The Rise of Women’s Sports


Women’s sport was first introduced in the 19th century. Since then, the sports in which women participate have grown and the publicity has increased. 

The first Olympic games to feature female athletes were the 1900 Paris Olympic Games. 22 out of the 997 athletes that participated in the games were women. The female athletes were limited in the sports they were allowed to participate in which included golf, sailing, tennis, and croquet. It wasn’t until 2012 that women were allowed to participate in every Olympic sport at the Games. According to, all new sports to be included in the Games must contain women’s events.           


Some of the most influential female athletes of all time include:

Hélène de Pourtalès, a Swiss sailor who became the first woman to win an Olympic gold medal. Since then, women have been dominant in the Olympic Games. 

Serena Williams, one of the most influential female athletes in the world. She is an American Professional tennis player and has won 23 Grand Slam singles titles, which is more than any other man or woman during the open era, as well as winning four olympic gold medals. Williams is a force to be reckoned with in the world of sports.

Alex Morgan, an American professional soccer player and co-captain of the U.S. Women’s National Team. She is a two-time FIFA Women’s World Cup Champion. Morgan was named in Time Magazine’s Top 100 Most Influential People of 2019. She has written a total of 12 children’s books in a series titled “The Kicks”, as well as a memoir titled Breakaway: Beyond The Goal.  

Cindy Parlow Cone, a two time Olympic Gold medalist and 1999 FIFA Women’s World Cup champion. She is currently the president of the United States Soccer Federation and is blazing a new trail as the first woman to hold that position. 


I had the opportunity to reach out to Cindy Parlow Cone and get her view on the rise of women’s sports.

Here are some of her thoughts from the interview held with her.


In what ways would you say women’s sports have grown?


“I think women’s sports have grown in every way possible.  First, women’s sports are more accessible to watch. Not only are they on tv and streamed more, they are now part of the conversation for highlight shows and talk shows. Second, women’s sports are now being critiqued at the same level as the men’s sports. It wasn’t too long ago that most of the media were really hesitant to write anything critical of female athletes and their performance. But, now, female athletes are analyzed and critiqued at the same level as their male counterparts. Third, there is now more money in women’s sports. Companies have started to figure out the commercial reasons to invest in women’s sports.  So, as women are more visible and as the investment continues to increase in women’s sports, this will increase the number of young girls participating in sports. Thus, the number of girls that grow up dreaming of becoming a professional athlete will increase as will the number of girls that are actually able to realize that dream.  As investment at the highest level of the sports grows, the investment in girls youth sports will also grow. We will need to make sure that this investment in youth sports is accessible for all girls, regardless of socio-economics, race, geography, or any other difference. Fourth, due to this increase in investment and more visibility, we have seen a sharp increase in the number of fans of women’s sports. Because of this, we now see more female athletes that transcend their sport, which is a huge change from 20 years ago.  We are now seeing athletes, both male and female, using their platforms for social and political causes. As this trend continues, and we have more female athletes using their voice at the national level, this will transfer to more women in higher level jobs in all sectors of our ecosystem.”  


Do you think that they will continue to grow?


“Yes! We are already seeing more engagement from fans, media, and sponsorship.  I believe as people are exposed more and learn more about women’s sports and the individual athletes, I think we will only see women’s sports continue to grow.  As there is more investment and media coverage, this will increase youth participation and fans. As youth participation and fans increase, we will see more investment and media coverage. It is cyclical.”


How would you say you’ve personally impacted the growth of women’s sports?


“As a kid, I was very quiet, reserved, but fiercely competitive. Sports is where I found my “home”. It is where I felt the most comfortable and where I felt I could best express myself. At a young age, I felt that everyone should have the opportunity to find their “home”. Then, when I joined the national team at 17, I found a platform to help inspire the next generation of young girls that wanted sports to be their  “home”. With the 1999 Women’s World Cup, alongside my teammates, we helped grow awareness of women’s sports, and in the next year, we saw a huge increase of girls (and boys) participation in sports. Now 21 years later, as president of US Soccer, I work with our sponsors, donors, staff, membership, board, CONCACAF and FIFA to increase fans, investment, sponsorship of our sport for both genders.  As a youth coach, every day I am working with young female players to help them grow as people and as players. For now, some of my players, soccer is their “home” and perhaps it will continue to be their “home” well into the future. But, if not, hopefully, they stay engaged in sports as they mature into adulthood and have a positive impact on other girls and women. If they don’t stay engaged in sports, I hope that they take all the life lessons learned through playing to make a positive impact wherever they go.”


What was one of the challenges that you faced as a female athlete?


“As I mentioned previously, I was fiercely competitive.  So, one challenge for me as a kid was balancing being fiercely competitive and wanting to be the best at everything while at the same time being a good teammate.  At times, I was very narrowly focused on myself and what I needed to do to be the best that I wasn’t aware of what my teammates needed from me to help them be the best that they could be so that our team could be as good as possible. It wasn’t until I joined the national team that I learned this lesson. I was surrounded by other players that were just as competitive as me and wanted to win as badly as I did.  We had amazing captains on the team, and they went out of their way to make sure everyone felt supported and valued as a member of the team. They made sure that we all had what we needed to bring our best selves to the team.  They did this, even though they knew that by building up someone else, they could lose their spot on the team. From that point on, I became a better teammate and a better person. As I achieve in life, I make sure that on my way up, that I lower the ladder to make it easier for the next person to climb.”


How are sports better for women now than they were when you were playing?


“We are lucky to live in the US, where sports for girls is not only accepted but it is encouraged. I have traveled to many places around the world where this is not the case. 

But, things are slowly changing and I am working to make it so that girls everywhere not only have the opportunity to play sports but are encouraged to play sports. I know that not everyone will become a national team player or a professional player, but regardless of the level reached, that girls will learn valuable life lessons along the way that will serve them well the rest of their life. And, this not only helps the girls, but in time helps their community.”