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Level the Playing Field: The Past, Present, and Future of Women’s Pro Sports

by Kristina Rutherford

In her wide-ranging examination of the world of women’s professional sports, author and sports journalist Kristina Rutherford details the many struggles female professional athletes face. She takes readers through history to the present, showing how far we’ve come and how far we still have to go.

BfYP_October_LevelThePlayingField_CoverRutherford draws on examples from a wide range of sports, including basketball, golf, and tennis, and she covers key topics like the lack of opportunity for women in professional athletics and the grossly unequal salaries paid to men and women. The text looks back at the role of women in sports over the past 100 years, including nods to the first women to compete in the Olympics and Billie Jean King’s Battle of the Sexes tennis match in 1973. It can be tricky to make history captivating, but Rutherford breaks it down in an accessible way for young readers.

The best parts of the book are the inspiring interviews with female athletes, including Olympic gold medal–winning Canadian hockey player Cassie Campbell, American mixed martial arts fighter Miesha “Cupcake” Tate, and Christen Press of the U.S. women’s national soccer team. These are women who excel in their fields not just as female athletes, but as athletes, and their stories are sure to motivate young fans of both genders.

Rutherford also addresses the many stereotypes that female athletes fight to overcome – such as being told they’re too muscular or, conversely, that they’re just a pretty face – an important acknowledgement of an issue that many young readers will likely (sadly) encounter during their own athletic endeavours.

How do we continue to grow the future of women’s professional sports? With this hat trick: allowing young girls the opportunity to play, giving them amazing role models to follow, and telling them stories to motivate them to push harder for their own inclusion. Rutherford’s book expertly accomplishes all three goals in an easily readable way.