Dick’s Sporting Goods: December 2017

2017: The Year of the Female Athlete


2017 was a wild year in sports. It included Clemson’s last-second touchdown to win the college football championship game, perhaps the greatest comeback ever in the Super Bowl, the revival of the Roger Federer-Rafael Nadal rivalry as well as the continuation of the Warriors-Cavaliers showdown, and a World Series title that lifted up the devastated city of Houston.

Despite these incredibly entertaining events, as I reflected on the past year in sports, one thing became clear to me: this was the year of the female athlete.

Both inside and outside of OPRF, on and off the field, female athletes rose to the occasion all year long.

The success started at OPRF over the summer when the softball team won its second consecutive state championship. The dominant pitching by graduate Chardonnay Harris and clutch home run by graduate Mariah Scott in the title game, accompanied by stellar play all season long from senior Maeve Nelson and juniors Fiona Girardot and Nellie Kamenitsa-Hale, led the Huskies to a remarkable accomplishment for the school.

The victories did not stop there. This fall, junior Natalie Ungaretti finished fourth in the 100-yard freestyle event, and junior Sophie Lever finished in the top 10 in the state diving meet. The girls’ field hockey team was one of the top eight teams in the state. Juniors Sophia Kreider and Maya Jamroz qualified for the state tennis tournament.

Just two weeks ago, on Dec. 2, the OPRF Drill Team was the top team in the pom competition and was voted Best Crowd Appeal at the UDA Milwaukee Championship.

The success that female athletes achieved expanded beyond OPRF.

Tennis superstar Serena Williams won the Australian Open in January (while pregnant), welcomed Alexis Olympia Ohanian Jr. to the world in September, and got married last month. Her sister, Venus Williams reached a semifinal and two finals of the four Grand Slam events at the age of 37 this year. Also, Sloane Stephens won the U.S. Open in September, becoming the first non-Williams American to win in almost two decades.

Members of the U.S. Olympic gymnastics team, including McKayla Maroney and Aly Raisman, filed complaints against team doctor Larry Nassar. Nassar was sentenced to 60 years in prison on child pornography charges last week.

WNBA star Breanna Stewart opened up about being sexually assaulted as a child in an essay for The Players’ Tribune.

U.S. soccer player Hope Solo recently announced her candidacy to be President of U.S. Soccer. She is looking to become the first ever female named to that position.

Female athletes came to play this year. The respect that they have received is long overdue, and it is still not enough. Salaries of female athletes are nowhere near that of their male counterparts. Attendance at the events of female athletes are also lower, a problem that exists at professional sporting events as well as OPRF games.

Although progress was made this year, sports fans must make a conscious effort to support athletes equally. 2017 marked 45 years since Title IX was passed by Congress. The law reads, “No person in the United States shall, on the basis of sex, be excluded from participation in, be denied the benefits of, or be subjected to discrimination under any education program or activity receiving Federal financial assistance.” The law continues to have a profound impact on athletics, but gender discrimination is still prevalent in sports. Now is the time for change.

Female athletes will continue to do their thing in 2018, regardless of whether they receive proper support from the sporting world. Serena Williams is expected to make her return to tennis at the Australian Open next month, and Olympic stars such as figure skater Gracie Gold will represent the United States in PyeongChang in February.

At OPRF, the story is similar. The girls’ basketball and gymnastics teams have been impressive thus far and could bring home some hardware, and the softball team will soon begin its quest for a three-peat.

2017 was a monumental year for female athletes at OPRF and around the world, but coming off of the success from this year, 2018 has the possibility of being an even bigger and better year for female athletes.