The biggest weapon in the fight for gender equity in sports
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Image of the lower half of a Woman who is preparing for jogging

By Henry Bushnell, Yahoo! Sports

On March 18, an oft-injured Oregon center walked toward a basketball court in downtown San Antonio. Very few casual sports fans knew Sedona Prince’s name at the time. Prince, though, knew something wasn’t right.

She’d heard about the sprawling weight rooms that men’s college basketball teams were using in Indianapolis.

She looked to the side of her practice court and saw a solitary rack of light dumbbells, and a couple of folding tables, and … emptiness.

Two weeks later, the most powerful people in college athletics are still talking about what Prince saw — and about other, broader, deeper inequities between women’s and men’s sports. Fans are still talking. The media are still talking. Disparities between NCAA basketball tournaments sparked a national reckoning with institutional sexism in sports — a reckoning more forceful, sustained, and widespread than ever before, according to longtime sportswomen.

But not because these disparities were particularly egregious. Inequities, both specific and systemic, have always existed.

“We have been fighting this battle for years,” Hall of Fame coach Muffet McGraw wrote.

“This has been happening forever,” says Nancy Lieberman, one of women’s college basketball’s first superstars in the 1970s.

So what’s changed? Why the reckoning now?

“It just came to a head because Sedona had a camera. And she used it,” Lieberman says.

“The thing that has changed it,” McGraw says, “is social media.”

Why gender inequity in college hoops has persisted
McGraw still remembers the “very obvious differences,” the “stark contrasts” between men’s and women’s basketball accommodations when she first picked up the game. She saw them firsthand in the 1970s and 80s, as a player at St. Joseph’s University, then as a coach at Lehigh and Notre Dame.

“But we did not really care,” she says of the early days. “We were so happy to be playing. … I never even considered, ‘Oh wait, the men are flying and we’re taking a bus?’ ”

History is drowning in examples. Of motels instead of Marriotts. Of self-paid trips and roadside meals. Of undesirable practice times and ragged uniforms.

As the 80s became the 90s and then the 21st century, more and more women did care and did push for better treatment. They struggled, though, to find allies who’d listen — in part because the men in charge had nobody forcing them to listen.

At the time, players and coaches had no social media, and often no mainstream media covering their teams. They had no access to the public, so they operated in private. They asked for meetings with athletic directors and university administrators. “It was more backroom conversations,” McGraw says. Coaches would vent about disparities and unequal resources. More often than not, McGraw says, the response was some version of: “You know what, be happy with [what you have], because you’re lucky you have a job.”

And those responses instilled fear in some advocates. “In the past,” Lieberman says, “we the athlete, we the employee, have always felt like there’ll be retribution against us.”

Some lawsuits brought gender discrimination to the public eye. But most women who spoke up weren’t heard. More recently, Nancy Hogshead-Makar, a lawyer and activist who heads Champion Women, sent dozens of letters and legal memos to college administrators. The memos highlighted discrimination with respect to Title IX. Most administrators, she says, simply didn’t respond. Others would say they were compliant, but wouldn’t offer proof.

The project, Hogshead-Makar says, “failed miserably,” just like other battles for gender equity in sports, because power brokers felt little external pressure to heed demands.

Until, that is, advocates could take their demands straight to the public.

How social media changed the game
Sometime in 2019, Sabrina Ionescu realized that Nike wasn’t selling Oregon women’s basketball jerseys — a prime example of the systemic inequities that suppress the popularity and profitability of women’s sports. Ten years ago, she’d have had to make phone call after phone call just to find somebody at the sportswear company who’d listen.

Two years ago, she simply sent a tweet.

Within days, the jerseys materialized.

Months later, Ionescu and hundreds of fans called out ESPN’s decision to broadcast the WNBA draft on ESPN2. Within hours of their tweets, ESPN reversed course and moved the broadcast to its main channel.

For decades, unequal media coverage stifled female voices. Research suggests that only 4% of all sports coverage centers on women. In the past, even when advocates tried to raise awareness about discrimination, the media’s interest, Hogshead-Makar says, was often “zero. It was a gigantic shoulder-shrug.” Executives and administrators, therefore, could shrug along.

But modern athletes no longer rely on traditional media. Social media has allowed them to build their own audiences, less inhibited by the 4% problem. Eight of the 10 most-followed college basketball players in this year’s Elite Eights were women. They now speak directly to audiences that can amplify their messages.

“Everybody has a platform,” McGraw says.

“Before things would go on, you wouldn’t even know about it,” she continues.

Now, the world knows. And it doesn’t just hear about inequities. It sees them.

‘It’s a movement of transparency and truth’
In interviews, multiple sources compared social media’s impact on women’s sports advocacy to its impact on the movement for Black lives.

“If there were no phones on cameras, do you think there would be the uproar that there is with the murder of George Floyd?” Lieberman asks. “No.”

“If there were no phones with cameras, do you think we would have seen what happened in the weight room in San Antonio?” she continues. “No.”

Omar Wasow, a professor at Princeton University, has studied this subject extensively. “Part of what social media does is allow us to see a reality that has been entirely visible to some people and invisible to others,” he told the New York Times last year. “As those injustices become visible, meaningful change follows.”

And the pattern, he says now, “definitely” applies beyond racial justice.

“The way women’s college basketball players used social media to reveal a particular injustice echo the work of many activists over decades who have strategically used media to elevate their concerns in the general public,” Wasow says.

“In the past, activists like civil rights leaders often required traditional media like newspaper reporters and television crews to garner coverage for their cause. Now, one person with a smartphone can shine a spotlight on something unjust and — if the image or video sparks concern on social media — directly amplify an issue to a global audience.”

That’s exactly what WNBA players did last summer from their bubble in Bradenton, Florida. It’s what Prince, Stanford performance coach Ali Kershner and others did from their NCAA tournament bubble in San Antonio. More than 10 million people watched Prince’s video on TikTok — where she now has 1.5 million followers. More than 210,000 people retweeted it.

“Social media is powerful,” Prince wrote two days later after the NCAA scrambled to build weight rooms and rectify its neglect.

Inequities that always existed are now exposable in 2021. A younger, more progressive generation is willing to expose them and capable of doing it. “What Sedona did took courage, took guts,” Lieberman says. “But in this last year … I believe that she’s realized that her voice carries power. Her TikTok carries power.” Ditto for hundreds of women athletes across the country.

Click here to read the full article on Yahoo! Sports.

U.S. women successfully defend sitting volleyball Paralympic gold over rival China
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Paralympics Team USA's Alexis Shifflett serves the ball during the Tokyo Paralympic Games women's sitting volleyball pool match against Rwanda in Chiba, Japan, on Aug. 28. Photo: Yasuyoshi Chiba/AFP via Getty Images

By OlympicTalk, NBC Sports

The United States started a Paralympic gold-medal streak in women’s sitting volleyball on the final day of the Tokyo Games, successfully defending its gold medal from Rio five years ago.

The Americans solidified themselves as the sport’s new powerhouse, taking down China in four sets at one of the last competitions in Tokyo.

Including wins from the indoor volleyball team and beach volleyball duo of April Ross and Alix Klineman, the U.S. has now achieved a Tokyo triple of all Olympic and Paralympic women’s volleyball gold medals, which has never before been done.

“Women can do anything they put their mind to, and USA Volleyball has the strongest women in the world,” Katie Holloway said on the NBCSN broadcast. “It is incredible to be in that place. We are so grateful to be among the most powerful women in the world in volleyball.”

Women’s sitting volleyball was added to the Paralympic Games in 2004. China had won the first three gold medals awarded – plus the 2010 and 2014 World titles – until the U.S. ended that streak in 2016, topping the three-time defending champion after settling for silver in both 2008 and 2012.

The U.S. faced its rival for the gold on Sunday morning and was led in scoring by three of its veterans – four-time Paralympians Heather Erickson (21 points) and Holloway (20) and three-time Paralympian Monique Matthews (19). The team included eight veterans who now have a combined 27 Paralympic Games between them, plus four newcomers.

Lora Webster – who has competed at all five Paralympics – contributed six points, playing while pregnant. Her fourth child is due in early 2022.

The U.S. was off to a stellar start in the final, closing the first set in just 18 minutes at 25-12.

China showed up in the second, which the U.S. still took 25-20, then really came back with a vengeance in the third to win 25-22. Xu Yixiao was China’s top scorer of the game with 20 points, including five in that set.

Xu added another seven in the fourth set, but the Americans were relentless and wrapped it 25-19 to secure the gold.

The U.S. went undefeated in 2019, winning 25 matches, and entered Tokyo as the favorite, but was upset early on, dropping its second game to China, 3-0.

Click here to read the full article on NBC Sports.

Nike Declares USA Women’s Basketball Team the Greatest Sports Dynasty of All Time
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USA Basketball Women’s National Team is one of the greatest sports dynasties of all time.

By Nikara Johns, Yahoo! Life.

It’s confirmed: USA Basketball Women’s National Team is one of the greatest sports dynasties of all time.

The team sealed the deal on Sunday when they claimed their seventh consecutive gold medal in a 90-75 win against host country Japan at the Tokyo Olympics. It was their 55th consecutive Olympic victory since the 1996 Summer Olympics in Atlanta.

Today, Nike is celebrating their success in a new film titled “Dynasties,” which stars current players and Nike athletes A’ja Wilson, Sue Bird, Diana Taurasi, Sylvia Fowles, Brittany Griner, Jewell Loyd, and Napheesa Collier, as well as former USAB players Dawn Staley, Lisa Leslie, Seimone Augustus, Maya Moore, Elena Delle Donne, Tamika Catchings and Sheryl Swoopes.

With this campaign, Nike is making a declarative statement that the USA Women’s Basketball team is the greatest sports team of all time. Plus, such spotlight is part of the brand’s commitment helping foster the growth of women’s sports and establishing the WNBA.

In the film, a young student is giving a presentation on dynasties, however, it’s not about ancient history. Instead, it is one she actually looks up to: “An all-women dynasty. Women of color. Gay women. Women who fight for social justice. A dynasty that makes your favorite men’s basketball, football and baseball teams look like amateurs,” she says in the clip.

For over 25 years, these female basketball stars have made their mark on and off the court. Swoopes, for instance, was the first woman to have a Nike basketball signature shoe, dubbed the Air Swoopes, which arrived in 1996. Then there is Wilson, who was not only the WNBA 2020 league MVP, but also a key player in the WNBA’s push for social justice through the Black Lives Matter movement.

The USA Women’s Basketball team has not lost at the Olympic Games since 1992 in Barcelona where they won the silver medal.

Click here to read the full article on Yahoo! Life.

How misogynoir is oppressing Black women athletes
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Black female track athletes

By Hannah Ryan, CNN

Naomi Osaka discovered what it’s like to be at the sharp end of a sporting governing body’s regulations this summer.

The ​four-time grand slam singles champion declined to ​attend press conferences as she began her French Open campaign in June — citing the importance of protecting her mental health and addressing the toll that media interviews had previously taken on her.

The French Open organizers responded by fining the world No. 2 an amount of $15,000 and threatening to expel her from future grand slams, after they deemed her withdrawal from press conferences as a failure on her part to meet “contractual media obligations.”

Osaka made the decision to withdraw from Roland Garros altogether, then skipped Wimbledon, before returning to play at the Tokyo Olympics.

What’s happened to Osaka over the last few months has left many ​critical of her sport’s handling of the situation, and wishing those who govern her sport ​had adopted a more empathetic and sensitive approach given ​she was dealing with mental health issues.

In fact, just after Osaka said she would be opting out of speaking to the press at the tournament, the French Open official Twitter account posted a since-deleted tweet that included photos of four other players engaging in media duties — Coco Gauff, Kei Nishikori, Aryna Sablenka and Rafael Nadal — which carried the caption: “They understood the assignment.”

The tweet appeared to be directed at Osaka and her decision to withdraw from media obligations. It was considered by several former tennis players and pundits as insensitive, and former doubles champion Rennae Stubbs said that the post could make Osaka “feel guilty” and described it as “humiliating” for her.

And while the rule itself — in which players are required to engage in press conferences throughout the tournament — ​may not be a racist or misogynistic one, the context in which Osaka found herself ​punished and seemingly mocked by officials is part of a pattern in which Black women in ​elite sports are subject to harsh scrutiny.

The rigidity with which Roland Garros responded to Osaka’s decision is reminiscent of the scrutiny that tennis ​governing bodies have previously bestowed upon other prominent players, including Serena Williams.

Osaka is a young, Black ​and Japanese athlete whose decision at the French Open is considered outside of the box by many. Her refusal to play by the traditional rules has seen her face backlash across the board in a particular right-wing media landscape that doesn’t look too fondly on Black women that diverge from the expected path.
And tennis has a history in the way it has dealt with Black women who do things differently.

Click here to read the full article on CNN.

Pink is offering to pay the Norwegian women’s beach handball team’s fine for wearing shorts
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pink on stage singing with both arms up in the air

By Toyin Owoseje, CNN

Singer-songwriter Pink has offered to pay fines handed out to the Norwegian women’s beach handball team after they refused to wear bikini bottoms while competing.

Last week, the European Handball Federation (EHF) fined the team a total of €1,500 (around $1,765), asserting that the women competed in “improper clothing” by wearing shorts like their male counterparts during the 2021 European Beach Handball Championships.

On Sunday, Pink took to Twitter to lend her support to the team, saying the EHF should be fined “for sexism.”

The Grammy Award-winner told her 31.6 million followers: “I’m very proud of the Norwegian female beach handball team for protesting sexist rules about their ‘uniform’.”

She continued: “The European handball federation SHOULD BE FINED FOR SEXISM. Good on ya, ladies. I’ll be happy to pay your fines for you. Keep it up.”

CNN has reached out to Pink’s representatives and the European Handball Federation for further comment.

The Norwegian women’s beach handball team showed their gratitude to the 41-year-old singer-songwriter, reposting her tweet on their Instagram story.

“Wow! Thank you so much for the support,” they wrote. Other posts on their official page show them posing together in their shorts.

According to International Handball Federation regulations, female players are required to wear bikini bottoms with a side width of a maximum of 10 centimeters (3.9 inches), with a “close fit” and “cut on an upward angle toward the top of the leg.”

Their male counterparts must wear shorts that are “not too baggy” and 10 centimeters above the knee.

Eskil Berg Andreassen, the team’s coach, told CNN last week that the team was fighting for the freedom “to choose” its own kit, adding that IHF’s uniform regulations could discourage women from playing the sport.

Click here to read the full article on CNN.

Two-time WNBA MVP Elena Delle Donne wants to help keep young girls in sports
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Two-time WNBA MVP Elena Delle Donne wants to help keep young girls in sports. Pictured holding a basketball during a game

By Emily Leiker, USA TODAY

Elena Delle Donne knows the impact sports can have on a girl’s life. Taller than most of her peers and struggling with her sexuality at a young age, Delle Donne wasn’t comfortable in her own skin. She was embarrassed by the things that made her different and didn’t have role models to show her that what she was experiencing was normal.

Playing sports helped Delle Donne realize the power she had as a teenage girl, and she’s doing everything she can to help today’s youth realize that as well.

“I can’t even imagine where I would be if I didn’t have sports to help me come into my power and come into my confidence and learn just so many life skills that have taken me into adulthood,” Delle Donne told USA Today. “It doesn’t even matter that I’m a professional athlete because sports did far more for me in the life aspect of things.”

The former WNBA Rookie of the Year and two-time MVP recently partnered with Always and Dick’s Sporting Goods to work on campaigns focused on keeping young girls involved in sports. Delle Donne also serves on Gatorade’s Women’s Advisory Board, aimed at addressing barriers contributing to the decline of female participation in sports.

In 2017, Gatorade’s “Girls in Sports” study revealed that girls drop out of sports at 1.5 times the rate boys do by the time they’re 14. More than half of all teenage girls stop playing sports by 17.

There are four main reasons girls drop out of sports, according to a 2015 report from The Women’s Sports Foundation. The leading cause? Girls don’t see a future for themselves in athletics.

“Oh my goodness, the visibility is crucial,” Delle Donne said. “It’s something that we’re always talking about. I think a big reason for girls dropping out of sport is that they often probably feel that society doesn’t see long-term value of her continuing to play.”

Women’s sports account for less than 6% of televised sports coverage, according to a study by the University of Southern California. Though the number has been on the rise in recent years, it’s still startlingly low considering the success and popularity of the WNBA and the U.S. Women’s National Soccer Team.

Combating drop-out rates of girls in sports starts with increasing visibility both on television and social media so girls can see what the future holds. It’s also important to show what girls are achieving in sports at a young age. Delle Donne said the recent coverage 14-year-old basketball prodigy Zaila Avant-Garde received following her win at the Scripps National Spelling Bee made her “so happy.”

“It’s so important, especially for young girls who can look and be like, ‘Hey, that can be me. That’s literally my peer,'” she said. “So, to be seeing the change in just my lifetime has been humongous. It’s been massive to see the young women come in and use their voices and their platforms in a way that can inspire so many others.”

A former Olympic gold medalist herself, Delle Donne sees the Tokyo 2020 as a prime opportunity for young girls to witness female athletes in action. She said inspiration can come from athletes in any sport regardless of which ones young girls play themselves.

Click here to read the full article on USA TODAY.

TOKYO 2020 TRANSGENDER WEIGHTLIFTER TO COMPETE IN GAMES … On New Zealand Women’s Team
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Laurel Hubbard lifting weights in a competition

By TMZ

For the very first time, a transgender athlete will compete in the summer Olympics … and shocker, there’s already controversy. 43-year-old Laurel Hubbard — who transitioned from male to female in 2013 — has been selected to the New Zealand women’s weightlifting team to compete in the women’s 87-kilogram division. The issue?? Hubbard competed in men’s weightlifting competitions before she transitioned — and some critics are already blasting the situation as unfair to other athletes.

But, the International Olympic Committee has specific guidelines for transgender athletes to compete — testosterone levels must be below a certain level — and Hubbard has met the criteria since 2015. In other words, she’s good to go!! The CEO of the New Zealand Olympic Committee, Kereyn Smith, issued a statement Monday supporting Hubbard.

“We acknowledge that gender identity in sport is a highly sensitive and complex issue requiring a balance between human rights and fairness on the field of play,” Smith said. “As the New Zealand Team, we have a strong culture of manaaki and inclusion and respect for all. We are committed to supporting all eligible New Zealand athletes and ensuring their mental and physical wellbeing, along with their high-performance needs, while preparing for and competing at the Olympic Games are met.”

Not everyone feels that way … back in May, Belgian weightlifter Anna Vanbellinghen reportedly called Hubbard’s qualifying situation “unfair” and a “bad joke.”

Hubbard, though, wasn’t letting the disapproval get in the way of her feat Monday … saying, “I am grateful and humbled by the kindness and support that has been given to me by so many New Zealanders.”

“The last 18 months has shown us all that there is strength in kinship, in community, and in working together towards a common purpose. The mana of the silver fern comes from all of you and I will wear it with pride.”

Click here to read the full article on TMZ.

WNBA’s first trans player signs with new team
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Trans athlete for the WBNA posing for a portrait image while holding a basketball up to the camera smiling

By Christian Spencer, The Hill

Layshia Clarendon, former shooting guard for the New York Liberty, is returning to the league with the Minnesota Lynx as the league’s first openly trans and nonbinary player, Star-Tribune reported. It was announced on Wednesday that Lynx agreed to sign the 30-year-old free agent to replace Aerial Powers, ESPN reported.

Clarendon entered the WNBA in 2013 as the ninth pick in the first round, having played at the University of California and winning two gold medals with the USA Women’s U19.

An all-star in 2017, Clarendon has career averages of 7.3 points and 3.0 assists. Last season, they played 19 of the Liberty’s 20 games and averaged a career-high 11.5 points with 3.9 assists, ESPN reported.

Clarendon is also a vocal advocate for the LGBTQ community and the first vice president of the WNBPA as well as a leader on the league’s social justice council.

“My expectations for the WNBA [are]… basically just not to forget trans people exist,” Christine Salek, a beat writer for the New York Liberty fan news site Nets Republic, said after Clarendon was waived by the New York Liberty last week. “I’m worried about being forgotten as a fan if there’s no ‘representation’ for me in this crucial way.”

Click here to read the full article on The Hill.

Osaka named Sportswoman of the Year, King honored at Laureus Awards
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Naomi Osaka pictured in a white gown while holding her sports trophy

By WTA Staff

Naomi Osaka has been named Sportswoman of the Year at the Laureus World Sports Awards for her achievements on and off court, and Billie Jean King was awarded the Lifetime Achievement Award by the Laureus Academy.

This is Osaka’s second recognition at the Laureus Sports Awards. She won Breakthrough of the Year in 2019 after a season that saw her win her first WTA title at the BNP Paribas Open and begin her ascent to the top of the game with her first US Open title that fall. She was also nominated for Sportswoman of the Year in 2020 after a season in which she captured her first Australian Open title and become the first Japanese player to ascend to World No.1.

“I’ve watched so many of my role models win this [Sportswoman] Award, so it definitely means a lot now to be holding it,” Osaka said in her acceptance speech. “I am so happy to receive it. It really means a lot to me.”

Coming out of a season interrupted by the sport’s shutdown due to the global COVID-19 pandemic, Osaka emerged as the dominant force on hard courts. The 24-year-old marched through the US summer season, making the Western & Southern Open final before capturing the US Open, her third major title. She continued her form in 2021, winning back-to-back Slams for the second time in her career after capturing her fourth major, at the Australian Open in February.

Osaka’s impact was not limited between the tramlines. During the Western & Southern Open, Osaka joined in the athlete-led protests regarding racial injustice in America, a decision that led to a one-day stoppage in play. At the US Open, in an effort to raise awareness of racial injustice, Osaka wore seven masks with seven names of black victims of racial violence.

“Regarding my activism on the court, I think it is important to use my voice, because for me I feel like I often hold back a lot and worry about what people think of me, but you know if you have a platform it is very important you use it,” Osaka said.

“Looking ahead my main hopes for the future would be just to have helped or impacted as many people as I could and, hopefully be a better person.”

Martina Navratilova presented King with her Lifetime Achievement Award, in recognition of her excellence on the tennis court as well as her life’s work in pursuit of gender and racial equality.

“The Laureus Lifetime Achievement Award is not only given to athletes who are undoubtedly great,” Navratilova said. “This award is given to those who have managed to maintain that greatness over an entire career and beyond, and who have maintained that greatness on the track, field, court, or pitch, and applied it to a life supporting others.”

Said King in her acceptance speech: “I’m a product of the public parks of Long Beach, California and I was extremely fortunate to have the access and opportunity to free coaching and instruction. It changed my life and opened my eyes. I knew after my first practice with coach Clyde Walker, that I wanted to be the number one player in the world.

“Then at 12 years old, I was thinking about my sport and I noticed everyone who played tennis wore white clothes, played with white balls and everyone who played was white. And I asked myself, where is everyone else? From that moment on, I decided to dedicate my life to equal rights and opportunities for all.

“I have a vision where the world of sports looks more like our world. Represented equally by people of all genders and all races and cultures, a world where we all have a seat at the table, a voice in the conversation and a chance to lead.”

Click here to read the full article on WTA Tennis.

Vanessa Bryant launches clothing line in honor of late daughter Gianna
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Vanessa Bryant and her eldest daughter wearing the tie dye sweat suit set for MAMBACITA clothing while standing in front of an all black background

By Alexander Kacala, Today

Today would have been Gianna Bryant’s 15th birthday. Last January, the daughter of late basketball legend Kobe Bryant, died alongside her father and seven others in a helicopter crash.

Now, just over fifteen months since the crash, Vanessa Bryant, is working to further her husband and daughter’s legacies with her sports foundation, Mamba and Mambacita, that aims to empower young girls who are athletes.

A new Mamba and Mambacita apparel line in honor of Gianna and Kobe Bryant is being launched Saturday, and the 38-year-old philanthropist shared some sweet family photos with the announcement.

In one photo, the mother poses with her oldest daughter Natalia, 18, with both looking strong and resilient in matching black-and-white tie-dyed sweatsuits. Mambacita is written across the front of the outfits in bold red lettering, and a no. 2, in honor of Gianna’s basketball jersey number, is printed inside a red heart drawing on the front of each suit’s left pant leg as well.

In another photo also shared on Instagram, 4-year-old Bianka Bryant is captured mid-jump. She’s also sporting an adorable smile reminiscent of her late dad’s big grin. Her sweatsuit is white with a lavender tie-dye print and pink Mambacita lettering.

All the proceeds from sales of the Mambacita apparel will be donated to Mamba and Mambacita.

Bryant credits her late husband and daughter for giving her the strength to do all the work she is doing nowadays. “I guess the best way to describe it is that Kobe and Gigi motivate me to keep going,” she told People magazine back in March. “They inspire me to try harder and be better every day. Their love is unconditional and they motivate me in so many different ways.”

Click here to read the full article on Today.

Football Fitness improves balance, muscle strength and bone density in women treated for breast cancer
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Football sitting in the middle of a grass field with an unfocused city skyline behind it

Reviewed by Emily Henderson, B.Sc, News- Medical/Life Sciences

The University of Southern Denmark (SDU), Rigshospitalet, and the University of Copenhagen have come together to study the effects of Football Fitness on various health parameters and self-rated health following treatment for breast cancer.

The results of the project, called Football Fitness After Breast Cancer (ABC), have now been published in three scientific articles published in international sports medicine, cardiology, and oncology journals.

“The main conclusion is that Football Fitness is an intense and good form of training for women treated for breast cancer, with beneficial effects on balance, muscle strength and bone density,” says Professor Peter Krustrup, Head of Research at SDU’s Department of Sports Science and Clinical Biomechanics, who has been studying the health effects of football and other sports for more than 15 years.

Twice weekly training sessions for a year
The researchers from SDU and the University Hospitals Centre for Health Research at Rigshospitalet joined with doctors and nurses from the Department of Oncology at Rigshospitalet and researchers at the University of Copenhagen to investigate whether Football Fitness offered twice weekly for 12 months can boost various health parameters in women treated for breast cancer.

The study involved 68 women aged 23 to 74, with an average age of 48, who were randomized 2:1 to a training group (46 participants) and a control group (22 participants). The trial ran for 12 months, during which the training group was offered Football Fitness training sessions twice a week comprising a warm-up, fitness and football drills, and small-sided games of 5v5 and 7v7 using two goals.

At the start of the study and after 6 and 12 months, respectively, health parameters such as fitness, bone and muscle strength, balance, body fat percentage, blood pressure, and cholesterol were measured and the participants completed questionnaires to rate their quality of life and energy in everyday activities.

It was also investigated whether participation in Football Fitness increased the risk of the participants developing chronic swelling (lymphoedema) on the side where they had been treated for breast cancer.

Football Fitness improves balance, strengthens muscle, and counteracts bone weakening
In an article just published in the Scandinavian Journal of Medicine and Science in Sports, the researchers show that 12 months of football training, performed on average 0.8 x 1 hour per week, gave the women better balance and greater muscle strength in the legs, while at the same time increasing bone density in the lumbar spine.

The participants who took part in at least one weekly session also achieved an improvement in bone strength in the femur.

“It’s encouraging that even a modest amount of training can produce these improvements because we know that treatment for breast cancer can accelerate the natural age-related loss of bone mass and thereby increase the risk of osteoporosis,” says Jacob Uth, assistant professor, and Ph.D. at University College Copenhagen, who has been the project leader in the study.

“The fact that balance and muscle strength are improved at the same time is a big plus because in the longer term this can reduce the risk of falls and broken bones,” he says.

Everyday activities become easier – but improving fitness requires more training
In another recently published article in the US journal Progress in Cardiovascular Diseases, the researchers show that the intensity is high, corresponding to a heart rate of more than 80% of maximum heart rate for 70% of the time the participants are playing with two goals. But this did not improve the participants’ fitness compared with the participants in the control group over the 12 months of the intervention.

On the other hand, the study showed that, after 6 months of Football Fitness training, the participants reported that health-related problems were less of a barrier to participating in and accomplishing everyday activities.

Click here to read the full article on News- Medical/Life Sciences.

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  1. Wonder Women Tech
    October 26, 2021 - October 29, 2021
  2. CSUN Conference
    March 13, 2022 - March 18, 2022