Level the Playing Field: The Past, Present, and Future of Women’s Pro Sports by Kristina Rutherford. October 11, 2016. Owlkid Books, 56 p. ISBN: 9781771471602. Int Lvl: 5-8; Rdg Lvl: 6.5; Lexile: 920.
The experience of being a professional athlete is very different for men and women. While men’s pro sports command throngs of fans, media attention, and money, many of the world’s top professional female athletes aren’t valued or recognized equally for their talent—even though female athletes prove time and time again that they have all the skill, drama, and rivalries of their male counterparts.
Level the Playing Field examines the root of these issues by taking readers through the history of women’s pro sports, exploring how far we have come in a relatively short time and exposing what ground is left to gain. The book provides first-person insight through exciting interviews with professional female athletes, including Canadian hockey player Cassie Campbell, American MMA fighter Miesha Tate, and WNBA star Elena Delle Donne. Along the way, author and sports journalist Kristina Rutherford covers important topics like opportunity, female role models, and stereotypes.
Drawing on examples from a wide range of sports, and complete with sidebars, photographs, sources, and an index, this is an informative and authoritative book that makes an important contribution to the movement for women’s acceptance in professional sport.
Booklist (September 1, 2016 (Vol. 113, No. 1))
Grades 5-8. As a girls’ hockey coach and sports journalist, Rutherford has experienced firsthand the shifting landscape of women in sports. In an engaging, conversational tone, Rutherford lays out the state of women in professional sports before Title IX was passed and mandated equal opportunities for women in federally funded schools, how it has changed since, and where women’s sports leagues are headed. Her message is a hopeful one: though women’s leagues lack exposure and funding (much like the early days of organizations like the MLB and NBA), their athletes are giving girls a thrilling example to follow, both on the field and on the sidelines, which is generating a significant move toward equity. Big, full-color action photos of a diverse array of women from a broad range of sports adorn each page, and brief interviews offer tidy glimpses into the life of a professional athlete. Rutherford’s optimistic and informative volume will not only enlighten students working on reports, but its empowering tone will encourage more young women to pursue careers in this expanding field of athletics.
Kirkus Reviews (July 15, 2016)
Debut author Rutherford looks at women’s professional sports and the social forces behind them. “Why is the pro sports experience so different for a man versus a woman?” Though Rutherford concedes other benefits of sports—success in school, fitness, fun—money is clearly the most obvious indicator of disparity. “LeBron has more than a dozen different pairs of shoes named after him and more than eight million followers on Instagram.” Maya Moore, a leading player in the WNBA, “earns almost nothing compared with what LeBron makes” and is not as well-known. To find answers to her key question, Rutherford analyzes the historical lack of opportunity in girls sports, the role of Title IX in expanding opportunity, the role of television as a force in sports, and the impact key players have had on various sports. She adopts a “you can do it” tone, which is enhanced by full-page color action photographs, several interviews with sports stars, a multicolor design (which borders on garishness), and letting women speak for themselves in quotations on most pages. Addressing herself directly to young readers, as she does throughout the volume, the author says, “And the thing is, you have a role in this, too. The advancements we’re seeing start with kids like you.” Young girls especially will be inspired by this volume and the bright future for women’s sports it portrays. (index, sources) (Nonfiction. 9-14)
Around the Web
Level the Playing Field on Amazon
Level the Playing Field on JLG
Level the Playing Field on Goodreads