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A Special Thanks to the Haters of Women's Sports

As a college coach and three-time national champion, I recall the day in 2010 when our women's NCAA Rugby program was reluctantly added to our university's sponsorship docket after a lengthy Title IX lawsuit. Since then, there has been and will continue to be hard conversations sprinkled throughout our program's history that serve as reminders that equality in treatment compared to our most celebrated men's sports, is non-negotiable. If anyone were to ask me one of the key ingredients in building a winning tradition, I would point first to the dedication of my student-athletes and second to the foundation of our program which has proven that the team who fights for a bigger cause together off the field, often wins together on it.

While watching the USA Women's Soccer team battle their way through to the finals of the 2019 World Cup, I slogged through mountains of bro-spawned criticism, sexism and non-stop dialogue on social media accusing the team of being "unreasonable" in their demand for equality and referred to as "annoying"and "whiny". In response to these accusations I thought to myself: Hell yes haters, here comes the gold medal.

You see, this never-ending cycle of pushback by society to stifle the voices of women who speak out is hardly new. As I smiled at Megan Rapinoe's celebratory pose to the crowd after her successful PK against the Netherlands, I had to wonder if I was the only one who had not only experienced but also recognized the direct correlation between a team's equity fight off the playing field and the winning that follows.

If you believe this observation to be just some sheer coincidence, allow me to present you with a nice flashback of USA Women's Ice Hockey in 2018. The team's national movement found our female ice hockey athletes challenging their own governing body on the subject of equal pay. The movement not only captured the attention of the nation but also, effectively put a stopper in the NGB's ability to recruit and replace the existing roster. The USA Women's Ice Hockey team leveraged their positive influence by blocking those efforts by the NGB to replace them with substitute athletes ranging from NCAA student-athletes all the way down to the recreational beer league players.

The women of USA Ice Hockey not only won the battle for equality but, their crusade was quickly topped off with an earned placement at the highest point on the podium in the 2018 Winter Olympic Games, as they captured gold.

Like many of you, I see the trolls online day in and day out ready and willing with their sad one-liners, kitchen jokes and those who recycle the same disproven and tired myths about men's sports being more naturally deserved of more coverage, marketing, salary and praise. Although it can be exhausting, I admittedly get sucked in to responding to those irrelevant voices who come armed to the conversation with cliches and a handful of bot followers. However, as much I hate to admit it, so much of the doubt and visceral misogyny serves as a critical spark that not only jumpstarts our advocacy engines and keeps our eyes wide open, but it fuels our female athlete fires in a way that even the coolest Nike commercial cannot inspire.

In fact, to all those butt hurt dudes and self-hating women trolling ESPNW, Facebook and Twitter to post their comments specifically about how women's sports are inferior to men's, I would like to say... thank you.

Thank you, because without doubters, sexist haters and eternally single internet trolls, the wildly fulfilling and inspirational fist pumping buzz that traveled through my body as I watched Rapinoe answer all the hate with game winning goals and a sassy open-arms stance, would not be possible. When frustrated with what feels like endless quagmires of misogyny and shallow pools of attacks, we must all remember that without the world constantly jeering at us and mansplaining what we are and are not capable of, we might not be prompted to shout back as loud and as long all the reasons why they are sadly mistaken.

When frustrated with what feels like endless quagmires of misogyny and shallow pools of attacks, we must all remember that without the world constantly jeering at us and mansplaining what we are and are not capable of, we might not be prompted to shout back as loud and as long all the reasons why they are sadly mistaken.

We would be blind to the ugliness and cult-like nature of obsessed male sports fandom and the athletic entities who foster love for the modern day caveman. To anyone investing their energy in stifling and/or attempting to slow the growing support wave for women's sports, I must genuinely ask: When was the last time blatant, sloppy misogyny ultimately proved to be more powerful than the sheer determination of our most controversial female athletes' and their will to win? I'll wait.

The truth is, the population of those suffering from fear that women's sports is on the rise simply are not capable of winning this battle with opinions they often mistaken for facts so please allow me to provide you some more recent history demonstrating just how fruitless the path of sexism really is.

Remember when you tried to tell Oklahoma State softball's Samantha Show to behave and stop disrespecting college softball by flipping her bat? You preferred that she gently lay her bat down after her home runs. Perhaps you recall how Show couldn't have cared less about the criticism and proceeded to hit even more home runs and flipped her bat right back at you as a reminder that her enthusiasm is none of your business.

Remember when you tried to troll USA Women's Ice Hockey by saying they didn't deserve equal pay and that they could stay home and the US would play without them? Yeah, they responded with a boycott on the pipeline, negotiated equal pay and brought home gold for a not-too-shabby day at the told-you-so office.

There was also that time five minutes ago when you were outraged accusing Megan Rapinoe of being unpatriotic, too outspoken, too gay and a poor example of an American. If you recall, she responded by standing tall to the crowd opening her arms and symbolically demonstrating how irrelevant your disagreement with her display of celebration truly is. Oh, and by the way, the USA Women's Soccer team won the World Cup which coupled nicely with Rapinoe's posture move.

How about when you criticized Serena Williams for being outspoken and too emotionally charged for a female tennis player? That's right, Serena gave zero consideration to your salt throwing and still doesn't. Fortunately now, all the Serena haters have the privilege of staring at her on the Wheaties box while eating cereal in their mom's basement each morning.

To the critics and trolls I say, keep at it. Although your insecurity and hatred toward women is no doubt toxic to the development of the next generation, our accomplishments will only intensify from here as you grow lamer and eventually disappear. In closing, my dear social media trolls, without your level of unwavering ignorance and fragile masculinity, I would not gain nearly as much inner fulfillment while standing up for our sisters, mothers, wives and friends who make up the better portion of the population in the amazing world of sport.

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