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The Future of Female Sports: A Conversation Worth Having

09/28/2009
by

meganbioMegan Hueter, Cofounder of WomenTalkSports.com

When I was in college, if someone had told me that in a few years I would have my own sports blog and help start an influential movement in the sports industry, I would have laughed and walked away.

Why? Because I had one thing on my mind: college basketball. I wanted to play, and I wanted to win. Nothing else mattered.

About a year after graduating from college and finally hanging up my jersey, I started to learn something that changed my life. I took a job in digital public affairs and discovered that everyday people were creating massive communities online and creating real change around the world.

I decided the best way to learn about this phenomenon was to become a part of it. I started my own blog, and of course, it was about sports, my long-lost love.  I quickly met two great friends, Jane Schonberger of PrettyTough.com and Ann Gaffigan of Steeplechics.com.

Together, with a lot of hard work, we began to organize our friends online and built a network, WomenTalkSports.com. The network now contains over 60 contributing authors, is founded upon the goal of “raising the level of awareness of women in sport.”

Jane Schonberger, who now serves as our chief editor of the site says, “Mainstream media has been woefully slow to serve women. In order to change the current paradigm we needed to take control of the conversation. WTS provides a unique opportunity for stories of female athletes to be shared, a market to be formed, and a community to come together.”

The concept of an “online conversation” is critical to understand, for it involves two-way communication between an author and her readers. In order to be successful, those in the female sports industry cannot simply bark information at people. Instead, we need to listen, respond and participate.

Participation is also key, because it means that you care. You need to form relationships with people by talking with them and responding to their questions and concerns.  Without caring about our audience, our audience won’t care about us.

Control is also important. As Jane said, female athletes need to start to “control the conversation,” meaning that athletes need to stop giving editorial power to select publishers who control what and how stories get published. With the Internet, female athletes now have the ability to control their stories, provide first-hand accounts of their experiences and express themselves to the world. More importantly, they can engage directly with their fans and participate in regular conversations, ones that are bigger than themselves. This makes them authentic and real; it makes female athletes different (in a good way), and worth caring about on a personal level.

Ann Gaffigan, a professional steeplechase runner and chief programmer of WomenTalkSports.com says, “I’ve been watching female athletes engage with their fans on Twitter and other networks and I think it keeps them in the public eye whether they’re in season or not, keeping fans around for the long haul.”

The long haul is exactly where this industry needs to be focused as we continue to struggle in finding a “market.” A popular book called Cluetrain Manifesto by Doc Searls and David Weinberger says “all markets are conversations.” If this is true, where’s the female sports conversation? If you look closely, you’ll see that it’s online.

The female sports industry must not only recognize that this conversation exists but also support, join and participate as it continues to grow. If utilized properly as a collective conversation about important issues, the women’s sports industry can and will succeed as an engaged community. We can create a groundswell and achieve our shared mission of promoting women in sport.

Do you have an opinion about the role of social media in women’s sports? If so, I’d love to hear about it. Don’t just stand by. Become a participant in this ongoing conversation. Respond to this blog and visit Women Talk Sports at:

WTS blogbadge180x150WomenTalkSports.com: http://www.womentalksports.com

Twitter: http://www.twitter.com/womentalksports

Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/womentalksports

LinkedIn: http://tinyurl.com/LinkedInWTS

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2 Comments leave one →
  1. 10/06/2009 4:56 pm

    Thank-you for your great site and inspirational perspective on women in sports. You are valuable in the landscape of sports. Thanks for leading ther charge to let our girls women be seen and heard in the passion they persue…Sports in all it’s forms.

    Big things are ahead for us gals.

    You Rock!

    Dr.Lorraine Williams
    TrackMom.com

  2. 10/13/2009 8:13 pm

    Lorraine,
    You’re welcome! Check back with us often for current content on girls and women in sport from some of the best and brightest! Nicole, Associate Director, Tucker Center

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