The revolution began with the simple act of a mother kicking a ball
to her daughter. An English soccer trainer noticed, and praised her
form. "Too bad," she replied, "there's no soccer league for
mothers." Who could know that so many lives would change as a
result of that simple exchange?In the suburban enclave of
Montclair, New Jersey, as in so many communities around America,
there was nothing new in the sight of mothers driving their
minivans to soccer practice. What was new was that these women were
driving to their own practices instead of dropping off their kids
and watching from the sidelines. For the generation that grew up
before Title IX's mandate of equal athletic opportunity, the field
of play was a male preserve; girls watched and cheered. The lessons
that sports are supposed to teach -- team spirit, overcoming
adversity, playing to win without rancor or anger -- were
restricted to this young boys' network; how could women help win
the Battle of Waterloo when they'd been kept off the playing fields
of Eton? The women of Montclair were mostly of that pre-Title IX
generation, and many of them had never played competitive sports in
their lives. In Alive and Kicking, Harvey Araton follows these
women through their turbulent first two seasons. He turns his keen
sportswriter's eye onto the battles, both on the field and in the
psyche, that these women wage as they try to play a sport without
compromising their values. He also shows the divisions that wrack
the league when a slightly younger generation gets involved in the
games, a generation raised without ambivalence about beating an
opponent, willing to take a dangerous chance for a winning goal,
even if it means running over the woman in their way. But most of
all he describes the women who gain in confidence and ambition,
like one of the league's pioneers, who finds the strength to leave
a tired marriage, buoyed by her accomplishments on the field -- as
well as the few who find themselves left behind by the achievers,
those for whom this exposure to sport will leave the scars known to
all who've been the last to be selected for a pickup game.The rise
of women's sports -- symbolized by the ecstatic reaction to the
U.S. Women's World Cup soccer team -- has been a significant change
in the social landscape. This thoughtful, thought-provoking book
examines the questions that should underlie this radical change,
but too often have not: As sports change women, can women change
sports? Is the male play-to-win model the only one that works? Does
it work? Through the experiences of these smart, mature women, we
learn much about the workings of games and societies -- and the
difficulty of questioning patterns so deeply entrenched that we
barely know we can question them at all.
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