Tennis and Today's Working Mom

Two significant events marked this year's U.S Open tennis tournament in New York.

Kicking things off, the world's largest public tennis facility became the world's largest sports facility named for a woman. The USTA National Tennis Center renamed itself in honor of four-time U.S. Open singles champion Billie Jean King (it's worth noting that this "renaming" opportunity could have been sold to one of the many blue chip Open sponsors such as American Express, Lexus, TIAA Creff or others). Then, at the end of the tournament, Martina Navratilova capped off her 34-year career by winning her 41st U.S. Open championship and announcing her retirement with well-deserved fanfare.

You may well ask what these elite athletic occurences have to do with women balancing work and family.

Here's the answer: Bille Jean King and Martina Navratilova, along with tennis rival and colleague Chris Evert, sure know how to break a glass ceiling.

Billie Jean King, the daughter of a firefighter and homemaker, won 67 singles titles, including 12 Grand Slams, in her 29-year professional career. In 1973, midway through her run as one of the most competitive female players ever, King refused to play in the U.S. Open unless women and men received equal prize money. A gutsy move that could have doomed her career. The U.S. Open became the first major tournament to capitulate and now men and women earn equal pay for equal work, in major tennis tournaments at least.

King worked hard for other women, serving as the first president of the women's tennis union and supporting the first professional women's tennis tour. Most famously, in front of nearly 50 million people watching in 37 countries, she played (and beat) Bobby Riggs, a former top men's player who had foolishly claimed that women's tennis was so inferior that any male could overpower even the best female tennis player in the world.

Billie Jean King, Martina Navratilova and Chris Evert forced the lucrative world of professional tennis to be more women-friendly. They made careers possible for thousands of girls around the world, including such greats as Venus and Serena Williams, Zina Garrison, and the latest U.S. Open women's singles champ, 19-year-old Maria Sharapova, whose $25 million earnings made her the world's highest paid female athlete in 2005. All these athletes hail from impoverished backgrounds (Compton, Houston and Siberia) and none would have had opportunities without the women who'd fought for equal rights long before they were even born.

Neither King nor Navratilova had children (Chris Evert, who retired at age 35 after winning 21 Grand Slam titles, went on to have three sons). As many women know, it's awfully hard to break a glass ceiling while changing diapers, and there's no daycare on tour. But they made it possible for their successors to better balance children and success at work. Among the spectators watching this U.S. Open sat another great champion, Steffi Graf. During her 17-year career Graf earned 22 Grand Slam singles titles and spent a record 377 weeks as the No. 1 ranked woman in the world and is the only player, male or female, to have won all four Grand Slam titles at least four times. At this year's Open, Steffi, now a stay-at-home mom married to another tennis great, Andre Agassi, sat in the stands with her two young children. In her own way, she's "having it all, just not all at once."

We all face opponents in life and work. Some obstacles are huge -- a job lost at exactly the wrong moment, a destructive marriage, unintended mistakes or missed opportunities that we pay for the rest of our lives. But overcoming other obstacles can be totally within our control, whether it's a lousy boss or a too-long commute or the latest childcare challenge. King's words still hit close to home: "Victory is fleeting. Losing is forever."

By Leslie Morgan Steiner |  September 13, 2006; 6:00 AM ET  | Category:  Moms in the News
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Very well said.

Posted by: tlawrenceva | September 13, 2006 8:13 AM

Thank you for this informative article. I had NO idea that BJKing took the stand in 1973 to make womens prize money the same as mens. What incredible courage and selflessness.
I read every tennis article I see and have never seen this in print.
I play and watch tennis (and no other sport) and cannot imagine any athlete in any sport doing this today.
I also applaud the USTA for naming the stadium after her and forgoing the naming rights and large money to do so from a corporate sponsor. Again a noble act.

Posted by: denise | September 13, 2006 8:42 AM

Again with the equal pay for equal work? Your analogy was better than you thought though because (like in the economy as a whole) men work more at the US Open than women since they have to play best-of-five set matches while the women play best-of-three.

Posted by: G | September 13, 2006 8:56 AM

"The U.S. Open became the first major tournament to capitulate and now men and women earn equal pay for equal work, in major tennis tournaments at least."

Not equal work. Men play best out of 5 sets while women play best out of 3 sets. Not saying this is right but this is fact. It is NOT equal work.

Posted by: Anonymous | September 13, 2006 8:56 AM

I do think it's odd that women play 3 sets while men play 5. Why can't they either have women play 5 sets or men play 3? Either one would work for me!

Posted by: I actually agree | September 13, 2006 9:00 AM

I assume the difference goes back to the belief that women were the weaker gender and couldn't handle having to play 5 full sets. It's an antiquated feeling.

Posted by: Anonymous | September 13, 2006 9:06 AM

Interesting point about the pay, fascinating women and athletes, but not sure what this has to do with achieving balance as a parent. Both Chris and Steffi retired before having children.

Off topic, I'm trying to balance the emotional well-being of my daughter versus letting her experience life. This summer my 12-year-old had her first "relationship". It was all very innocent and since the boyfriend was the son of friends of the family, I thought she wouldn't get hurt. But now he's broken up with her (by e-mail!) and is being mean to her. She is devastated. I'm trying to comfort my daughter and figure out what to say to the boy and his parents the next time I see them. The mother lioness in me wants to lash out, but I realize that won't accomplish anything but end a very pleasant friendship. I also realize she learned valuable life lessons.

So parents of older children who've been through puppy love heart break, how do I balance protecting my daughter and letting her experience some of life's bumps? And how should I deal with the boy and his parents?

Posted by: Off Topic | September 13, 2006 9:09 AM

BJK was protesting an extremely unequal payout for women vs. men, far greater than 3/5. And justifying more money for men b/c they play 5 sets vs. 3 is a silly argument when you take it to its logical extreme. What if a men's match only goes to 3 sets? Should those players earn less? Should a man earn more if his match runs five hours vs. another man's match that lasts only two hours?

It's not the length of the match that matters. It's how you play it, and how hard you had to work to get there.

Posted by: Leslie | September 13, 2006 9:23 AM

There is no comparison between what the guys lift at the gym vs. what the women are lifting. The perceived difference between the male and female physique is not based on *feelings* - antiquated or otherwise. There is a science behind it. Hopefully a more educated poster will tune in and be willing to educate us further.

The *perception* of equal work will always compromise even the most stellar effort. It cannot be taken at face value and should always be defined, ideally by folks who really know what they are talking about.

Posted by: Tracy | September 13, 2006 9:24 AM

G, please explain how men work "more" in the economy as a whole.

Greater numbers of men working does not mean that they work more than women; it would not affect the equal pay argument.

Men working harder than a woman at the same job is hardly quantifiable.

What do you mean?

Posted by: Meesh | September 13, 2006 9:32 AM

Tennis prizes like all professional sports is based on what the market will bear. The key would be how much the organizers would lose if the women didn't participate. It is no different than the name basketball player who holds out for a super large contract. He may even play less than the other players, but he is the draw for the fans.

Posted by: NoVAsinglemom | September 13, 2006 9:33 AM

The "work" is what it takes to win the match. So by winning the match, women are doing the same work as men who win their matches.

Offtopic, 12 seems a little young for a romance, but maybe 12 is the new 16? At any rate, since the relationship was with your blessing or approval, you should not treat your friends, the parents, any differently than before. The break-up was almost inevitable from the beginning; that's part of dating. As you know, it's very common for relationships to end with hurt feelings. It could just as easily have been your daughter doing the breaking up. Just teach your daughter that her feelings are valid and understandable and in time she will move on. This is not a reflection on the parents unless the boy is doing something reprehensible.

Posted by: Anonymous | September 13, 2006 9:37 AM

I feel for you. It's painful to see your child hurt. My son is 19. When his girlfriend recently broke up with him he was crushed. I tried to distract him by taking him to New York City for the weekend. I suggest saying nothing about it to the boy or his parents and also recommend against bad-mouthing the boy to your daughter. Keeping busy with friends and activities is probably the best cure.

Posted by: Off Topic | September 13, 2006 9:41 AM

Tracey, I agree with you to a certain extent. On average, women can do less heavy lifting than men and have less physical endurance.

These athletes, however, are not average people. If these female tennis players began to train to play 5 sets instead of 3, they would be able to do it. Female basketball players play for the same amount of time as their male counterparts because they train to do so. It's the same with female soccer players.

There are gender divisions in some sports, for example, the height of the net in volleyball. But in beach volleyball, the nets are the same height for both sexes. What's the rationale? Why are the sticks and rules different in women's lacrosse?

I think that if both genders adopted the same rules and regulations for a sport, the women would do just fine. It really is all about the training. Female marathon runners have to train for the same distance as the men do, and hundreds of thousands of them complete marathons each year.

Posted by: Meesh | September 13, 2006 9:45 AM

Only 10% of the female workers in this country make more than 9.00 an hour? And don't the people you are talking about choose to have kids too?

Posted by: to marine | September 13, 2006 9:52 AM

Been reading the blogs for the past few weeks and concluded that this blog is mislabelled. It should be under the society pages because the topics are always about rich preppie highly-educated moms "struggling" (and I use that very loosely) with their selfish worldly ambitions while wanting superkids. It's like listening to two sorority girls "struggling" to decide between an espresso roast and Colombio Supremo.
It's about "wanting it all", being a career woman, raising superkids, pumping milk at work, flex times, etc.
You know, 90% of working women don't struggle with those issues.
They work at a $9/hr job and send their kids to lousy daycares. They miss a workday and they can't make the light bill. The father, if present, has an unstable job. Dad might be in Iraq fighting the jihadists so they don't come over here to murder you. Their homelife is stressed, not by choice but by necessity.

So really, your "struggles" are trivial because you are choosing between better and best.

So OnBalance deals only with issues facing rich white highly-educated high-achieving career women who choose to have children and want to excel in their white-collar career.

Move it to the high society section.

Posted by: Marine1 | September 13, 2006 9:52 AM

Not going to school, joining the military, and not planning your children are all choices. Don't blame people who worked their butts off to get to where they are, this is America and we all have opportunities.

Posted by: another to Marine 1 | September 13, 2006 9:58 AM

To Marine1:

I think your view of the world is very warped. 90% of women work for $9 an hour, have lousy daycare and absent husbands? 90%? That's just nuts. You need to get out more.

That said, I do agree that this blog is heavy on the upper middle class viewpoint.

But 90% of women in dire straits?! You're discrediting your whole position with that crazy made-up "statistic".

Posted by: Anonymous | September 13, 2006 10:03 AM

Marine1, yeah pretty much. But you can always ingore the subject at hand and start your own. See, I don't have anything to say about tennis, but that didn't stop me from chiming in.

Re comment about 19-year-old son. That was mine. Should have read to Off Topic not from Off Topic.

Posted by: Melt | September 13, 2006 10:06 AM

Per the US dept. of Labor in 2003 the median weekly income for women who worked full time was $552 or $13.80/hour. By definition that means 50% earn more than that so where did you get the false statistic that 90% earn $9.00 or less?

Posted by: still another to marine 1 | September 13, 2006 10:09 AM

To, Another to Marine 1. Hey watch it, Lady with the including "joining the military" in your list of bad decisions. I spent 22 years in the military and consider it the smartest thing I ever did. You're class snobbery is showing.

Posted by: Melt | September 13, 2006 10:12 AM

I think the accomplishments of these athletes are remarkable.

Not to focus only on the big-name winners, but womens's sports have expanded greatly over these years. It's a great thing.

I think we owe more than me know to these sports leaders.

Posted by: RoseG | September 13, 2006 10:12 AM

To Off Topic:

Our 13 year old went through that last year. We actually had to do the 'breaking up' (one phoen call to say that it had to end because they had been on again, off again for a few weeks and DD wasn't handling it well) - the 'relationship' was with a 15 year old friend of the family. She's coping well now - but it took both of us being supportive, sharing a few 'when I was first dating' stories about puppy love gone wrong, and a special trip to get her a new blouse for an event so she'd look extra nice. The tween and teen years are so emotionally fraught, and the extremes can happen almost at the same time - it's easier if you just realize there's going to be storms, and batten down your personal hatches and let them rage a bit. As long as they know you love them, and that it will eventaully get better, they'll settle soon enough. Just give them time and a little extra attention and affection.

Posted by: RebeccainAR | September 13, 2006 10:16 AM

Your class snobbery is showing as is my bad English.

Posted by: Melt | September 13, 2006 10:20 AM

I have three daughters. 7, 5 and 2, none will be dating until 33 and none are allowed serious boyfriends until 40. Then around 99 they can marry. My 7 year old is fine with this plan.

And so am I. :-)

Posted by: Mr. EstrogenCentral | September 13, 2006 10:24 AM

I just don't know what to say! Denise says she watches AND plays tennis, but was ignorant of BJK's contributions with regard to leveling the pay for female athletes????? Somebody help me here!

The US Open did institute 5 set matches at one point for the female players; it was abyssmal. Tennis, unlike almost any other sport is dependent on one player only. There is no coaching during matches. It is probably the most physically and mentally demanding of any of the professional sports. Due to the their higher muscle mass, men have an advantage over women endurance wise. Having said that, I do think female players deserve equal pay. The interest of the fans follows the competitiveness of the sport. Players like BJK, Martina and Chris elevated the level of the game and therefore fan interest. REAL tennis fans go where the action is and the women's game has become more dominant over the years. Consequently, their matches can have equal and sometimes higher attendance than the men's. John McEnroe had to eat crow several years ago when he said he would not cover women's matches. Guess what happened? More people were watching women's matches and Johnnie boy had to eat his words. He now covers women's and men's matches.

Lastly, I comepletely agree with Marine1!

Posted by: Seventies Baby | September 13, 2006 10:30 AM

Help! Can anyone recommend some good books about blending families? I don't expect mine to look like the Brady Bunch, but still - I need some help.

Posted by: The Blender | September 13, 2006 10:33 AM

"To, Another to Marine 1. Hey watch it, Lady with the including "joining the military" in your list of bad decisions. I spent 22 years in the military and consider it the smartest thing I ever did. You're class snobbery is showing."

No kidding! We should all be glad that there are many brave men and women who make this choice.

Posted by: Anonymous | September 13, 2006 10:33 AM

I don't know anything about tennis. Can someone explain to me why the male players get to wear shorts but the women have to wear those silly little skirts?

Posted by: Anonymous | September 13, 2006 10:36 AM

Many of the older women who paved the way for the young women of today were childless, not just in tennis but it many fields. Those women paid a huge price so that the young women of today can have balance. Good to remember them and their sacrifices.

Posted by: Suzy | September 13, 2006 10:37 AM

It's not the number of sets that matters. It's the number of fans that attend the matches and watch on TV. Women's tennis attracts more fans and advertising revenue. That's why there is equal pay. It's equal pay for equal financial contribution to the sponsors and networks.

In addition, women serve fewer aces and have longer rallys and thus, play much longer points. A five set match for women would last about 5 hours.

Posted by: MeAgain | September 13, 2006 10:38 AM

I'm all for supporting women's sports. It doesn't bother me to have men and women compete against one another as long as it's not a contact sport, but I think it's completely rediculus that girls are allowed to play football with the boys on local and school teams. Nothing good could possibly come from it. If they want to support their school football team, girls should go out for cheerleading.

Posted by: Father of 4 | September 13, 2006 10:39 AM

to Father of 4: "If they want to support their school football team, girls should go out for cheerleading." Gag!!!

Posted by: Anonymous | September 13, 2006 10:43 AM

Didn't say it was a bad choice, I said it was a choice and who said I was a lady or a snob. Sorry if you took it the wrong way.

Not going to school, joining the military, and not planning your children are all choices. Don't blame people who worked their butts off to get to where they are, this is America and we all have opportunities.

Posted by: melt-re-read it | September 13, 2006 10:48 AM

Am I on the wrong blog today? Is this the sports blog? The feminist blog? The history channel? Come on Leslie...

Posted by: confused parent | September 13, 2006 10:49 AM

The Blender -- I'd check out Anne Burt's anthology My Father Married Your Mother for true stories of blended families. Burt offers the candid anti-Brady Bunch view that families don't always blend perfectly or according to any set schedule or formula. Disclaimer: I wrote one of the essays in the book about my stepmom. Anne Burt also wrote a Guest Blog on May 30 titled Building a Stepfamily that you can find if you search under Guest Blogs Category. Good luck!

Posted by: Leslie | September 13, 2006 10:50 AM

Not to mention that more people watch women's tennis than men's (consistently higher T.V. viewership). So they actually make more for the USTA than the male players. Maybe they should make more $$ than the men if we're talking what's fair.

Posted by: Anon | September 13, 2006 10:51 AM

Geez, where to start tennis, marines, and love sick 12 year olds!

I'm skipping tennis because I have no clue. Marine 1, I agree with some of what you said about the board, so write a guest blog and let us know what it is really like.

love sick 12 year old, let it run it's course, I know it's hard, I was 12 once too, but if you get involved the parents will be mad, your daughter will be embarrassed, and then in the end the kids will be friends again.

Father of 4, as the mother of a daughter and a spectator who saw a little girl rushed off the football field to the hospital, I agree with you on the football thing.

Although I don't think that they should have to be a cheerleader, even though I was one. I would like to think that if they like football they could have their own league.

Posted by: scarry | September 13, 2006 10:52 AM

SCARRY WAS A CHEERLEADER??????!!!!!

Posted by: Anonymous | September 13, 2006 11:00 AM

you might want to note that Martina's 2006 U.S. Open Championship was for mixed doubles, not the singles title which many might assume. As you have it written, it does not do credit to her enormous versatility and range.

Posted by: Ritamae | September 13, 2006 11:03 AM

Yes, I was and a very good one, but I don't know why you have to yell it out like that.

Posted by: scarry | September 13, 2006 11:04 AM

"The break-up was almost inevitable from the beginning; that's part of dating."

Exactly. If they didn't break up at some point, they'd be in that relationship for the rest of their lives. I doubt any of you really expected that, especially since she was just dating (some people do expect 12-year-old girls to stay with their guys for life, but they're talking about married 12-year-olds).

Posted by: Maria | September 13, 2006 11:04 AM

"Only 10% of the female workers in this country make more than 9.00 an hour? And don't the people you are talking about choose to have kids too?"

LOL. Where in the world do you get this stuff?? This is a load of ____! Um, this isn't 1938 dude. ;)

Posted by: Anonymous | September 13, 2006 11:04 AM

>>> On average, women can do less heavy lifting than men and have less physical endurance. <<<

Women are actually better at endurance sports than men. At least, this is what I have been told by trainers while training for 110 mile bike rides.

Posted by: to Meesh | September 13, 2006 11:07 AM

scarry he is yelling it out like that because

1. He is a jerk and doesn't like you or

2. you really don't come across as the cheerleading type.

Posted by: Anonymous | September 13, 2006 11:07 AM

"Not equal work. Men play best out of 5 sets while women play best out of 3 sets. Not saying this is right but this is fact. It is NOT equal work."

Perhaps not. But for eons, men in tournament sports (basketball, tennis, golf, etc.) have pulled in far greater monetary rewards than women, and the reason always given is not that they work harder but that they bring in a bigger television audience.

Well, nowadays in professional tennis, women bring in a bigger audience than men. More viewers want to see women compete than men, and sponsors are aware of this.

So, by the very standards developed by the male-centric sports industry, women tennis players should be making MORE money than men -- not just equal money.

Posted by: pittypat | September 13, 2006 11:08 AM

And how many little boys are rushed off the field in football? I think football is way too violent and would never let my child play--boy or girl. The fact that there are apparently tackle football leagues for children makes me sick! Why can't they play touch football?

Posted by: Meesh | September 13, 2006 11:09 AM

I stand corrected! Thanks for the info. That would have been nice to know while I was training for my marathon--would have given me a lot more hope!

Posted by: Meesh | September 13, 2006 11:11 AM

Thanks for the clarification that 50% of working women earn $14/hr.
Great work done by the feminists!

Now do you want an espresso roast or Colombia Supremo? Weekly manicure and pedicure? The ladies here can play Bunko, join the YaYa whatever, complain about not having a private room to pump breastmilk, whine about the gender wage gap, demand high-quality daycare 8-6 for $100/wk so they can be richer and more "fulfilled".

The majority of the working women just hope they don't get laid off and their families are kept safe and healthy.

Posted by: Marine1 | September 13, 2006 11:12 AM

I was married to someone who acted like he was 12. Does that count?

Posted by: Anonymous | September 13, 2006 11:15 AM

"Dad might be in Iraq fighting the jihadists so they don't come over here to murder you"

Mom certainly would not be. She'd be at home with the babies, right?

Posted by: Anonymous | September 13, 2006 11:15 AM

"The majority of the working women just hope they don't get laid off and their families are kept safe and healthy"

You're right! I'm on this blog and I never have to worry about getting laid off! Except that I was for 6 months and had to sell my house. And I care WAY more about my nails and coffee than I do about my children! Wow! It's like you can read my mind!

Posted by: Anonymous | September 13, 2006 11:21 AM

>>> So really, your "struggles" are trivial because you are choosing between better and best.

So OnBalance deals only with issues facing rich white highly-educated high-achieving career women who choose to have children and want to excel in their white-collar career.

Move it to the high society section. <<<

Feel free to start your own blog. Highly educated, white women are the only ones who have the time to to over-analyze everthing. You're not obligated to read the blog, ya know.

Gotta run...I am sorry, my limo driver just pulled up to drive me to my job. God, I am late because the nanny didn't get the children out of the manse on time. -Sigh- Thank god I have a massage and facial this afternoon.

Please! Working women face many of the same obstacles regardless of income and profession. And, ALL parents face many of the same struggles regardless of income too. But remember, this blog requires a computer and time, something not all women have so blog are always bias in make up of their audience. DUH!

Posted by: To Marine 1 | September 13, 2006 11:21 AM

this is really bad today

Posted by: confused parent | September 13, 2006 11:23 AM

Meesh,

The whole time I have watched my nephews play ball I have never seen a boy taken off in an ambulance. (Haven't watched every game everywhere, so I'm sure it happens) It also happens in soccer, volleyball, basketball and every other sport. I really don't think this is a boy vs. girl thing. It just happens that most boys are bigger than most girls and I wouldn't want to risk my girl being at the bottom of a pile of large boys.

I also like that little league football teaches teamwork and it gives kids a chance to exercise. However, I am from the Midwest and I admit that things are different here. In my town, unless you were working on Friday night, you were at the football game. I guess it's just a different culture.

Posted by: scarry | September 13, 2006 11:26 AM

TO Meesh - Football is a contact sport that has been around for over a century (not sure, but probably 100 years at least). They where pads and helmets in case you haven't noticed. I LOVE football and have a young boy (6) - and if wants to play football - he can play. He could get just as easily get a kick in the mouth or leg on the soccer field. He could fall off his scooter and break his leg, or like my neighbor's kid crack his leg bone coming down the slide at the playground.

We can't put our kids in bubble wrap. And we can't let kids get hang-ups because of our own. To each their own though.

Posted by: cmac | September 13, 2006 11:26 AM

"Dad might be in Iraq fighting the jihadists so they don't come over here to murder you."

Get the facts straight, fool. The jihadists weren't in Iraq until we went there. Guess you believe the Bush lies.

Posted by: To Marine1 | September 13, 2006 11:30 AM

Marine1, channel your bitterness into something productive. Ask your elected representatives why corporate profits have soared over the past few decades while wages have stagnated.

Why does the so-called "family values" political establishment allow so much wealth and power to consolidate in the hands of a few, while working families -- be they lower class, middle class, or comfortable-but-not-rich -- bear the burden of working harder for the same money as last year? Why do we allow millions of people to go without health insurance and access to proper medical care? Is that "family friendly"?

Companies "can't afford" to give their workers extended maternity/paternity leave (even extra unpaid leave would be better than the measly 12 weeks), but they CAN afford to pay their useless CEO $100 million a year, plus a private jet?

It's an election year. Let's do something!

Posted by: Anonymous | September 13, 2006 11:33 AM

"I wonder if anyone else has experienced this and how they dealt with it. I wonder if all older brothers are that way."

I believe my husband's exact words were, "If any of my friends hit on my little sister, I kill them." Brothers don't usually let friends date their sister. Probably because they know their friends too well?

Posted by: To Meesh | September 13, 2006 11:36 AM

(Sorry, I have some spare time)

In terms of the relationship, I have an older brother (by two years) who was very overprotective. His friends knew that I was off limits. When a few of them did break the rule and date me, my brother stopped talking to them. Ultimately, I felt that his happiness was more important than my fleeting relationships, so I stopped getting involved with his friends.

I wonder if anyone else has experienced this and how they dealt with it. I wonder if all older brothers are that way.

Posted by: Meesh | September 13, 2006 11:36 AM

Weird blog today-- not enough meat in the main post to keep people going. C'mon Leslie, give us more to chew on!

As for the lovesick 12 year old, I think it's a perfect opportunity to talk about self-esteem. Rather than make it about the boy specifically, take the opportunity to talk to your daughter about the precariousness of basing one's self-worth on the opinion of others. Of course, it's normal to be hurt when someone you like rejects you-- and she should be allowed to express that normal pain. But remind her she's still the same wonderful girl she was before, and a boy deciding he doesn't like her anymore doesn't mean it's time to stop liking herself.

It's a fine line between allowing a tween/teen to express normal feelings of disappointment over the loss of a pal and encouraging her to become the emotional satellite of boys/peers by wallowing in agony over every slight. I would suggest the old 'this too shall pass', a big hug and generally trying to encourage her self-respect and personhood as much as you can (which, by the way, doesn't require belittling the importance of friends).

Posted by: JKR | September 13, 2006 11:38 AM

ok article but to say BJK and Navratilova didn't have children because it's hard to break glass ceilings and change diapers is a little disingenious. they didn't have kids because they are gay. And there's nothing wrong with that.

Posted by: Andy | September 13, 2006 11:42 AM

Marine1 - Awfully bitter about something, aren't you?

I'd like to think that all parents hope their families stay safe and healthy. As for your claim that "the majority of the working women just hope they don't get laid off...." This statement is based on what? The vast knowledge you've already displayed regarding working women?

If you don't like the topics here, don't read the blog.

http://lawyermama.blogspot.com/

Posted by: Lawyer Mama | September 13, 2006 11:43 AM

In soccer, a foot to the shin or ball to the face is an accident. In football, grabbing someone and forcing him or her to the ground is necessary and happens every play. That's the difference.

As a kid, I got hit the in face with a softball, volleyball, and basketball, and got hit in my back with a lacrosse ball. Sports are tough, and I expect my kid to get hurt. However, when kids getting tackled every play, there is a much better chance of them getting injured.

SO how old are these kids playing tackle football? I wouldn't have a problem letting my 10 year old play, but there's no way I'd let a 6 year old play tackle football. What's wrong with touch, again? Not cool or tough enough?

Posted by: Meesh | September 13, 2006 11:45 AM

Pretty normal Meesh. My brothers could scare their friends even from across the Atlantic into not dating me.

Posted by: scarry | September 13, 2006 11:46 AM

Am I old fashion at 35?! I don't understand why a 12 y.o. is dating or having a "relationship"? I still thought boys were idiots at 12.

Posted by: is it me?! | September 13, 2006 11:48 AM

My newphews played from the time they were little, but you have to remember that they are playing with other little kids. I think he was five or six when he started. There are also weight limits.

Posted by: scarry | September 13, 2006 11:52 AM

What is the "cool or tough" comment about - jeez - I was just voicing my opinion. I doubt they have tackle football for 6 year olds - but if they did - who cares? I also beg to differ when you say that kids are getting tackled every play in football - have you ever watched pee-wee football? They spend more time tripping and running the wrong way.

Glad you escaped injury in sports as a kid. I submit a good kick to the mouth and loosing your teeth can hurt as much as a broken arm, but that is just me.

If you don't want your kids to play tackle football then don't. There is a sentiment in this country that has stopped the play of dodge-ball, so I think everyone has to be on the alert for over-reactors.

Posted by: cmac | September 13, 2006 11:54 AM

JKR, you should do a guest blog. I've noticed that your posts are very reasonable, thoughtful, and well-articulated.

I would also add to the 12 yo (which I do think is a bit young to be starting all this, but she's not my kid) that dating and relationships are only one part of life. Focus on your friends, hobbies, family, sports, pets, whatever for a while, and if you meet a boy you like, fine, but there's more to a happy life than having a boyfriend. I know it's hard to get that message through when you're a teenager and obsessed with who "likes" who, but it's worth trying. I can't tell you how sad it is to see some of my female friends express feelings of failure just because they don't have a boyfriend at the moment, even though they have everything else going for them (pretty, fun, smart, good jobs). Don't let that happen to your daughter!

Posted by: Anonymous | September 13, 2006 11:58 AM

Cheerleading is now the most dangerous HS sport. Gymnastics on a hardwood floor / all of the throws (without helmets and padding) are worse than football with appropriate gear.

Posted by: fyi | September 13, 2006 12:07 PM

Is tennis more equal-gender-friendly than other sports? (Ie, track and field, perhaps, or soccer, maybe...) Here's an interesting question: what sports should we encourage our children to play and why?

We have a one-year-old son. He will learn golf, because his dad loves it and it's good for business. It encourages emotional self-discipline in the face of adversity (who enjoys being with a cranky, angry golfer?) To play well, you have to remain calm, breathing well, and focused.

He will learn to ride and take care of horses because I love it myself. I believe that it's good for our egos to learn to calmly and compassionately manage a skittish, 1000-lb animal. This animal doesn't care if you are handsome or cool or have the latest gadgets. Plus, it's calming to take a horse out to graze and listen to the rhythmic munch of grass -- good for teenage boys!

Note: We live in Ohio and we are middle class, so no rich jokes plz...

Posted by: Rebecca | September 13, 2006 12:10 PM

Off Topic and those who responded--Where did you people grow up? 12 is seventh or eighth grade and well into puberty for girls, not kindergarden--at best kids are "going together" and having boyfriends to talk to on the phone, etc. at this age and very often they are physically involved at some very intimate levels as well if you don't pay close attention (depends on where you live). Parents have no role in that except to instill their kids with the self esteem, knowledge, loving suppport and good judgment to get through it. Self Esteem is the best antidote to early sex and pregnancy in girls. Too bad it doesn't come in a shot. For your daughter's sake, please don't talk to the boys family about it. She'll run away.

Posted by: To Off topic | September 13, 2006 12:15 PM


To confused parent: This blog is about life balance, while most of the topics involve children issues, the blog is about life balance and that affects all people.

I don't have kids and I find alot of good suggestions on here, and it is interesting. Except for the meanies.

I think today's column is great and inspiring. I work in the Finance industry, and my employer is very supportive of everything. One of my colleagues is going on maternity leave soon and the benefits are great. Just the same as the guy down the hall who was out for 3 months with complications from appendicitis (sp?). Equal treatment.

If everyone (bosses, companies, etc..) stopped making policies to stop the very small percentage of employees who take advantage, and instead trusted thier employees, work and life would probalby balance more.

One more thing - my company (global firm with tens of thousands of employee) has no official sick days. The policy is trusting: if you are sick, do what you need to do, stay home, go to the doctor. If they feel someone is taking advantage, they deal with that on a case by case. I actually call in less because I don't feel like I have to use some "alloted" days. And I don't worry that they will run out.

Posted by: 2 cents | September 13, 2006 12:16 PM

Re: Rebecca's question about which sports we encourage and why --

I like the idea of my kids learning to play on a team, but with all the horror stories you hear about kids' team sports, I don't know. Obnoxious parents and hard-driving coaches acting like it's the pro leagues. Just as bad are the new "rules" designed to make everybody a "winner". Like being *almost* on base is just as good as actually being safe. When do they learn how to lose and fail? I also hate how every kid in an event gets a trophy, even last place. It's absurd, and it waters down REAL achievements.

My point is that I think I might have more control over the situation if my kids do a more individual sport. So I can make sure they're doing it for fun and enjoyment while still learning real skills like perseverence, goal setting, etc. Without some jerk in the bleachers screaming at the coach to take my kid out of the game because they're not good enough!

Posted by: 2Preschoolers | September 13, 2006 12:17 PM

"I believe my husband's exact words were, 'If any of my friends hit on my little sister, I kill them.' Brothers don't usually let friends date their sister. Probably because they know their friends too well?"

And/or maybe because of some subconscious "me compete with males to keep females for myself!!!" instinct? Some of this "overprotective" behavior looks an awful lot like "jealous" behavior.

"It's a fine line between allowing a tween/teen to express normal feelings of disappointment over the loss of a pal and encouraging her to become the emotional satellite of boys/peers by wallowing in agony over every slight. I would suggest the old 'this too shall pass', a big hug and generally trying to encourage her self-respect and personhood as much as you can (which, by the way, doesn't require belittling the importance of friends)."

Fantastic advice. Neither extreme is healthy. You don't want your kid thinking "Mom and Dad won't be happy me unless I'm popular and going steady with someone," and you don't want your kid thinking "Mom and Dad won't be happy unless I'm autistic and happy with having no friends."

Posted by: Maria | September 13, 2006 12:18 PM

Re Andy's comment, "ok article but to say BJK and Navratilova didn't have children because it's hard to break glass ceilings and change diapers is a little disingenious. they didn't have kids because they are gay. And there's nothing wrong with that." --

No, they didn't have kids because they didn't choose to. Being gay had nothing to do with it.

Posted by: pittypat | September 13, 2006 12:20 PM


Thank you everyone for your comments.

Be patient with your children.

Do something kind for your spouse, something that you don't enjoy but he or she really appreciates. Love is putting the other person first.

Look first to the needs of others.

Care.

Semper Fi!

Posted by: Marine1 | September 13, 2006 12:20 PM

"I believe my husband's exact words were, 'If any of my friends hit on my little sister, I kill them.' Brothers don't usually let friends date their sister. Probably because they know their friends too well?"

And/or maybe because of some subconscious "me compete with males to keep females for myself!!!" instinct? Some of this "overprotective" behavior looks an awful lot like "jealous" behavior.

Um, I don't think he is saying that he wants to date his own sister. That stuff might fly in West Virginia, but not here!

Posted by: Anonymous | September 13, 2006 12:24 PM

Hi Rebecca,

Great that you live in the heartland. Good, too, that you will share what you love with your one-year old son.

But be sure to share a range of activities -- tennis, too :) !

He will eventually settle on a few that he likes. (Hint: not always does the child like the sports of parents.)

For the body, try also soccer since this is the common-denominator sport for all. At rec-level, even the nerdiest-dorkiest boy or girl can run around like mad and have fun.

Swimming is a life-time sport and not expensive.

Some kids really like solo and/quiet sports, like archery and fencing. Is chess a sport? A neighbor's son is mad about this competitive brain gym activity. She makes him play rec-soccer to keep the body moving.

My sport was track/field/running and I have no takers among my three (13, 20, 23).

Two of them are ballerina bun-heads, even into their 20s. So, I learned to appreciate the froth and tulle, AND athleticism.

I took up swimming since in this multi-tasking world, I swim laps during his swim practice. Great on the knees. And we both come home tired and "aerobicized."

Now, have to start the weight-bearing exercises to keep the bones dense.....


Posted by: College Parkian | September 13, 2006 12:24 PM

I played organized football for 6 years. there is something exhilerating i found out about running down a field full speed, launching my body headfirst, and popping the snot out of the other guy. It's also a lot of fun body slamming a quarterback into the turf. And the best thing is this kind of behavior is encouraged and rewarded by the coaches and fans! I think there is an instinctive desire to assert one's physical capabilities over one another inside of every boy, and football is a great game to excercise this desire.

Off the field, I'm a gentle giant.

I've seen more people get injured in softball than any other sport.

Scarry, I've never met a bad cheerleader, only naughty ones, and there's a big difference between the two.

Posted by: Father of 4 | September 13, 2006 12:25 PM

Rebecca,

Re your pronouncements on your son's future
("He will learn golf"; "He will learn to ride") --

What if he doesn't want to play golf or is afraid of or bored by horses? You're saying he WILL DO the sports that you and your husband love. What if he is drawn to other sports? What is he doesn't want to be a clone?

Will you let him think for himself and pursue sports that interest him?

Posted by: pittypat | September 13, 2006 12:29 PM

The argument supporting different pay scales for men vs. women based on the fact that women usually play for the best two out of three sets and men usually play for the best three out of five sets has been around for awhile. I don't dismiss it out of hand, but don't think that time on the court is the most accurate or equitable method of determining pay.

BTW, the 5 set/3 set rule is true at the majors, but not at all tournaments. (I remember a great 5-set match w/ Gabriella Sabatini. I also remember a marathon women's match at one of the majors that was only 3 sets but went to a ridiculous number of tiebreak points in the third--was it a Virginia Wade match?)

The simple solution is, of course, to even up the number of sets men and women play in the majors. The problem w/ that solution is at least twofold:

--The powers that be/organizers are content w/ the current system and it doesn't suit their purposes to have women's matches run longer.

--The same powers that be are also making tons of money off women players for everything from ticket sales, appearances, endorsements, etc. Were fans charged less for tickets to the women's final than for the men's final? Didn't think so.

The argument has some surface merit, but is inherently flawed.

Posted by: sn | September 13, 2006 12:36 PM

Check out next week's rebroadcast of HBO's "Billie Jean King: Portrait of a Pioneer" for further details of this remarkable woman's contributions:
http://www.hbo.com/apps/schedule/ScheduleServlet?ACTION_DETAIL=DETAIL&FOCUS_ID=621567

Posted by: Elaine | September 13, 2006 12:37 PM

I never liked my brother, thought he was weird, and felt the same way about his friends. How he felt about my dating his friends was never an issue because it was never gonna happen.

Posted by: Anonymous | September 13, 2006 12:44 PM

Thanks for the shout-out 11:58 :-)

Posted by: JKR | September 13, 2006 1:02 PM

Thank you everyone who provided advice about my 12-year-old's heartbreak. You've helped me put this event into perspective. I will continue to provide comfort, love and support to my daughter. I will encourage her to get together with friends, play soccer, work hard at school, play her violin, help take care of our cats, etc. I will remind her that she's a wonderful person with great qualities and doesn't need a boyfriend to "complete" her. I will remember that the boy is only 12 years old and forgive him for hurting my baby. And I will NOT say anything to his parents about the big break up. If they mention it, I will remain calm and casual and explain that my daughter is recovering.

Thanks everyone!

Posted by: Off Topic | September 13, 2006 1:27 PM

Okay, I'm confused. Kiddy football is fine for little boys because they're playing with other little kids and because there are weight limits. But it's not okay for little girls... Why? It seems like they'd be protected by the same weight limits and the fact that the kids are all around the same age.

Scarry, I don't want to pick on you at all--you usually defend me--but I want to respond to everyone out there in blog land and your points are the most clear to reference.

And no, I've never watched kiddie football. Maybe if I did I would see that it's harmless and change my mind. There are much worse sports out there (boxing comes to mind), so I guess I could save my "off-limits" card for one of those.

Posted by: Meesh | September 13, 2006 1:28 PM

I would prefer my son play football any day over rugby. My husband still has a back injury from playing rugby on his middle school team.

Posted by: football? could be worse | September 13, 2006 1:30 PM

You forgot to mention Billie Jean King had an abortion because the impending pregnancy and birth would interfere with her competing in some match somewhere. Was it Wimbledon? I forget, it's been so long and faded from headlines.

Posted by: Childless by Choice | September 13, 2006 1:32 PM

Interesting comments being made and assumptions being made about those women who are making 9 dollars or less. So let me understand. Femenism is about giving women choices as long as we make the choice to make sure we plan our children properly, obtain a collect education (irrespective of whether or not we have a decent public education to begin with), and get jobs with high incomes.

When people think of lower income women who do they see in their minds? You know I work with several women who earn about 14 dollars an hour as receptionists and admin professionals. Many of them have college degrees..and in fact several of them planned their children and stayed home with them. What they did not plan was a divorce, or a health problem which kept them from working full time..or even a parent with Alzheimer's. These comments only prove that many times women can be much more judgmental than men. And also just because you have a degree and make more money does not mean you work harder than anybody else. There are plenty of blue collar working women (police officers, paramedics, firefighters, security guards) who work harder than anybody in an office.

Posted by: justme | September 13, 2006 1:36 PM

Two comments, one on topic and one to the off topic:

On topic: Female professional atheletes are not going to have children and stay professional atheletes. It is not possible to stay in the necessary shape while pregnant and the time off can significantly affect their game mentally and physically. Yes, it's possible to come back from anything (Lance as an extreme example) but if it can be avoided it should be. Additionally, the type of shape female atheletes can be in can make it difficult to conceive (something about needing a certain amount of body fat to get pregnant).

And BJK was awesome. I know little about tennis but I saw a program about her and Arthur Ashe that was great.

Off topic: I don't remember where I read this, but I do remember a study about girls dating in high school and middle school. It said that the girls who didn't have boyfriends until they were older (later high school or beyond) were more likely to take school seriously and perform better than girls who started dating early. It wasn't about sexual behavior, just the act of dating. I think the conclusion was that girls who date earlier are more likely to succumb to the have-to-have-a-boyfriend mindset and more likely to neglect school work and other goals to achieve that.

To tie off topic to on topic, there are many studies that tie good school performance and self-esteem to girls participating in sports.

Posted by: Running | September 13, 2006 1:36 PM

Nitpick about the great martial arts advice: might some martial arts schools teach a smattering of another language and culture instead of Japanese? Possibly Chinese (kung fu), Korean (tae kwon do), Portuguese/Brazilian (capoeira), etc.?

Posted by: Maria | September 13, 2006 1:53 PM

I would suggest, for both genders, martial arts (particularly judo). If taught by a good instructor (DD's dojo is non-profit and run by ex-Olympians, so it's cheap and well run) they learn a smattering of Japanese language and culture, learn respect for elders and those that have spent more time in study, self discipline, and self defense (nothing made me feel so good as seeing my 13 year old grab an instructor 100 pounds heavier than her by the lapels and throw him to the ground in a demonstration).

Physical fitness, agility and balance (so crucial to kids and adults) and since it's divided by weight and age and is parcticed on soft mats with attention to learning how to fall safely before anything else, is almost 100% injury free. I'm sold!

Posted by: Rebecca in AR | September 13, 2006 1:54 PM

Very good article, except for a couple of important errors of fact. Bobby Riggs did not "foolishly claim" that any male could overpower even the best female in the world. In fact, Riggs HAD overpowered the No. 1 women's player in the world -- Margaret Smith Court -- earlier in the same year he played Billie Jean. The King match was the 2nd match he played against a woman. Also, to characterize Riggs as a "former top men's player" is technically true, but misleading. By the time Riggs played King, he was a creaky 55-year-old man in a sport in which 35-year-olds are usually considered senior citizens.

Posted by: Paul in DC | September 13, 2006 2:03 PM

---SO how old are these kids playing tackle football? I wouldn't have a problem letting my 10 year old play, but there's no way I'd let a 6 year old play tackle football. What's wrong with touch, again? Not cool or tough enough?---

Kids usually start playing football at age 7, although kids who are big for their age may play as early as age 5.

According to my gentle-giant husband, who played football for 13 years and plans to enroll our son as soon as our son is big enough, touch football is "boring" and "girly."

I was anti-football and pro-soccer until I found out that soccer is actually worse for injuries. I'm still kind of scared to have my son suit up when he is 5, 6, or 7, but my husband reassures me that he will be fine and we will take him out if it is not right for him.

"HOW DOES SOCCER STACK UP AGAINST OTHER SPORTS IN TERMS OF INJURY RISK?

Although endurance running is often considered to be a high-injury sport (about 50 to 65% of all endurance runners are injured in an average year), the actual rate of injury in running is comparable with that of soccer. Various studies suggest that the running injury rate is about five injuries per 1000 hours of running, with little difference between training and competition ('Prevention of Running Injuries by Warm-Up, Cool-Down, and Stretching Exercises, The American Journal of Sports Medicine, Vol. 21(5), pp. 711-719, 1993). This is a little higher than the 'practice' rate of injury for soccer but much lower than soccer's competition-related injury rate. Injury rates in other sports have been poorly studied, but it appears that soccer has one of the highest rates of athletic damage (Sportblessures breed Uitgemeten, Haarlem, DeVriesborch, 1990)."

Source: http://www.sportsinjurybulletin.com/archive/soccer-injuries.html

Posted by: MBA Mom | September 13, 2006 2:04 PM

"Female basketball players play for the same amount of time as their male counterparts because they train to do so."

Nope. WNBA games are the length of NCAA basketball games. NBA games are longer (main cause of the higher scores).

This proves nothing. I just wanted to get the correction out there.

Posted by: Anonymous | September 13, 2006 2:10 PM

"Tennis, unlike almost any other sport is dependent on one player only. There is no coaching during matches. It is probably the most physically and mentally demanding of any of the professional sports. "

Stop it.

Play Quarterback in the NFL, then say that. Try to guess what Roger Clemens is about to throw at you in the 7th game of the World Series, then actually hit it.

Posted by: sports police | September 13, 2006 2:15 PM

To Running:

You said: "Female professional atheletes are not going to have children and stay professional atheletes. It is not possible to stay in the necessary shape while pregnant and the time off can significantly affect their game mentally and physically."

But this is not true.

Recent Olympics (both winter and summer) have featured incredibly strong female athletes who had had children and come back to compete in punishing sports like track, decathalon, bobsled, etc.

Posted by: pittypat | September 13, 2006 2:16 PM

"Recent Olympics (both winter and summer) have featured incredibly strong female athletes who had had children and come back to compete in punishing sports like track, decathalon, bobsled, etc."

Will give you track and decathalon, but bobsled a "punishing" sport?

Posted by: Anonymous | September 13, 2006 2:22 PM

Paul --

You said, "By the time Riggs played King, he was a creaky 55-year-old man in a sport in which 35-year-olds are usually considered senior citizens."

But Riggs is the one who made the challenge. He must have believed he could beat King; otherwise, why would he have exposed himself to worldwide ridicule?

It's convenient for you guys to be able to go back and say, well, he wasn't in his prime any longer. Just so much more sour grapes.

Posted by: pittypat | September 13, 2006 2:23 PM

"SO how old are these kids playing tackle football? I wouldn't have a problem letting my 10 year old play, but there's no way I'd let a 6 year old play tackle football. What's wrong with touch, again? Not cool or tough enough?"

Meesh, I'll readily admit that I'm a bit of a football junkie as a coach. I think I need to ask you though, have you ever watched little kids play football? Few, if any of them know how to tackle. They crash into each other and fall down (making it GREAT entertainment for the parents) and then the ref blows his whistle. If, as a coach, you recognize that one of the other kids knows how to tackle, then you are only supposed to play your kids who know how to protect themselves.

Prior to high school (even in the south) kids have very bad football form and rarely are capable of hurting each other in the course of legal plays.

Posted by: Football Coach | September 13, 2006 2:28 PM

Is It Me wrote: "Am I old fashion at 35?! I don't understand why a 12 y.o. is dating or having a "relationship"? I still thought boys were idiots at 12."

I'm older than you are and I remember the 12-year-old girls in my school who would go into a closet and kiss boys at recess. One of them instigated a thing where every single one of us in a class was part of a "couple" one day. I wasn't at all interested, but she went around the room (I guess it was a study hall) and created couples of the "single" kids. Weird. But I learned then that the most "forward" girl in a class will usually lead the way, and I have seen this hold true as I watch my younger sister and cousins and talk to them about their experiences. Friends also report basically the same phenomenon.

Is there some way we could use this to reverse the trend of earlier and earlier "dating" and so much focus on "boyfriends" among young teens?

Posted by: Jayne | September 13, 2006 2:39 PM

I like the idea of having my son learn a martial art.

Be careful, however! I know a 6-year-old who enjoys practicing those moves in the house. Combine that with lax parents who let him watch all the violent cartoons on Cartoon Network, and he's "killing" everyone.
Very sweet kid, just needs some boundaries.

Anyway, I will allow my son to follow his own likes and dislikes with one exception -- ice hockey. Having lived in Detroit (HOckey town), and seen people cheer on the fights in this sport, I think it is absolutely inappropriate for children. Sports should not contain out-of-control fighting primarily as "entertainment" rather than part of the actual game.

Posted by: Rebecca | September 13, 2006 2:45 PM

"Will give you track and decathalon, but bobsled a 'punishing' sport?"

Well . . . yeah. Got any idea what kind of phenomenal shape a body has to be in to push those sleds during the running start? And to control the tiniest muscle movements to avoid adding a 100th of a second to the run?

Why do you think it's an Olympic sport? Those bodies have to be in prime condition, which means a "punishing" training regimen to be competitive.

Posted by: pittypat | September 13, 2006 2:49 PM

Regarding an older brother forbidding his friends to date his sister. This reminds me of the opposite situation, a brother who is too protective of a sister and won't let her date. My aunts grew up with this situation. Their father was often too busy to take notice, and one of the older brothers took on this role and was very "heavy" with them. I think about this when I hear about Islamic countries where brothers beat up their sisters for "dishonoring" the family. I think siblings should stay out of it, unless they have good reason to warn the *parents* that a young man OR woman might be endangering their sister or brother.

Posted by: Mel | September 13, 2006 2:50 PM

Pittypat--you are correct about the female athletes who still perform after having children. I think, but cannot be sure, that it was Jackie Joyner Kersee who wrote about pregnancy and running. I believe she went back to it after childbirth. Am too lazy to google this, however. I did play some tennis last weekend. I am a better player than my husband, but that is because I am a 'safe' player, while he is always trying to improve his game. Unfortunately, we don't play often enough for him to perfect his serve or backhand. Ditto with golf. He is much more a perfectionist than I am. I keep telling him that there is only one way to be perfect, and many ways to be good. So therefore, I am good, and he is not perfect!!!!!

Posted by: parttimer | September 13, 2006 2:50 PM

Rebecca,

You said: "Sports should not contain out-of-control fighting primarily as 'entertainment' rather than part of the actual game."

Actually, professional hockey is now one of the most rigorously managed sports in terms of fighting. A number of years ago, the NHL instituted the bench rule specifying that, if players on the bench so much as get up to join a fray on the ice, their managers get suspended. Needless to say, players keep their butts on the bench when fights break out on the ice.

Combine this with the fact that hockey is the of the hardest sports to learn and excel at (since you have to do everything on skates), that non-playing team members at games must dress in jacket and tie, and that teams must line up to shake hands at the end of each game, and you've actually got one of the best venues for kids to learn good sportsmanship.

I'd father rather see a kid learning to play ice hockey than starting out in pee-wee football.

Posted by: pittypat | September 13, 2006 2:54 PM

Basically all sports and in fact all physical activity carries the risk of injury. Find out what your kid really likes (rather than what you or your spouse want them to be involved in) and they will most likely enjoy it, do well at it, and learn good lessons from it.

Posted by: Anonymous | September 13, 2006 3:02 PM

MBA Mom, what stats did you find that soccer is worse than football for injuries? I found that really surprising, just anecdotally. I did a quick Google search and 23% of high school soccer players are injured, while 39% of high school football players are injured.

http://www.nata.org/publications/otherpub/injuryinformation.htm#Soccer
http://www.nata.org/publications/otherpub/injuryinformation.htm#Football

Posted by: Statistics...? | September 13, 2006 3:15 PM

"ok article but to say BJK and Navratilova didn't have children because it's hard to break glass ceilings and change diapers is a little disingenious. they didn't have kids because they are gay. And there's nothing wrong with that."

Points for visibility and tolerance, but one minus for factoids.

BJK was married (to a man) while in a relationship with a female partner, so it's a reasonable bet that she was physically capable of having kids. She chose not to, probably for exactly the reason stated--that's roughly the reason I decided not to have kids myself.

You can have kids if you're a gay woman--my wife-to-be and I are planning on it. It just takes a little more work.

Posted by: ... not that there's anything wrong with that. | September 13, 2006 3:20 PM

Speaking of what counts as a real sport, I recommend this article:
http://www.ishkur.com/sports/notsports.php
:)

Posted by: Maria | September 13, 2006 3:34 PM

"BJK was married (to a man) while in a relationship with a female partner, so it's a reasonable bet that she was physically capable of having kids."

From what do you draw that conclusion?

Posted by: Anonymous | September 13, 2006 3:56 PM

According to one online biography I read, she was pregnant in 1971 but had an abortion because she and her husband weren't ready to devote the time to children.

Posted by: Anonymous | September 13, 2006 4:02 PM

FYI - Only Wimbledon doesn't pay the men's and women's champion the same prize money. The Australian, French and US provide equal prize money.

Posted by: yyz | September 13, 2006 4:14 PM

I have a vague memory (I was 11 then) of BJK's admission that she'd had an abortion -- another part of her feminism. In 1971, if that was the year, it was quite a thing for a celebrity to admit that, and especially to say it was because you wanted to devote your life to something else.

Strange to think back to those days. I believe our culture is much more conservative now. I chose not to have children because I wasn't interested in being pregnant and I didn't think my introverted nature could handle childrearing. So many women make remarks to me along the lines of "Oh, so you're going to *concentrate on your career*?" and insinuate that I'll never be a "real" woman because I don't want a baby (or a "career" for that matter, I want a *Life*).

It seems to me that in the '70s women were much more supportive of other women's choices.

Posted by: Anne | September 13, 2006 4:18 PM

I don't get this whole protective-older-brother thing - my brother (2.5 years older) barely knew I existed, and sure as heck didn't care.
But then again, a few years ago, a friend of big brother confessed to me that he had had a crush on me when we were teens 30 years ago. Hmm - I really must ask big brother if he knew about it and intervened in some way . . .

Posted by: E | September 13, 2006 4:29 PM

I doubt that BJK's abortion was made public in 1971.

I was pregnant in 1971 and I can assure you that people were a LOT more conservative than they are now....
except for the recent wave of religious fundamentalists.

Posted by: Anonymous | September 13, 2006 4:29 PM

Interesting points Anne. I think you may be right.

Posted by: Erin | September 13, 2006 4:30 PM

I said:

"BJK was married (to a man) while in a relationship with a female partner, so it's a reasonable bet that she was physically capable of having kids."

Someone else queried:

"From what do you draw that conclusion?"

From my experience of having been a married gay woman (now partnered with another woman) and knowing quite a few of them over the years. Most married lesbians/bisexual women IME have at least some sex life with their husbands even if they have a female partner. If I remember 8th-grade health class correctly, a man and a woman who have sex are the only couple set capable of having kids on their own without taking extraordinary measures. Ergo, had BJK and her husband wanted kids, it's not a bad bet that they could have had them. In my case, we didn't because I was career-chasing.

Not that there's anything wrong with _that_. ;)

Posted by: nttawwt | September 13, 2006 4:32 PM

I know BJK was an inspiration to a lot of girls. The match with Bobby Riggs took place when I was a freshman at a girls' school, and I remember walking into my first class the next morning, and written on the blackboard, in huge numbers that covered the whole board, was simply:
6-4, 6-3, 6-3
That match was the talk of the school for days.

Posted by: E | September 13, 2006 4:43 PM

What planet is Andy living on that he thinks people who are gay don't have kids? I don't know why Martina and BJK didn't have children, but what struck me is that they probably would have had to retire earlier if they did so they could "sequence" work and kids(like Steffi Graf and other women who have 15-20 year careers and then 15-20 years focused on motherhood)

Posted by: Leslie | September 13, 2006 4:53 PM

4:30, if you were pregnant in 1971, then you're not in your 20s today. I think that my generation seems more conservative that my older half-sister's. I am 25 and she is 41 (different moms). She says the same thing. So many women my age only seem to aspire to working long enough to meet a husband who earns a salary that can give them a glitzy lifestyle. They aren't that interested in supporting themselves past the age of 30.

Posted by: LO | September 13, 2006 4:53 PM

to Anne: WHERE do you meet these women? JHFC, I hope I have never given off that attitude to any woman. "I used to hate gardening, but now that I am in a different place in life, have found that I really enjoy it" is not the same as having kids! Haven't we all seen women who would have been better off NOT having kids? At least, from the kid's p.o.v. I wonder if people questioned why Mother Teresa did not procreate. She was so into her career, though!! Not a REAL woman! Last time I looked, the only necessary equipment you needed in order to be classified a female was a vagina. I don't blame people for not having kids....they are expensive, exhausting, emotionally draining and sometimes just a huge pita. Of course, I would be undergoing invitro with the sperm of Charles Manson if that was my only hope of having children. I would have adopted if I couldn't have had kids. Blah Blah Blah

To the poster who thinks that the 70's were more conservative than now, I think there is some truth to that, especially if you lived in the south or midwest. According to my hippy neighbor, age 50 something, however, things are more conservative now. Wait a minute--RvW didn't pass until 1973. Where did she have this alleged abortion? Dang, now I have to look it up.

Posted by: parttimer | September 13, 2006 5:02 PM

re 12 year old break up. use this as a conversation starter and ask your daughter questions about her feelings. you could get her some books on the subject and discuss those if she doesn't want to talk about herself. remeber judy bloom's book -forever? that may not be the best book in the world because the girl & her boyfriend have sex and then break up but something along those lines might help. you could also treat the break up and her feelings about the break up very matter of factly - "stuff happens get used to it" because while it is a big drama to her it isn't a big drama to anybody else. tell her that her school work is way more important than having a boyfriend.
being a late bloomer i am amazed that a 12 year old would have a boyfriend, no matter how innocent. i was not interested in boys at that age.

Posted by: quark | September 13, 2006 5:04 PM

Sorry, I haven't read all the comments like I usually do (I will), but I have a few comments on the tennis aspects:

First, in addition to what Leslie described, far more important, BJK was also critical to the passage of Title IX which is the federal regulations that schools that receive federal funding must provide equal funding to sports for both genders. Although some regard this as the reason for good men's programs in some sports being shut down in favor or less popular women's sports programs, the short-term goal was pushed aside for the important long-term goal. So those of you balancing your lives who have school age girls who are into the wide range of available sports for them have BJK to thank. Otherwise, your daughters may not have had this choice.

Regarding the equal pay issue, there are several misleading bits of information. Too many people focus on the grand slams. The real truth is that the majority of the pay at tournaments is from corporate sponsorship packages. And the money that goes into corporate sponsorship is based on the publicity and popularity return. Due to its longer history, the men's tennis game is more profitable from an advertising aspect. If you look at the comparable men's Master's Series tournaments (the top 9 tournaments below grand slams) vs the women's Tier I tournaments, the corporate sponsorship provides significantly more for the Master's Series. This also holds when you compare the men's International Series with the Tier II and III tourneys. And you can't force a company to donate more money for sponsorship without causing a large pullout of sponsorship of the women's tour. People focus on the grand slams, but basically, the inequality is based on the two tours and longevity. As the women's tour gets older, the sponsorships get higher. Given more time, the tours will equalize.

And although it is true that sometimes women's tennis is more popular it is not always. The men's US Open final had a 4.1 rating and the women's final (including Maria Sharapova, the highest earning endorser in tennis barring the just retired Andre Agassi) only had a 3.2 rating. World-wide, men's tennis has a significant advantage in volume of tournament attendees to the women's tour (hence ticket sales, the second major source of revenue). I follow tennis a lot and the numbers show that outside of grand slams, the men's tour makes a lot more money and hence pays a lot more money. The gap is closing over time, but until the women's tour is as popular as the men's tour, the sponsorships will not even out and that's where the paycheck comes from.

Posted by: DadWannaBe | September 13, 2006 5:05 PM

I had our daughter take Tae Kwon Do for 18 months starting when she was 4 1/2 - it was horrible. At first she loved it, but the sport NEVER ends - it is year round - 3 times a week - every saturday morning as well. We were all miserable. She was crying not to go and we were forcing her, finally I just let her quit and she was so relieved. She plays soccer now - she is 8 - it is seasonal, she gets great exercise - learns how to play on a team and get individual glory when she performs well. And it is FUN.

Also, not sure why it was mentioned about girls playing football as well - but I guess if they can perform at the position they are playing they can play. Not sure WHY they would want to, but again, to each their own.

Posted by: cmac | September 13, 2006 5:06 PM

Oops...and one other point. Leslie is incorrect that being a tennis professional and a mother are incompatible. Although most tennis players wait until they retire to have children, not all do.

Lindsay Lee-Waters (who hovers around world ranking 100 most of the time) just returned to the tour after having her second child and is still doing reasonably well and making a career out of the lower-tier tourneys. And having children wasn't what did it. She is playing about the same competitive level she did before having her first child Lee-Waters is an American who due to dual citizenship plays under the Taiwanese flag.

Rossana de los Rios also left the tour to have a daughter (who is now about 9-10) and returned to the tour after having her daughter. de los Rios was one of the highest ranked South American female tennis players in her day. I think her high world ranking was 51.

There are at least a dozen players who do this. It isn't easy, but balancing work and home isn't always easy. Most of the women who do this are ranked 50 and below world-wide (there are over a 1000 ranked players on the women's tour world-wide). The higher ranked women (in the top 50) tend to be younger and/or wait to have kids after they leave the tour. But there are women who do do this balancing act. I think it is important to note this considering the blog's topic.

Posted by: DadWannaBe | September 13, 2006 5:15 PM

Why would anyone sign a 4 1/2 year old up for a class that meets 3 times a week and then keep forcing the child to go? For heaven's sake...

Posted by: Anonymous | September 13, 2006 5:20 PM

"And how many little boys are rushed off the field in football?"

I actually read a statistic about this the other day in "Parade." The answer is, according to the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons:

"half a million a year."

That's for children UNDER 15, and refers to "football-related injuries" (not necessarily children who are rushed off the field.)

My husband just got back from a trip to Arkansas where he traveled an hour and a half one way on a Friday night to see his 6 & 8 year old cousins (boys) play tackle football. He said that each team had about 25 cheerleaders (girls.)


Posted by: momof4 | September 13, 2006 5:22 PM

The only sports injury in our family was when my oldest daughter in the 8th grade tripped over a soccer ball at school and fractured her wrist. She played over 14 seasons of soccer in the local league, but this happened at school. Insurance paid for everything, even the ride in the ambulence.

My annoying son, in his 2nd season of soccer delighted himself by drilling the ball at his opponents and taking them out of the game by the force of the impact. Although there is no rule against this strategy, I think football is the game for him. He is also enrolled in Tae Kwon Do and the fact that he can do the splits and will probably be able to kick a hole in the ceiling by the time he gets to high school is a little disturbing, but by my own observation, I've noticed that black belts are some of the most mature, mellow citizens in my group of friends.

Some of my friends went out with my little sister. It was my little sister that set me up with the girl that is now my wife. Not too shabby, she got a few nieces and nephews out of the deal, not to mention a great babysitter, who is known as "Oldest daughter".

Gotta go now. We have to juggle soccer, football, tae Kwon Do, homework, baths...

Posted by: Father of 4 | September 13, 2006 5:23 PM

ooooo a youth sports blog!

Youth sports are great for kids. The parents on the other hand need to turn it down a notch... er two notches.

Why is ice hockey the best youth sport there is? Because of that giant wall of glass that means little johnny/suzie cant hear their parents screaming inane directions! The helmet is an additional effective buffer to the personal coaching staff of type A+ uber-parents as is the echo-chamber acoustics of most rinks. I love explaining my cheering methodology at early year parent's meetings. "Chance are if you actually yell "Go Johnny/Suzie!" loud enough for them to hear and understand you - your superstar will look up, stop playing to find out why you are yelling at them, a completely miss the play. Hooray, yippe wooohooo are adequate staples, save the parent coaching for after the game. See positivecoachingalliance.com for tips.


Also the line shifting assures that every kid gets a turn, no bench warming like in soccer or baseball, and "starting" has limited impact. Great for fitness and alot of fun! Evrybody plays offense and defense and the advent of minigames make the experience ven better for the little Mites! USA hockey runs a fine organization, coaching education, referee education and national tournament organization.

It's not all rink rage out there.

Posted by: Fo3 | September 13, 2006 5:26 PM

FYI - Only Wimbledon doesn't pay the men's and women's champion the same prize money. The Australian, French and US provide equal prize money.

Posted by: yyz | September 13, 2006 04:14 PM

=====

This is a bit misleading. The US and Australian Opens pay equal prize money. The French only pays equal prize money for the winners. The runners-up, semi-finalists, quarter-finalists on down get unequal pay (women being paid less). And in Wimbledon's defense, every year except one (2005) of the last roughly 5-10 years (I don't remember exactly when it started, but sometime around 98 or 99) the % discrepency between the men and women has shrunk. The women are equalizing, but just over years instead of immediately. They haven't said so, but it all depends on how the All England Club views the profitability of the matches. And they claim that they have higher attendance for comparable men's matches (men's SF vs women's SF, etc) as one of the reasons why they still promote unequal pay.

Posted by: DadWannaBe | September 13, 2006 5:42 PM

Prior to 1973, abortion was legal in a very limited number of states (I believe it was legal in NY in 1971) - RvW made it legal everywhere, so BJK could have had a legal abortion at that time in the U.S.

Posted by: Anonymous | September 13, 2006 5:43 PM

"By the time Riggs played King, he was a creaky 55-year-old man in a sport in which 35-year-olds are usually considered senior citizens."

Which is why he should've shut up. His point was that no matter how old he was, he could beat ANY woman. He was a jerk. I'm glad he was humiliated.

I was at the US Open and saw BJK at one of the restaurants. Wow!!! As a former HS tennis player, I was thrilled.

Posted by: NYC | September 13, 2006 6:13 PM

Sorry Meesh, I got sidelined by a sick kid and had to leave work. You are not picking on me in the least and it's fine to ask questions. I just think that my girls shouldn't play football with boys moment happened when that little girl left the field in an ambulance with what we thought was a broken neck. ( she was okay, but it was scary)

This is going to sound sexist and I don't mean it that way in the least, but it always seems to me that boys are rougher than girls are probably due to how some people raise them. And, I would like to counter that with the fact that some people also raise their boys to be little gentle men, but more than a few say if she's on the field hit her hard. Also, I have to say that I am pretty tough, I was raised with two brothers, cousins, friends etc, I played a lot of back yard football, but it is different on the field and it is someplace that I never wanted to be.

Father of 4, haha, you are one silly man. I was the type of cheerleader who had to help my mom clean banks after practice, so there wasn't a chance for me to be naughty!

Posted by: scarry | September 13, 2006 7:36 PM

Pittypat--
Why did Riggs challenge King? Money! Riggs was a famous tennis hustler who placed bets on himself and did all sorts of wacky, self-promotional stunts (like once playing with a frying pan instead of a racket) to call attention to himself and sell tickets. A natural-born showman, he saw an opportunity in the 1970s to cash in big by staging a "war of the sexes." He and Billie Jean each made a bundle that night, and each deserved it. Riggs was more than happy to suffer "ridicule" so long as there was a huge paycheck involved.

Posted by: Paul in DC` | September 13, 2006 10:55 PM

What an amazing zipping and zinging around the topic. If anyone is still interested, just a few more sentences on 'equal pay for equal work.' I love watching women's tennis, and men's tennis as well. But they are like two totally different sports. Women's tennis is rarely competitive ... how many three-set matches? Almost none, certainly not in the quarters, semis, or finals of a major. The men's field has more depth, and as a match goes on, the game changes considerably. This probably does NOT bring in more TV dollars, since it becomes an 'inside' game for people who see more subtle skills being required as each athlete has to compete mental and physical fatigue. The women rarely go there. The money from competitive sports comes from exciting viewing by paying audiences. The women's game brings in their share of the bucks, so they should get paid. The men bring in viewers and fans, too, but not really for the long matches (which I happen to love). It would be great to see women play 5 sets ... who really doubts that these female athletes would have difficulties with this because of their conditioning and training? They don't HAVE to do it to get paid ... so why should they? It certainly isn't 'equal work' ... but since when, really, did that matter?

Posted by: J Smith | September 13, 2006 10:56 PM

What is this blog about today? Boring...

Posted by: CA Mom | September 13, 2006 11:47 PM

To the anonymous poster that chooses to ridicule me about my 4 1/2 yo: Let's just say we all make mistakes. I am sure you are perfect, but I am not. With our Tae Kwon Do you pay for a whole year, the first year was ok - but it quickly went downhill AFTER we paid for the second year. That was her only sport, she went to preschool 2 mornings a week and was home with either me or my husband the rest of the time - AT FIRST it did not seem like a lot, but it was. TKD takes kids as young as 3. Needless to say we corrected ourselves and now play a seasonal sport.

Thanks for your snide remark.

Posted by: cmac | September 14, 2006 8:02 AM

cmac,

Ignore meam remarks. I'm sure you are perfect in the eye of your child, which is the only person who matters!

Posted by: scarry | September 14, 2006 9:42 AM

My parents never let us play at any sports. Dad never went to watch my brother play little league so he got discouraged and dropped out after one season. I hated gym class and tried to think of every excuse I could to get out of class and those horrid gang showers. My mother growled 'I send you to school to learn, not to play games.' I would think playing football is a little rough for those tiny kids I see suited up with pads and helmets. They look like walking fire hydrants.

Posted by: Childless by Choice | September 14, 2006 10:33 AM

Thanks Scarry!

Posted by: cmac | September 14, 2006 12:39 PM

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