Women in Sports: Inspiring Books to Add to Your List Now

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If you’re feeling inspired by this week’s 35th Annual National Girls and Women in Sports Day, you’re not alone. Their campaign to connect and empower women of all ages through a common bond of athletics is something felt through many schools, colleges, and universities. And the stories of women in sports offer just as much whether hearing from the athletes themselves, or female journalists who seek to elevate women’s stories through their work. Below is a selection of recommended books to check-out at your local library or bookseller. From baseball pioneers to life en pointe, these women share stories reaching across many game fields and competitive arenas.

 

Game Changers highlights women in sports history.

Game Changers by Molly Schiot (New Hampton School Class of 1998)

Featuring icons Althea Gibson and Wyomia Tyus, complete unknowns Virginia Gilder and Conchita Cintron, policymaker Patsy Mink, sportswriter Lisa Olson, and many more, Game Changers gives these “founding mothers” the attention and recognition they deserve, and features critical conversations between past and present game changers—including former US Women’s National Soccer Team captain Abby Wambach and SportsCenter anchor Cari Champion—about what it means to be a woman on and off the field.

*Students can read a copy of this book at the Gordon-Nash Library at New Hampton School.

Bloomer Girls: Women Baseball Pioneers by Debra A. Shattuck

Though baseball began as a gender-neutral sport, girls and women of the nineteenth century faced many obstacles on their way to the diamond. Yet all-female nines took the field everywhere. Debra A. Shattuck pulls from newspaper accounts and hard-to-find club archives to reconstruct a forgotten era in baseball history. Her fascinating social history tracks women players who organized baseball clubs for their own enjoyment and found roster spots on men’s teams. Entrepreneurs, meanwhile, packaged women’s teams as entertainment, organizing leagues and barnstorming tours. If the women faced financial exploitation and indignities like playing against men in women’s clothing, they and countless ballplayers like them nonetheless staked a claim to the nascent national pastime. Shattuck explores how the determination to take their turn at bat thrust female players into narratives of the women’s rights movement and transformed perceptions of women’s physical and mental capacity. (Source: Goodreads)

Courage to Soar: A Body in Motion, A Life in Balance by Simone Biles

Simone Biles’ entrance into the world of gymnastics may have started on a daycare field trip in her hometown of Spring, Texas, but her God-given talent, passion, and perseverance have made her one of the top gymnasts in the world, as well as a four-time winner of Olympic gold in Rio de Janeiro. But there is more to Simone than the nineteen medals—fourteen of them gold—and the Olympic successes. Through years of hard work and determination, she has relied on her faith and family to stay focused and positive, while having fun competing at the highest level and doing what she loves. Here, in her own words, Simone takes you through the events, challenges, and trials that carried her from an early childhood in foster care to a coveted spot on the 2016 Olympic team. (Source: Goodreads)

World Class: The Making of the U.S. Women’s Cross Country Ski Team by Peggy Shinn

What makes a great team? Sports journalist Peggy Shinn answers this question in her enthralling account of the dramatic rise of the U.S. women’s cross-country ski team, winners of eight medals at three world championships over the past five years. Shinn’s story—based on dozens of interviews with athletes, coaches, parents, spouses, and friends—paints a vivid picture of the obstacles that America’s female athletes must overcome not just to ski with the world’s best, but to beat them. In a sport where U.S. women have toiled for decades, mostly in the middle or the back of the pack, the development of a world-class team attests to the heady combination of a transformational leader, a coach who connects with his athletes, the super-fast individual skiers who are also conscientious teammates—and a bit of good luck. This is the story of Kikkan Randall, Liz Stephen, Holly Brooks, Jessie Diggins, Ida Sargent, Sadie Bjornsen, Sophie Caldwell, Rosie Brennan, and coach Matt Whitcomb—and how they created the perfect team. (Source: Goodreads)

Life in Motion: An Unlikely Ballerina by Misty Copeland

As the only African American soloist dancing with the prestigious American Ballet Theatre, Misty Copeland has made history. But when she first placed her hands on the barre at an after-school community center, no one expected the undersized, anxious thirteen-year-old to become a ground-breaking ballerina. When she discovered ballet, Misty was living in a shabby motel room, struggling with her five siblings for a place to sleep on the floor. A true prodigy, she was dancing en pointe within three months of taking her first dance class and performing professionally in just over a year: a feat unheard of for any classical dancer. But when Misty became caught between the control and comfort she found in the world of ballet and the harsh realities of her own life (culminating in a highly publicized custody battle), she had to choose to embrace both her identity and her dreams and find the courage to be one of a kind. With an insider’s unique point of view, Misty opens a window into the life of a professional ballerina who lives life center stage: from behind the scenes at her first auditions to her triumphant roles in some of the most iconic ballets. But in this beautifully written memoir, she also delves deeper to reveal the desire and drive that made her dreams a reality. (Source: Goodreads)

Picabo: Nothing to Hide by Picabo Street

The compelling story of America’s beloved Olympic champion, “Since winning an Olympic silver medal in 1994, Street has been the most interesting personality in a sport desperately lacking for charisma. The story she tells is an entertaining portrait of her eccentricities, insecurities, mindboggling crashes, and triumphs.”–Philip Hersh, Chicago Tribune (Source: Goodreads)

Forward by Abby Wambach

Abby Wambach has always pushed the limits of what is possible. At age seven she was put on the boys’ soccer team. At age thirty-five she would become the highest goal scorer—male or female—in the history of soccer, capturing the nation’s heart with her team’s 2015 World Cup Championship. Called an inspiration and “badass” by President Obama, Abby has become a fierce advocate for women’s rights and equal opportunity, pushing to translate the success of her team to the real world. As she reveals in this searching memoir, Abby’s professional success often masked her inner struggle to reconcile the various parts of herself: ferocious competitor, daughter, leader, wife. With stunning candor, Abby shares her inspiring and often brutal journey from girl in Rochester, New York, to world-class athlete. Far more than a sports memoir, Forward is a gripping tale of resilience and redemption—and a reminder that heroism is, above all, about embracing life’s challenges with fearlessness and heart. (Source: Goodreads)

On My Own Two Feet by Amy Purdy

Amy Purdy, who inspired a nation on Dancing with the Stars and has been called a hero by Oprah Winfrey, reveals the intimate details of her triumphant comeback from the brink of death to making history as a Paralympic snowboarder. In this poignant and uplifting memoir, Dancing With the Stars sensation Amy Purdy reveals the story of how losing her legs led her to find a spiritual path. When the Las Vegas native was just nineteen, she contracted bacterial meningitis and was given less than a two percent chance of survival. In a near-death experience, she saw three figures who told her: “You can come with us, or you can stay. No matter what happens in your life, it’s all going to make sense in the end.” In that moment, Amy chose to live. (Source: Goodreads)

A Life Without Limits by Chrissie Wellington

In 2007, Chrissie Wellington shocked the triathlon world by winning the Ironman World Championships in Hawaii. As a newcomer to the sport and a complete unknown to the press, Chrissie’s win shook up the sport. A LIFE WITHOUT LIMITS is the story of her rise to the top, a journey that has taken her around the world, from a childhood in England, to the mountains of Nepal, to the oceans of New Zealand, and the trails of Argentina, and first across the finish line. Wellington’s first-hand, inspiring story includes all the incredible challenges she has faced–from anorexia to near-drowning to training with a controversial coach. But to Wellington, the drama of the sports also presents an opportunity to use sports to improve people’s lives. (Source: Goodreads)

What Made Maddy Run: The Secret Struggles and Tragic Death of an All-American Teen by Kate Fagan

From noted ESPN commentator and journalist Kate Fagan, the heartbreaking and vital story of college athlete Madison Holleran, whose death by suicide rocked the University of Pennsylvania campus and whose life reveals with haunting detail and uncommon understanding the struggle of young people suffering from mental illness today.

If you scrolled through the Instagram feed of 19-year-old Maddy Holleran, you would see a perfect life: a freshman at an Ivy League school, recruited for the track team, who was also beautiful, popular, and fiercely intelligent. This was a girl who succeeded at everything she tried, and who was only getting started.

But when Maddy began her long-awaited college career, her parents noticed something changed. Previously indefatigable Maddy became withdrawn, and her thoughts centered on how she could change her life. In spite of thousands of hours of practice and study, she contemplated transferring from the school that had once been her dream. When Maddy’s dad, Jim, dropped her off for the first day of spring semester, she held him a second longer than usual. That would be the last time Jim would see his daughter.

What Made Maddy Run began as a piece that Kate Fagan, a columnist for espnW, wrote about Maddy’s life. What started as a profile of a successful young athlete whose life ended in suicide became so much larger when Fagan started to hear from other college athletes also struggling with mental illness. This is the story of Maddy Holleran’s life, and her struggle with depression, which also reveals the mounting pressures young people, and college athletes in particular, face to be perfect, especially in an age of relentless connectivity and social media saturation. (Source: Goodreads)

women in sports recommended books

Proud by Ibtihaj Muhammad

Growing up in New Jersey as the only African American Muslim at school, Ibtihaj Muhammad always had to find her own way. When she discovered fencing, a sport traditionally reserved for the wealthy, she had to defy expectations and make a place for herself in a sport she grew to love. From winning state championships to three-time All-America selections at Duke University, Ibtihaj was poised for success, but the fencing community wasn’t ready to welcome her with open arms just yet. As the only woman of color and the only religious minority on Team USA’s saber fencing squad, Ibtihaj had to chart her own path to success and Olympic glory. Proud is a moving coming-of-age story from one of the nation’s most influential athletes and illustrates how she rose above it all. (Source: Goodreads)

Swimming to Antarctica: Tales of a Long-Distance Swimmer by Lynne Cox

Lynne Cox started swimming almost as soon as she could walk. By age sixteen, she had broken all records for swimming the English Channel. Her daring eventually led her to the Bering Strait, where she swam five miles in thirty-eight-degree water in just a swimsuit, cap, and goggles. In between those accomplishments, she became the first to swim the Strait of Magellan, narrowly escaped a shark attack off the Cape of Good Hope, and was cheered across the twenty-mile Cook Strait of New Zealand by dolphins. She even swam a mile in the Antarctic. (Source: Goodreads)

Seaworthy by Linda Greenlaw

Linda Greenlaw hadn’t been bluewater fishing for ten years- not since the events chronicled in the books The Perfect Storm and The Hungry Ocean-but when her lobster traps aren’t paying off, her truck is on its last gasp, and the bills are piling up, she decides to take a friend up on his offer and captain a boat for a season of swordfishing. A decade older, and with family responsibilities, she’s a different person heading out to sea, but any reluctance is quickly tempered by the magnetic lure of adventure. And the adventures begin almost immediately: The ship turns out to be rusty and ancient, and even with a crew of four Greenlaw is faced with technical challenges. There are the expected complexities of longline fishing and the nuances of reading the weather. Her greatest challenge, however, comes when the boat’s lines inadvertently drift into Canadian waters and Greenlaw is thrown in jail. (Source: Goodreads)

Dottir: My Journey to Becoming a Two-Time Crossfit Games Champion by Katrin Davidsdottir

Dottir is two-time consecutive CrossFit Games Champion Katrin Davidsdottir’s inspiring and poignant memoir. As one of only two women in history to have won the title of “Fittest Woman on Earth” twice, Davidsdottir knows all about the importance of mental and physical strength. She won the title in 2015, backing it up with a second win in 2016, after starting CrossFit in just 2011. A gymnast as a youth, Davidsdottir wanted to try new challenges and found a love of CrossFit. But it hasn’t been a smooth rise to the top. In 2014, just one year before taking home the gold, she didn’t qualify for the Games. She used that loss as motivation and fuel for training harder and smarter for the 2015 Games. She pushed herself and refocused her mental game. Her hard work and perseverance paid off with her return to the Games and subsequent victories in 2015 and 2016. (Source: Goodreads)

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