• Mama PhD

    Mothers attempting to balance parenthood and academics.


Math Geek Mom: New Opportunities for our Daughters

Athletics and academics.

July 9, 2015

Economic theory, and the graphs that can illustrate it, indicate that people tend to prefer “mixed bundles” of goods to bundles consisting of only one good. For example, people tend to prefer dinners consisting of a protein, a starch, and a vegetable to dinners consisting of only one of these. I found myself thinking of this recently as I discussed my daughter’s plans to try playing soccer this fall. She will add soccer to volleyball, basketball and track and field to create a true “mixed bundle” of various sports she will have participated in. She loves basketball the most, but, except for summer when she insists that swimming is done just for the fun of it, would not imagine a season when she does not play some sport. She had asked me what sports I played when I was younger, and I found myself answering that I had not played any organized sports, unless one goes so far as to call ballet a “sport.”

This conversation came about in the wake of the recent victory of the U.S. women’s soccer team in the World Cup finals last weekend. When my daughter was surprised that I did not play any organized sports as a teen, I explained to her that there were few options for girls to play sports in those days, since “Title IX,” directed at colleges, had not yet exerted its influence by making opportunities to play sports available to students in grammar and high school. She, and the women’s soccer team that won this last weekend, are the beneficiaries of this rule. So is Ursuline College, where some of our best students come to us to play serious college level sports. It takes an amazing student to be able to spend the weekend traveling to Tennessee to play a game and then come back to Cleveland on Monday and ace a Calculus exam. And, as we saw when our track and soccer teams won division championships, they not only play, but also win.

Our college president for the last 18 years recently retired, after many years of promoting her vision of the college. Perhaps the greatest of her accomplishments was the institution of sports at Ursuline, and our eventual acceptance into Division II of the NCAA. Right after being accepted into that division, she remarked that what we really needed now was a new gym. She claims that God took her at her word, and only two weeks later, a tornado struck the college and destroyed the old gym. Last week, a new gym, worthy of our new athletic status, was unveiled. It was, in a surprise to many attending, named after our departing president.     

When my mother was finishing up her Associate’s degree, one of her teachers pulled her aside and suggested to her that she pursue a Bachelor’s degree and then go to law school. This was the early 1960s, and, as was expected in those days, she declined his suggestion and instead married my father and soon began a family. I still maintain that I was accepted to college because I declared Physics as my major, in a day when girls (we never dared call ourselves “women”) were not expected to study such subjects. When I look at my daughter, I hope that no one will ever tell her that she can’t succeed at math or science based on her gender. In addition, I am grateful that my daughter will never live in a world where the teenage girls look for ways to get out of going to gym class, lest they mess up their hair, or where their only chance to be involved in sports activities is to cheer on their male classmates at a school pep rally. She has many more opportunities to be the person she authentically is than did her mom (me) or her grandmother. The victory of the U.S. Soccer team this past weekend only serves to highlight that fact even more. I hope that her experience of soccer this fall gives her yet another satisfying taste of the world of competitive sports.

Readers, what opportunities did you have in your life that those before you did not have access to?


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