Tuesday, April 27, 2021

Speaking Of Women's Athletics

If there have been common denominators from the women whom TigerBlog interviewed for the book on the history of women's athletics at Princeton, here they are:

* the cherished the opportunity to compete at Princeton and the relationships they built as Princeton athletes

* they have drawn from the experience as they have gone down the paths of their professional post-graduate lives, especially when they have been in positions of leadership

* they have stayed very loyal to Princeton

Sure, all of their stories are unique. In fact, many of them started out their interviews by saying something along the line of "there's nothing really special about me" before telling a really special story. 

Those three themes, though, have come up time and again. They have been referenced too many times to consider it a coincidence, and so TB thinks that those are the pretty close to what defines the women's athletic experience.

Those themes also came through loudly and clearly the last two nights, when Mollie Marcoux Samaan and the Princeton Varsity Club held two women's athletics speaker series events. 

The first was Sunday night, when two members of the Class of 1997, rugby player Angie Knighton Long and rower Kara Nortman, joined Marcoux Samaan for a discussion entitled "Investing in Women's Athletics." Both of them are highly successful venture capitalists who have invested in franchises in the National Women's Soccer League. 

The discussion was part of the Jake McCandless ’51 PVC Speaker Series. You can see their entire conversation here:

One of the most interesting parts of their talk was the statistic that only four percent of the media coverage of sports is devoted to women. TB has mentioned many times here how when he was in the newspaper business, he was often the only one covering women's events. 

Now it's more than a quarter-century later. It's hard to believe that the number is still so low after all this time, especially with the incredible growth of women's sports. 

Both Nortman and Knighton Long talked about the need to change that number, as well as the fact that the potential to do just that is part of the reason they wanted to invest in the league. 

Additionally, there was this from Knighton Long, something that TB thinks captures the essence of athletics: "It teaches you to fail and get back up and try again. I can't say how important that is. Women maybe don't want to take risks because they don't want to fail. It teaches you that anything is possible."

Their talk included appearances by, among others, Nortman's coach at Princeton Lori Dauphiny and Tyler Lussi, the all-time leading scorer in Princeton soccer history and a member of the Portland Thorns of the NWSL. Speaking of women and media, Lussi would be a natural in the field once she'd done playing.

The event last night focused more on leadership and featured Marcoux Samaan again as the moderator, this time with a panel of four women: Bella Alarie (Class of 2020, professional women's basketball player), Stephanie Hsiao (Class of 2005, swimmer, now marketing director for NFL China), Whitney Malkiel (a women's hockey player from the Class of 1994 and now vice president and general manager for Global Nike Women's, Jill Pilgrim (1980 track and field alum who is a business and sports attorney with the Knight Commission).

For Alarie's part, the event began at 1 am, as she is Spain playing professionally and getting ready for the Euroleague championship game. 

The panel discussion lasted nearly 45 minutes, and that part of the conversation will be available online shortly. After that portion, there were breakout rooms, in which the panelists (minus Alarie, who was excused, as it was nearly 2 am in Spain by then) joined with Princeton coaches and PVC board members to continue the discussion.

It was a two-night sequence of insights from women who have been directly impacted by their time at Princeton and who have gone on to accomplish great things with that foundation. For Marcoux Samaan's part, TB is pretty sure she would do these discussions every night pretty much forever.

She could do that and never run out of impressive Princeton women alums with whom to speak. The last two nights were a showcase of Princeton's values and how they continue to resonate in real-world examples.

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