Women talk sports evolution

Dec. 1, 2011, 3:00 a.m.
On Wednesday, Brandi Chastain, Dena Evans, Ellen Estes Lee and Joan Oloff discussed the past, present and future of women's sports. (By ALISA ROYER/The Stanford Daily)


The event featured notable women in the sports realm, including Brandi Chastain, a former member of the U.S. women’s soccer team and Ellen Estes Lee ‘ 02, former captain of the Stanford water polo team and a former Olympian. Dena Evans ‘ 96, a highly recognized track and field athlete and coach, and Dr. Joan Oloff, a podiatrist from Los Gatos, also spoke.


Kelly Myers, a PWR instructor, organized the event. Myers said she was “inspired by a class that [she is] teaching . . . about women in sports.” She believed it would be beneficial to “talk to women who have reached the highest level of sport and figure out where do we go from here.”


The panel provided perspectives on the past, present and future of women’s sports to an audience of 40, which was comprised primarily of students.


The panelists reflected on specific moments in women’s sports that served as turning points and inspirations in their own careers. Some of the panelists inspired each other. Oloff referred to Chastain’s “sports bra moment” as a defining moment in women’s sports that has “affected generations of women athletes.”


The panelists discussed the challenges that remain for women’s sports today.


According to Dena Evans, there are “vast amounts of young girls playing sports, [yet] there is a struggle to keep a women’s soccer pro league from going under.”


Oloff confirmed that a current challenge for women’s sports is that “youth sports have come leaps and bounds but professionally, there is a strange disconnect.”


Chastain discussed the reasons for why children continue to play sports today. She discouraged the notion that children should specialize in a given sport for the purpose of earning scholarships.


“Kids today are not having a chance to truly experience sports because people are telling them, ‘You can only do one,’” she said.


Although the panelists reflected on some of the negative aspects of women’s sports today, they were hopeful for its future.


“A professional league exists because [sports are] just like school, where you go to learn something you’re passionate about. You hope that when you graduate, you’ll have the opportunity to do that thing,” Chastain said.


Lee echoed a similar statement. With the absence of a professional water polo team in the United States, Lee had to stop playing because she “knew [she] was going to have to do something else” and considers business her “second career.”


Evans emphasized that women athletes who are not at the professional level can still see promising futures. Evans said she has seen “a redefinition of what it means to be a female athlete,” as well as “huge growth in women athletes on a recreational level.” She noted that an overwhelming majority of participants in races like the New York Marathon are women.


Attendees, such as Caitlin Scheder ‘ 15, reacted positively to the event. Scheder said the panel was inspiring and that it was “interesting to have people [she had] looked up to [her] whole life talk about women’s sports.”


Robbie Dela Cruz ‘ 15 was glad she went and said she was pleased that the event did not solely focus on women in sports.


“We [also] talked about how to encourage each other and appreciate ourselves,” she said.

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