Women’s Wrestling and Combat Sports

Now I might as well confess since I inadvertently sent out an attachment to women’s wrestling web site that I am a closet fan. This needs a little explanation since I would consider women’s wrestling an underground sport, where only a few people are aware of it. I stumbled on this while surfing around the web, and since I am a long time coach of women athletes I was curious.

First I noticed most of the women were very attractive, athletic, fit, and sort of mean. Why would women who looked like this and who were very good athletes choose such a sport. Why not one of the more acceptable sports like ice skating, gymnastics, volleyball, or ballet (is that a sport). However, women in increasing numbers have entered more combative sports like boxiing, wrestling, and martial arts. And some might include the more physical sports like soccer, where there is a lot of body contact. Some girls even want to play football with the boys. What’s going on here? Most American’s do not want their daughters in combative activities because it’s not lady like, and doesn’t fit the stereotypes of good little girls we see for our children, and besides it’s dangerous. And that may be part of the answer. We see women flying fighter planes and helicopters in Iraq, and at least one babe driving indy race cars and several others in formula 1 racing. So what’s the attraction.

I think one of the main attractions is risk. We have boys and girls who have high risk personalities. The are looking for risk. Some of them love contact sports, some like rock climbing, and jumping off bridges and out of planes, and a few love combative activities. They like to beat people up in socially acceptable ways. Boys get to do it all the time in football.
On the internet I ran into a young man who lives in Michigan who is involved in women’s wrestling, and as a matter of fact , he manages and promotes one of the lady wrestlers. He is the web master of her web site, goes to most of her matches, is her photographer, and general golfer. He is also a school teacher, plays in a band, and is a major Steelers fan. So have had many conversations in which I let him know I train female athletes and wondered how these ladies train. His athlete is a former collegiate basketball player with a degree in finance and works full time as a legal secretary. Then she trains in the evening and has matches on the weekend. She claims though she liked basketball she always wanted to be a wrestler. Now I still find that strange.

These ladies do not make much money and all have to have full time jobs to support themselves. Lady X I’ll call her, has wrestled in Mexico, Korea, Japan, and all over the US. They do suffer serious injury and X has had at least one serious surgery to a knee. It appears now that most of the money is generated by selling videos and DVD’s of custom matches commissioned by fans. There is little money generated by attendence which is small, several hundred in some small gym or hotel, mostly in the midwest. Men’s wrestling through clever promotion is one of the biggest sports in America and very profitable. But it is big on TV and women’s wrestling has no chance. There have been two or three attempts and all have failed. They didn’t draw enough, and couldn’t sign big sponsors. My belief is that it is unacceptable to too may Americans who would not support women in combative sports to develop a large fan base. Three women boxers probably made a lot of money, Latitia Ali, Christy Martin, and Mia St John. Ali is the best fighter in the world and has a magic name that can be promoted. Martin was the first to reach the stature where she could fight on men’s cards without embarrassing herself (she fights other women), and Mia St John because of a Playboy spread she did which gave her name recognition recognition. I doubt if anyone else made much if any.
So why do women compete in these sports. Because they love it. Don’t ask me why, but they do. A few ex wrestlers seem to be doing well financially by having a stable of wrestlers and promoting video and DVD sales. I think the shows, which are mostly pretty cheesy, are put on to build a fan base to buy product. But it is obvious to me that it will never achieve enough strength where the competitors can make a living. I’m glad I found it. It’s fun to follow and educate myself on something I will probably never understand.

So what would you say if one day your daughter came up and said she wanted to be a wrestler, or a boxer, or a martial artist, or a football player? Interesting question?

About Fred

I am the running coach of Quest Club of Arizona, an adult running club. Formerly coached at Phoenix College for 18 years, and have coached a number of elite runners including Trina Painter and Lisa Weidenbach. Most recently coached Priscilla Hein, graduate of ASU and Olympic Trials semi finalist. In addition to coaching I am the sports publicist for the Arizona Community College Athletic Conference in track and field, and the Meet Director for the NJCAA Region Championships in Cross Country and Track and Field.
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