A New Year's Toast to Girl Athletes

HighFive_SoccerAs we bid farewell to 2014 and welcome the New Year, we raise our glasses (and water bottles) in a toast to girl athletes everywhere:

For their unapologetic competitiveness, tenacity, and the joy they have for their sport;

For the energy they put in to early morning and evening practices and the times they decline invitations so they get the rest they need to stay healthy;

For homework done in cars and buses to and from games;

For the strikes thrown and lay-ups made; for p-kicks made and face-offs taken; for spikes and sprints;

For pushing themselves, lifting their teammates, and playing with integrity and honor.

At Dragonwing, we salute each and every one of you -- for putting yourself out there and, win or lose, playing your hardest and best. You're the reason we do what we do.

Cindy Parlow Cone Named UNC Outstanding Young Alumna

Many know Cindy Parlow Cone as a soccer superstar, a World Cup winner and Olympic gold medalist and most recently coach of the NWSL's Portland Thorns. Earlier this month, she was honored by her alma mater for these achievements and for being a "global envoy and safety advocate ... an involved and committed mentor to girls and young women around the globe."
Photo by David Gellatly, courtesy of UNC School of Education Photo by David Gellatly, courtesy of UNC School of Education
The University of North Carolina School of Education named Parlow Cone, a 2007 graduate with a bachelor’s degree in middle grades education, an Outstanding Young Alumna.
“From this platform as a superstar athlete, Cindy has coached, mentored, and advocated…. Cindy’s involvement in the lives of young athletes has reached beyond the 50 states. Since 2007, she has been a sports envoy for the U.S. State Department, focusing on sport transcending culture and language; leadership education; AIDS prevention; and coaching education.... Having cited post-concussion syndrome when she retired as a player, Cindy is working to make the game safer for the next generations. Since 2008, in concert with the Sports Legacy Institute, Cindy has helped lead an awareness campaign on the dangers of heading the ball, seeking to delay the practice until players are in high school. In this and so many steps of her life, Cindy has walked the talk of youth development and social responsibility.”
Since 2010, Cindy has been involved with Goals for Girls, an international initiative that helps disadvantaged girls across the globe by providing access to health and education programs taught through the game of soccer. Because of Cindy’s role as a spokesperson for Dragonwing, we take special pride in this award. It’s an honor to be affiliated with such a tremendous advocate and mentor for the power of sports to improve the lives of girls.

Power of Shared Language of Soccer

Last month, the Jordanian U15 Women's National Soccer Team came to the US to train and engage in American culture. Some Dragonwing soccer girls here in North Carolina were among those fortunate enough to be able to scrimmage with the team, share a meal, and get to know a bit about the similarities and differences between their lives as teen girl athletes. Former USWNT member and Olympic gold medalist, Cindy Parlow Cone, was one of the girls' soccer coaches who met with the Jordanian girls' team. A spokesperson for Dragonwing girlgear and ambassador for Goals for Girls, an international nonprofit that helps girls worldwide through cultural exchange and soccer, Parlow Cone noted the power of sports "diplomacy":
Every time…I'm a sports envoy to another country, it just reiterates how much power…this sport of soccer has . It's amazing how this game can bring so many people together.
I can say quite confidently that this experience has changed my daughter's life -- and those of all the girls on the field that chilly December evening. To meet and interact, both casually and on the soccer field, with girls from another country, opened their eyes to the similarities and differences they experience as teen girls.
Despite language differences, they communicated perfectly in their shared "language" of soccer, where each girl knew what to do and how to play.
They relished the competition and joy of the sport! Most of the girls are now connected via social media and sharing parts of their daily lives -- tweets, photos, and updates -- with their new friends across the globe. The members of the U15 team will be the first team to represent Jordan when it hosts the 2016 FIFA U17 Women's World Cup in 2016. The Jordanian team's visit was part of the US State Department's Empowering Women and Girls Through Sports Initiative and the University of Tennessee Center for Sport, Peace and Society.

Sweet Senior Soccer Season

girls high school soccer teamSpring soccer has started for Dragonwing ambassador Emma, and wow, is she excited! In her recent blog post -- complete with ALL CAPS and 4 exclamation points!!!! -- she recounts the somewhat surreal feelings of the spring semester of senior year.
Senior night will be for me. It’s my last year in the CA jersey. Whaat.
Despite twinges of nervousness after not playing for 10 months -- "I had no idea how good or bad I would be getting back into it" -- her overwhelming feeling was how much she loves the sport and the competition. Emma has high hopes for the team's season. "I think our team is pretty stacked, and I personally believe a state championship is in our future." Isn't that how every season should start? Subscribe to Emma's blog so you can follow along.

Kathrine Switzer: First Woman to Enter the Boston Marathon

For the Dragonwing team, this video makes us emotional - especially when Jock Semple tries to pull her out. Kathrine's quote "all of a sudden this was very important ... nobody believes I can do this.. and if I don't finish, people will think all women can't." she finished in 4 hrs and 20 min. KV Switzer (and whoever wears #261 -how lucky are you!) You can watch the video here. Kathrine Switzer: First Woman to Enter the Boston Marathon

Concussions important issue for girl athletes-updated info here

There have been many articles and efforts to improve safety on the soccer field for women and girls. As an update to our posts of six years ago, I provide new information on prevention and training alternatives from Cindy Parlow Cone and

Our original articles are here:

and new information can be found here:

Check out these excellent video on the what Cindy Parlow Cone's experience learning to head the ball at 18 -and still being a World Cup Champ and Olympian!

Happy Birthday Cindy Parlow Cone

Happy birthday to Cindy Parlow Cone, three-time NCAA Women's Soccer Champion and founding member of the Women's United Soccer Association, former head coach for Portland Thorns FC and in her first year as coach in her first year as head coach of the Portland Thorns, led the Thorns to the NWSL Championship. Parlow was a member of the 1996, 2000, and 2004 Olympic, and 1999 and 2003 Women's World Cup, teams. Parlow Cone played professionally for the Atlanta Beat for three years and was the Coaching Director of 13-18 year-old girls' programs at the Triangle United soccer league. Cindy is a co-founder of Goals for Girls. Birthday --May 8th.

Black History Month: Celebrating Serena Williams!

Sharing stories about women athletes matters. Equally important, hearing stories of amazing women athletes matters. One of my favorite legends is Serena Williams. To celebrate Black History Month, the artist Simone Grace is creating a coloring book with portraits of 28 amazing black women and one of the world's greatest athletes, Serena Williams is featured. Simone is my friend and classmate -and when I asked her if we could share this page with our community of athletic girls and their parents, she generously and ecstatically agreed. You can get a free printable coloring page here! Check out all the illustrations of visionary black women who are luminaries in politics, arts, activism, business and sports. Coloring is a fun, empowering and relaxing activity for all the strong girls and women in your life and makes a great gift! You learn more about Simone Grace and how to get the entire printable coloring book at the GoFundMe page here. xoxo MaryAnne Founder of Dragonwing girlgear

What's So Great about the Women's World Cup?

My inspiration for Dragonwing girlgear was sparked on the sidelines of North Carolina soccer fields, and I still watch hundreds of girls' soccer games each year. So you won't be surprised to hear that I LOVE the Women's World Cup. My reasons are personal -- the level of play is amazing and the stories of the players never fail to move me.
But the most powerful aspect of the Women's World Cup -- the part that brings a lump to my throat -- is the inspiration, hope, and role models that the players provide to millions of girls worldwide. Their commitment, perseverance, and love of the game says it all: "DREAM BIG. WORK HARD. COMPETE FIERCELY. PLAY JOYFULLY. YOU CAN DO IT!"
In addition to all the amazing soccer play (how about England's go-ahead goal versus Norway?!), there have been some perceptive and thought-provoking stories about the significance and value of the Women's World Cup. Here are a few that I've particularly enjoyed: "Why the Women's World Cup Needs You to Watch," by Peter Macia in Vogue magazine The numbers of viewers, on TV and online, are vitally important, Macia argues, to sponsors, to players, to women's sports in general, and to girls watching and playing around the world. (There's that inspiration again!) Watching the Women's Cup demonstrates that women's soccer and women's sports have value, writes Peter Macia in Vogue. "What Women's Sports Can Learn from the Colombian Women's Team," by Kate Fagan on ESPNW Given the audiences in stadiums and watching the games on screens of all kinds, there are signs of legitimacy for international women's soccer, writes Fagan. But "the final mile marker will be when everyday fans…feel comfortable offering criticism, second-guessing the coach and the choices, and putting the play itself under a microscope…. These are the conversations that fuel men's sports.
Imagine being knowledgeable enough about women's sports and knowing enough about a women's team to think you know better than the coach or a player in the game's closing minutes. Imagine knowing who else could have been the coach and which players the team might have signed. Then imagine being confident enough to actually admit you're into women's sports."
Lady Andrade, Colombia's goal "8 Reasons We Love the Women's World Cup," by SoccerGrlProbs for ESPNW World-class talent, worldwide impact, super fans and more. fifawwc

Body Shaming Female Athletes Makes My Blood Boil

It's been an amazing few weeks for women's sports - from the Women's World Cup to Wimbledon. I've found myself in awe of the athleticism, teary-eyed with exhilaration and pride, and delighted with so much of the media coverage. Serena Williams, Wimbledon champion - photo by  Stefan Wermuth, Reuters But an article on the day of the Wimbledon women's finals got my blood boiling. Dan Rothenbeg, a writer for The New York Times, wrote about how top women's tennis players "balance body image with ambition." Here's my letter to the editor:
To the Editor of The New York Times: In focusing on body size and muscularity of the women playing at Wimbledon, Dan Rotherberg perpetuates the standard that female athletes need not only excel at their sport but also meet a societal standard for beauty while doing so. (“Tennis’s Top Women Balance Body Image with Ambition,” July 10) Would the Times run a story about NFL linebackers balancing their body image with their athletic ambitions? By running the article, the Times gives credence to a double standard, one that female athletes of all ages battle regularly. Simply because some women athletes or coaches make training decisions based on body size does not make it newsworthy. The US Women’s National Team’s World Cup victory inspired millions of girls worldwide. Like the women playing at Wimbledon, these athletes are role models for young girls. We owe it to young fans of every sport to highlight the discipline, commitment, hard work, and athleticism of female athletes and not the size of their forearms or thighs.
Regardless of whether my letter is published, I will continue to speak up for women and girl athletes, for their right to be taken seriously and to play fiercely. The focus on body image -- some call it "body shaming" -- is an unfair and unwanted burden on women and girls. To female athletes of all ages: When a reporter (from your school paper to the New York Times) asks a question about your appearance, change the conversation. Turn the questions around to what is important -- the high level of your play, the discipline and hard work you devote to your game, and the recognition you and your team have earned. Don't be limited by reporters who are perpetuating a limiting and oppressive paradigm for women. Join us and millions of others in a movement to empower girls and women by what they have accomplished and what they can achieve, not by how they look.
To sports girls everywhere: Be strong. Develop your body and mind to play your game to the best of your ability. Strive to be your best self. Have fun and be proud to PLAY LIKE A GIRL!

Donate a Sports Bra to Goals for Girls

In response to our campaign to raise $25,000 for breast cancer research, members of the Dragonwing community asked if they could donate one of our Limited Edition pink/white Racer Sports Bras to a girl in need. We're delighted to announce that we've partnered with U.S. soccer great Cindy Parlow Cone and her nonprofit, Goals for Girls, an international initiative of girls helping girls through soccer, to fulfill this vital need. Sports bras are the most-requested item by the girls she works with worldwide. Cindy is planning a trip to India soon, and thanks to the generosity of the Dragonwing family, she'll be taking Racer Seamless Sports Bras to girls there. It's not too late to donate! Simply CLICK HERE to purchase a special edition Racer Sports Bra, select a size, and select "Yes" in the Donation field. It's a win-win! Your purchase brings us $10 closer to our goal of $25,000 for breast cancer research AND helps a girl in need. Since 2007, Goals for Girls has helped disadvantaged girls across the globe by providing access to health and education programs taught through the game of soccer. It gives girls an opportunity to break down cultural and socio-economic barriers to create change through addressing common challenges.

NWSL Preseason Update

Spring is finally here and the NWSL inaugural season is just about ready to get underway. Teams are gearing up for the start of the season and Dragonwing girlgear is offering a unique perspective of the preseason of each NWSL team. Here is a team by team update: Boston Breakers: Update: U.S. national team members Heather O’Reilly and Sydney Leroux joined their new team on Wednesday March 20th, after competing with the national team in Portugal in the 2012 Algarve Cup. The WNT won 2-0 to Germany. Since receiving their respective allocated players, the Breakers signed two discovery players: defender Julie King, who played for the Breakers last year in the WPSL elite league and Lisa Marie Woods. Discovery players are those who were not selected in the Supplemental Draft that was held on Feb. 8th. The two discovery players will join six other players who were selected in the supplemental draft as well as the six players allocated during the winter. Other news: On March 18th, the team announced that they are partnering with the Andover Soccer Association (ASA) to launch the Boston Breakers Academy Program that will be “targeting players who need/desire extra development and advanced training to supplement what they do within their local community soccer program,” according to the press release from the NWSL news website. First game: Sunday, April 14th vs. the Washington Spirit Chicago Red Stars: Update: The Red Stars have been busy since Day 1 updating their roster with four free agent signings since the allocation and college draft including midfielder Lori Chalupny, defender Taryn Hemmings, forward Ella Masar and midfielder Leslie Osborne. The team added some international players to the mix with defender Sonja Fuss and forward Inka Grings, both from Germany. Fuss and Grings will join their new team starting on May 20th and are the first German players to play in the NWSL. Preseason has delivered some bad news however as the Red Stars will be without star defender Amy LePeilbet for six to eight months due to a torn ACL in January. Other news: Along with the Seattle Reign, the Red Stars completed the first ever trade in the NWSL, sending midfielder Keelin Winters to Seattle in exchange for a first round pick in the 2014 college draft with future considerations. First game: April 14th at home vs. Seattle Washington Spirit Update: In gearing up for the season, the Spirit scheduled five preseason matches with some of the country’s top college programs, four of whom are in the ACC (Maryland, UNC, Duke, and UVA). The Spirit already defeated the Penn State Nittany Lions 1-0 on March 17th and will look to use these college friendly matches as a gauge for their preseason progress. “We are thrilled at the chance to take on top quality college opponents as we gear up for the NWSL season,” Spirit head coach Mike Jorden said in an interview with NWSL news. “This marks an important step in our preseason preparations, and will be a great opportunity for fans to get a first look at their new team.” Other news: The Spirit signed three additional draft picks-including MAC finalist Caroline Miller on March 8th. The team also signed Discovery player Domenica Hodak. First game: April 14th, at Boston FC Kansas City Update: After holding an open tryout back in February, Head Coach Vlatko Andonovski and the “The Blues” have narrowed down their roster to 17, featuring some of the country’s top talents. Additionally, goalkeeper Nicole Barnhart, defender Becky Sauerbrunn, forward Lauren Cheney and midfielder Kristie Mewis were all named to the USWNT Algrave cup team Other News: The team welcomed Title Boxing as it’s official sponsor and will feature the company’s logo on the players’ jerseys. First game: Will play host to the Portland Thorns in the first inaugural game of the NWSL season on April 13th.Portland Thorns Update: The Thorns signed their two discovery players- forward Danielle Foxhoven and defender Jazmyne Avant. The team opened training camp on March 11th with an opening roster of 27, but will have the cut six players by April 5th to meet the roster cap at 21. According the Thorns’ website, head coach Cindy Parlow Cone said, “This is a pretty select group that we have here right now,” Cone said. “I was able to invite in 32 players and I didn’t for a reason. I wanted it to be a select group with quality all the way through. … Just about every player on the roster (not including goalkeepers) will have to be able to play multiple positions.” Other news: In January, forward Alex Morgan led the way for the USWNT in their Algrave Cup victory against Germany. Morgan scored the team’s only two goals in the match. First game: April 13th at FC Kansas City Sky Blue FC Update: Sky Blue FC has been making a splash since the allocation by inking several quality players including Australian national team member Caitlin Foord. Foord joins forward Taylor Lytle as the team’s two discovery players. In addition, goalkeeper Jill Loyden broke her hand in a training session with the USWNT in Portugal in early March, prompting the team to sign Brittany Cameron, their second pick in the supplemental draft. Loyden will be out three to four months. Other news: Former WPSL elite coach Erwin van Bennekom will join the coaching staff as an assistant coach and will co-head coach the club’s official reserves team, the Jersey Sky Blues. First game: April 14th vs. the Western New York Flash Western New York Flash Update: Star forward Abby Wambach joined her new team on Wednesday, March 20th. She remains four goals behind Mia Hamm’s all-time record of 154 international goals. On March 18th, the Flash announced a 25-player preseason roster after signing five free agents including McCall Zerboni, Adriana Martín Santamaría, Brittany Taylor, Samantha Kerr and Sarah Huffman. Other News: Wambach will be the only representative from the USWNT for the beginning of the season as midfielder Carli Lloyd broke her shoulder in the U.S match vs. Ireland. She will be sidelined for six to eight weeks but should only miss a small part of the season. First game: April 14th at Sky Blue FC Seattle Reign Update: The Reign will be without goalkeeper Hope Solo who had successful surgery on her left wrist and will be recovering for four months. The team will be without forward Amy Rodriguez for the entire season as she announced in the winter she is pregnant with her first child. The Reign will also miss midfielder Megan Rapinoe, who will not report until June. Other news: Rapinoe was named the Algrave Cup’s tournament MVP. First game: April 14th at Chicago