Looking Back: Bad-A** Women in Sports

November 03, 2013

On Monday, October 28th, 2013, the Iris team collaborated with several coaches from the University of Virginia athletics department to host a fabulous event: Bad-A** Women in Sports! These coaches provided their unique insight into the realm of female athletics, and afforded us an interesting opportunity to examine the position of women in a male-dominated industry. As the seats at OpenGrounds filled with young women from each of the coach's teams and the chatter settled to a respectful silence, coaches Kevin Sauer (Rowing), Joanne Boyle (Basketball), Julie Myers (Lacrosse), and Augie Busch (Swimming) took the stand to talk about passion, power, and not living your life "vanilla." Check out what these three Iris interns had to say about our panel:

MiaAs a girl who grew up devoted to playing soccer, I can say I have a definite appreciation for bada** women in sports. Mia Hamm was my idol for years and I will not forget the day I got to see Abby Wambach play. These two women, along with Julie Foudy, Kristine Lilly, and Alex Morgan  represent the numerous bada** women I have idolized in the professional women's soccer league. It was interesting for me to hear coaches from UVA speak about their own experiences with bada** women in sports. The passion coach Boyle spoke about resonated with the type of play I used to watch and admire in my professional role models. Passion is what drove Abby Wambach to 160 career goals.

The Bad-A** Women in Sports panel was an interesting experience. On the one hand, I could appreciate Coach Boyle and Coach Myers recount of their own experiences both as athletes and as coaches. I could relate to what they were saying, having grown up with sports as well as having experience as a captain and coach. On the other hand, however, when it came to Coach Sauer and Coach Busch the conversation seemed limited. The audience appeared to be made up of mostly these coach's players, which is great, but suddenly the conversation seemed dictated toward how amazing these athletes are. I can appreciate talent and dedication to a sport, but we know how great our athletes are. Athletes in college are often idolized and given benefits far beyond your average student. As an average student sitting in the audience, not on a varsity sport, I found it slightly difficult to appreciate what the coaches were talking about.

Over all it's great to highlight bada** women in sports. Athletics have always been a male dominated arena ,and girls have proved time and time again that they too are bad a**es in sports.

-Alison Kuhn

LacrosseAs a former track and cross-country high school athlete who competed throughout all four years, a lot of what was said by the coaches on the panel resonated with me. The transition from being a student athlete in high school to a “regular” college student had been rough academically and socially during my first year. I was so used to balancing my time between school work, practices, meets, and family and friends that when I came to UVA I had to adjust to a whole new lifestyle. I realized that I was not passionate about track and cross-country in the way I had been before because I was surrounded by many more opportunities. Joanne Boyle spoke about how she learned how to live more in the moment and follow her passion after she suffered a brain aneurism during her time as the assistant coach at Duke. When opportunities present themselves to her, she examines them to see if they align with her passions. I found this to be a great reminder because as college students we can get stuck going through the motions without being fully present or get involved in a lot of different organizations because it will look good on a resume for future employers and graduate schools. We are always putting ourselves in the situation where we have to choose between following our passions and making a substantial amount of money. I fell victim to this binary as well, but through my college career I have met and continue to meet a lot of people who have debunked this myth. I plan on being one of those people.

-Breeonna Reed

Joanne Boyle’s words very much resonated today, starting with the statement “Do not be fearful of your life.”

Many people in society seem to look at us college students and think our life is so easy; despite the overwhelming exams and living off pizza, it’s more than going out with friends on the weekends.  Though we are getting a valuable education at a very respectable institution, sometimes those who have already placed themselves in a good place in society forget that we undergraduate students are paving our futures, planning out the most important decisions before our lives have barely “begun.”  Things aren’t as clear-cut, easy, and direct as we have been promised.

I’ve been facing somewhat of a “quarter-life crisis” recently, struggling to develop who I am and putting into question the career path I wish to take, much of the weight put on the choices I make right now when it seems all too soon to be able to predict what steps will even come next.  I can be doing everything right from a college standpoint, yet have no idea what’s next with my future at the same time and it’s so unbelievably scary.

Boyle’s words helped immensely.  She reminds us that sometimes you need to tell yourself “it’s time to go;” a change of pace is necessary to help you find something that’s more suitable for your needs.  It’s like my favorite word, “Serendipity,” which Lawrence Block describes as “Look for something, find something else, and realize what you’ve found is more suited to your needs than what you thought you were looking for.”  These words give me hope.

Best-Women-Beach-Volleyball-Players1“I have lived more in the last 12 years of my life compared to the beginning 35; this change comes from passion.  I forced myself out of that box.  I now live fearless.  I live with purpose because you don’t know when these moments will be taken away from you. The more risk involved, the more I feel inclined to do it,” said Boyle.  And though some of these words of encouragement I feel like I must have heard before, her emphasis on living passionately in order to get up and love what you do everyday is honestly the driving force that has made these recent career decisions a hell of a lot easier to swallow.

Everyone wants to be successful; everyone wants to be able to do what they love.  For many, like me, it’s terrifying not knowing what lies in store for them in the future.  Hearing people who have established themselves in a field is comforting but simultaneously scary: what if we don’t end up so successful?  What if we will not be able to ever speak to the generation that follows us and tell them how with motivation and passion, you will get where you want to go?

To this, Boyle reminds us all, “Doors will open.  Just keep living and moving forward and make sure to take care of people supporting you along the way.”  Few words of advice have ever been so clear and meaningful to me.

-Kiana Williams

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