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How Female Athletes Break Down Stereotypes

Already this summer, we’ve seen incredible events in women’s sports. In soccer, Abby Wambach caught, and then surpassed Mia Hamm’s scoring record, making Wambach the highest scoring player in international competition ever – for men or women! In tennis, the dark horse player Marion Bartoli shocked the tennis world by storming her way through Wimbledon, winning the Championships in straight sets.

What makes these accomplishments ever the more important is the grace and character both of these women displayed under pressure.

In June, after scoring four goals in one half to reach a record 160, and a #chasingMia twitter-frenzy, Abby was quick to recognize her own friend and role model, “I can’t say enough how much I look up to Mia and how amazing the record that she set was.”

Mia, in turn, tweeted how proud she was of Abby.

Wambach also immediately thanked her teammates who had very obviously given up their own scoring opportunities to pass her the ball during the 5-0 victory over South Korea.

In July, Marion Bartoli, a long-time outcast in the glamorous tennis world played with her own quirky and gritty style, but was a kind and gracious winner, consoling her sobbing opponent Sabine Lisicki. Having herself lost in the finals a few years ago, Bartoli said empathetically, “I know how you feel, Sabine.”

Then, Bartoli had to face this doozie. During her celebration, BBC announcer John Inverdale commented for no known reason: “Do you think Bartoli’s dad told her when she was little, ‘you’re never going to be a looker. You’ll never be a Sharapova, so you have to be scrappy and fight.’”

Really?

Bartoli’s response was all class. She said. “I am not blonde, yes. That is a fact. Have I dreamt about having a model contract? No. I’m sorry. But have I dreamed about winning Wimbledon? Absolutely, yes.”

Game. Set. Match. Bartoli.

Children learn by observing and imitating the behaviors of those they most admire and these are the kinds of role models they need to see.

My own son, Jaden, was so wow’d by Abby’s accomplishments, he made and sent her a video. I was on the field with Mia when she broke 100 goals. Every one of her teammates was cheering her on and trying to get her the ball. We celebrate Mia’s incredible records, and Abby’s new one because breaking records is about striving to better yourself and improve the game.

It’s been a great summer so far. Whether it be dismantling stereotypes about cattiness or batting away tired, clichéd, and sexist comments, time and again, women in sports demonstrate that it’s not just about winning or breaking records, but rather about competing with class and creating a blueprint of character for anyone watching to follow.

Congrats Abby and Marion. I can’t wait for the rest of summer.

Brandi Chastain, former NCAA, World Cup and Olympics star is best-known for her game-winning penalty kick against China in the 1999 FIFA Women’s World Cup final. She is also proud to be the Official Spokesperson of the Soccer Sisters Series by Andrea Montalbano. Vee Caught Offside, the second book in the series was released in July. Soccer Sisters, about a competitive girls soccer team, is published by In This Together Media, a company dedicated to publishing great books about real girls.

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Posted in: Sports, Featured