Most of the attention directed toward the world of female athletes has focused on the ugly side of female athleticism: the sexual harassment that can often accompany a swift sprint toward the top. What often gets swept under the rug, though, is the many financial, career and personal concerns women athletes face. This dynamic led to a new series of articles in this month’s Fast Company, which highlighted several women who identify as professional athletes and are still struggling to figure out how to manage finances.
For English soccer player Rowena Burney, money isn’t her only concern. She also carries a pregnancy and labor complication known as pre-eclampsia, which puts her life at risk. “I haven’t just had to suffer from pregnancy, I’ve also had to deal with the challenge of being an Olympic athlete. There are two milestones of pregnancy: having babies and retiring,” she says.
The Pakistan cricket captain Sara Aziz found herself in a similar spot when she was pregnant with her third child. To accommodate the demands of a demanding cricket career, Aziz doubled the distance for her deliveries, but she had to sacrifice other medical concerns.
“During the delivery, my body was really weak,” she says. “But I had this cricket tattoo on my leg and it was getting in the way.”
“Giving birth to a child is the greatest feeling in the world,” says Maryon Stewart, a top track star who is now the Women’s 100-meter track coach at the University of Southern California. “It’s the only time when my body is in peak physical condition and I feel like I have the greatest joy in my life and it being the time of the year that I can be the greatest competitor, the greatest burden on other people.”
Stewart recently finished an unpaid semester at USC to study and coach the Trojans, having lost her scholarship after agreeing to take a job outside the academic realm. It’s a common problem for women who need to balance their sports career with academics.
“Sometimes it gets very hard to balance,” she says. “This sport is my whole career. It’s a part of my identity. The fact that I’m a mom, I didn’t go through college to be a mom, but I want to be a great role model for these children.”
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