that they can compete with if not beat men. Danica Patrick first made headlines in the 2005 Indy 500 and was a watershed moment because it greatly facilitated the acceptance and visibility of women participating in competitive racing. This was also illustrated on the amateur level in 2014 when the star of the Little League World Series was Mo ‘ne Davis who overmatched many of her peers by being equipped with a 70 mile per hour fastball. Davis was able to crossover to mainstream success and demonstrated her basketball skills on Kevin Hart.

Becky Hammon is also demonstrating that women can now coach men at the highest level. In the spring of 2014 Hammon was added to the San Antonio Spurs’ coaching staff and in 2015 was head coach of the Spurs summer league team. A coach at any level needs to have the respect of the players and even more so in the NBA. San Antonio which can be declared as the model franchise of the NBA by winning 5 NBA Titles since 1999 have been innovators and imitated by other NBA teams. The Spurs have shown the utmost faith in Hammon’s basketball intellect and ability to coach men at a professional level. If Hammon rises to the rank of head coach and is successful more teams will allow women to join their staff and climb the ladder of organizations.

With the change in perception of female competitors there is now a different crop of role models for girls everywhere. By competing and showing their beauty, toughness, skill, and intellect the next generation of women can be successful in any sport she chooses. A nine year old girl from Teaneck, New Jersey can select any member of the 2015 United States Women’s World Cup team and try to emulate how she is on the field and how she acts off the field.

This also translates into character education for these young girls. It will reach the point in every competitor’s career where he or she stops playing but by participating in sports has given them skills to be successful later in life. The confidence and knowledge gained by competing in athletics will allow the future generation of women to become entrepreneurs, executives, and continue breaking through the glass ceilings and stigmas that were common in past generations.

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