The sight of the U.S. Women’s Soccer team being honored with a ticker-tape parade in New York City was exciting and inspiring. The so-called Canyon of Heroes has seen many parades for championship men’s teams and returning soldiers from various conflicts; however, this is the first time that a team of female players was so honored. In doing so, the parade not only confirms their status as world champions, but also as world class athletes as accomplished as any men that have come before them.
I have two children who play soccer. My oldest has been on girl’s teams since she was nine years old, and my youngest is just learning how to play in a boys’ clinic. Both of them enjoy watching the games no matter if males or females are on the pitch; however, the importance of seeing female athletes competing at the highest level and achieving such success is crucial for both of them.
This past season my daughter played on two teams (one local and the other traveling), and the commitment she makes is extremely high as she also is involved in other extracurricular activities and must do well in school. For her to see these successful female athletes is an enormous boost to her and affirms her desire to continue to play competitively.
In a wonderful article by writer Amy Bass, she notes the importance of the victory and this celebration of it with a NYC parade.
This team didn’t get a ticker tape parade because Alex Morgan is, as FIFA’s website proclaimed, “easy on the eye,” but rather because it won. While individual women have come before them through the Canyon of Heroes, from Amelia Earhart to Carol Heiss Jenkins to members of the 1984 Olympic team, this is different. These women earned their victory as a team wearing the red, white and blue. And they are being feted, as a team, in a way women never have been before.
The excitement of the thousands of people who came to be spectators clearly was not delineated along gender lines. This team of extremely gifted athletes – who happen to be female – has made America proud, and they are rightly being celebrated for their bringing home the World Cup.
The issues of disparity between male and female athletes do not go away because of this. Unfortunately, as Bass notes in her article, these champion women received $2 million for their victory over Japan in Vancouver; the U.S. men’s team eliminated in last year’s World Cup in Brazil got $8 million, while the winning German team received $35 million.
So indeed there is something wrong with this picture, but it is a longstanding issue that is not going to be overcome with this great victory by the U.S. Women’s team; however, one salient fact should get the attention of sponsors and coaches and network executives – 26.7 million viewers watched these women win their championship in Vancouver – a greater audience than the 26.5 million who watched the men’s World Cup final between Argentina and Germany last year.
If everything is measured by dollar signs in sports, then surely these figures show necessary and compelling reasons to take women athletes more seriously and pay them fairly. Obviously those viewers who tuned in didn’t care that they were watching female athletes but that they were watching a great moment in sports history.
As for my daughter and young female athletes everywhere, they can take pride in this victory and encouragement to keep doing what they love to do. It also is a wonderful thing for my son and all the boys out there too – seeing women competing at a level many male players could only wish to attain.
The U.S. Women’s Soccer team is on top of the sporting world, and deservedly received a ticker-tape parade through the Canyons of Heroes (Heroines?). Men and women everywhere should honor their historic achievement by making sure that other young athletes (male and female) can continue to pursue their dreams of sports glory without anyone thinking twice about their gender.
Photo credits: NY Daily News, CNN[amazon template=iframe image&asin=1481451073]