Women & Sport is a NorthJersey.com column devoted to female athletes from the rec league level to those in college and the pros. If you’ve got a tip on an athlete from North Jersey who should be noted in the column, no matter how young they are or how old, please drop me a line at email@example.com.
We’ve brought all the columns together here in one spot for you to dig in and get your fix on the many-faceted issues surrounding women’s sports.
Along the way, you’ll also get to know me — Melanie Anzidei, a former college soccer player who is eager to find forgotten or under-reported sports stories, and bring them to the forefront for the world to see.
ESPYs controversy latest example that college athletes deserve better (7-22-22)
In the same week that the NCAA released its progress report on gender equity and college basketball, ESPN has come under fire for not inviting South Carolina women’s basketball star Aliyah Boston to its annual summer awards show, the ESPYs. The two items illustrate the polarizing nature of women’s sports: One day we get to celebrate progress, and then next a glaring example is thrown into the spotlight of all the work that still needs to be done.
Boston won a national championship and was named National Player of the Year, Defensive Player of the Year and Final Four Most Outstanding Player in 2022. She was also a nominee for the best college athlete in women’s sports at this year’s ESPYs. Yet, she was kept off the awards show guest list — a decision that has proven an epic failure for the sports broadcasting network.
For NJ trans youth, women’s sports remain safe space despite bans elsewhere (7-15-22)
At least 18 states currently ban transgender athletes from participating in sports that match their gender identity — with more bans likely to be introduced in other states. In New Jersey, the right of trans athletes is somewhat of a bedrock in the youth sports landscape.
Female college athletes are early winners in first year of NIL (7-8-22)
It’s officially been one year since the name, image and likeness era began in college sports. NIL has permanently altered the college sports landscape, rushing in a new form of amateurism for student-athletes across the board. And though plenty will continue to change in the years to come with NIL, so far female athletes have been early winners, reaping the benefits of endorsement deals.
Female athletes have made strides on reproductive freedom in the workplace (7-1-22)
The symbolism couldn’t be clearer. One week ago the United States celebrated 50 years since Title IX became the law of the land — ushering in a new era for girls and women who played sports in the 1970s. It was a monumental milestone, and this year in its wake the conversation had shifted to finding ways to keep the momentum going.
But one day after that anniversary, momentum slowed when the Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade and what had been for nearly 50 years a woman’s constitutional right to an abortion. Reproductive freedom and women’s sports go hand in hand.
50 years after Title IX, there are still plenty of modern day ‘firsts’ in NJ (6-24-22)
It’s been 50 years since Title IX became the law of the land. In 37 words, the landmark passage opened the door for gender equity in sports, education and society to take shape across the United States. All these years later, many doors are still just opening for girls who play sports.
In New Jersey, there are a host of untold stories about women who are making daily strides in male-dominated sports spaces. Today, I’m going to take a moment to highlight some of the modern day “firsts” for women and girls in Garden State sports.
The women’s game is the crown jewel of American soccer. That matters. (6-17-22)
When you have a game flourishing at the highest level, you provide young players with a visualization of what a future in that sport looks like. There’s still plenty to be done to grow a game beyond that, but it’s a start.
In North Jersey and New York, Gotham FC is slowly growing the game by investing in an official reserves team in the Women’s Premier Soccer League and ramping up youth clinics. Kearny, known as Soccertown USA, is now home to the recently formed pro-am women’s team, Paisley Athletic.
As sports icons call for gun laws, female athletes have long been activists (6-10-22)
Athletes have been using their platforms to protest social injustices and drive change for decades. In the world of women’s sports especially, athletes have long made this type of call for action — with athletes’ demands even leading to meaningful change in recent years. After the Uvalde massacre that left 19 children and two teachers dead, Natasha Cloud of the WNBA’s Washington Mystics addressed reporters, calling on fans listening to write to their local politicians to demand change, echoing a similar call for action made by the team in 2020.
“This game doesn’t matter,” Cloud said. “The  lives that were lost today from senseless gun violence in Texas, at an elementary school — we’re talking about our kids not being safe to go to school and our government is still not implementing sensible gun laws.”
WNBA shining example of how investments in women’s sports continue to grow (6-3-22)
What can we say about the W? It is the oldest running professional women’s league in the country — that alone is huge. With women’s sports leagues struggling to last more than a few seasons in recent decades, the WNBA in many ways can serve as a North Star.
The league, like most women’s sports organizations, is experiencing record growth. More people are watching. The league’s 2022 draft averaged 403,000 viewers, or 20% more than last year. That’s picking up on the increase in overall viewership from last season.
Better yet, not only are more people watching professional women’s basketball, they’re also investing in it.
US soccer’s equal pay victory will stand as biggest sports win of 2022 (5-27-22)
There are few teams as important to sports history as the United States women’s national soccer team. Whether talking about the squad who brought home a historic fourth World Cup title after defeating the Netherlands in the summer of 2019, or the legendary ’99ers who brought women’s soccer to the mainstream, the team embodies what athletes are capable of when they challenge the status quo.
Their latest achievement? Securing equal pay with the U.S. men’s national soccer team.
As Title IX hits 50, new NorthJersey.com column devoted to female athletes (5-20-22)
Women’s sports are having a moment — not the kind of moment that will pass, but the kind that will be remembered and reflected on.
Nearly every day there is another breaking story that illustrates another glass ceiling shattered, or another historic milestone reached. Be it when Kelsie Whitmore became the first woman to start in an Atlantic League game, or when the Barcelona Femení beat their own record for the most attended women’s soccer match in history with 91,648 spectators at Camp Nou. Or — you get the idea.
Even as I’m sitting here typing this column, news broke that FIFA, the governing body for world soccer, named three women among the 36 referees chosen to officiate at the men’s World Cup in Qatar later this year, and three more in the group of assistants.
With so much happening in the world of women’s sports, we found it important to not let these moments pass without recognition. For too long, that’s exactly what we’ve done.
That’s why we are creating a space to talk about all of it. The highs and lows. The new and the old. From the business side of sports, to youth development. From the pros, to the rec leagues. There is no topic off limits, and we are eager to highlight these stories with you, our reader.
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