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Women's Tennis (WTA): A Role Model for Women's Cycling (WCA)

I just finished watching the historic match between Serena Williams and Venus Williams. I've been following the US Open but not arranging my schedule around it like I do with women's cycling. We did hurry home tonight from the bike shop to watch and it was fantastic. The hype around the match was huge and I'm sure the ESPN viewership numbers will be huge. There are endless sources to see how the match played out, but my favorite was the WTA "As It Happens" Live Blog.

If you are familiar with cycling in the US, the live blog is similar to what Tour Tracker does with live commentary. Unfortunately cycling doesn't get ESPN airtime, so Tour Tracker has live video along with live commentary. The commentary is a mix of race updates and inside details, just like WTA did tonight with the live blog.

Spending as much time as I do supporting women's cycling, it's natural for me to compare tennis to cycling and the WTA (Women's Tennis Association) to the WCA (Women's Cycling Association). The WCA was formed in 2014 and has a solid 3yr strategic plan. I'm a WCA member and believe it is the direction we need to go. I've been involved in a few WCA events and the attitude and passion is there, we just need to increase the volume and exposure. 

Watching tonight's tennis match, I was impressed with so many aspects of WTA. There are so many similarities to women's cycling. I'm sure I could make a huge list, but just from tonight's match, a few stood out. Feel free to add more in the comments.

1. We have sister rivalry. Samantha and Skylar Schneider are a perfect example. Currently ranked 1st and 4th in the USA Cycling NCC.
2. Fans can relate to the sport and many participate. I would argue that more fans in Arthur Ashe Stadium and watching ESPN ride bicycles than swing tennis rackets.
3. Athletes come in all sizes and strengths. Venus and Serena are sisters but have different bodies and strengths. Pro cyclists are the same and with so many disciplines, there is even more variety which fans can identify with. If Venus and Serena were cyclists, I'd guess that Serena was a Crit specialist while Venus preferred Stage Races.
4. These women are outstanding on and off the playing field. Serena and Venus have long lists of achievements off the tennis court, very similar to women cyclists. I can't keep track of how many college degrees, company owners, and 
5. Sponsors love women athletes. For all the reasons listed above, women are a dream come true for sponsors. Cyclists even more so, since they don't get the salaries that tennis players do and are very dependent on sponsorships. They communicate on social media, they speak to the primary household purchaser (women), they are strong, smart, and represent what women want to look like (active & healthy). The problem for women cyclists is even though sponsors love them, they rarely get the attention Serena and Venus just did.

In addition to similarities, I could also list some major advantages of cycling that should be slam dunks when it comes to media coverage. For now, I'll stick with my #1 which is the playing field. I think most would agree that tennis courts are boring. There are a few different surfaces and colors, but other than that, you spend hours looking side to side just hoping for a chance to see a shot of the crowd to break it up. Cycling on the other hand, unless it's at a velodrome, is out in the real world with fans alongside the road providing as much entertainment as the racers. After tonight's match, I thought for a minute that one day when I'm in New York for work, I'll try to drive by the US Open facility. Before, during, and after every cycling event I watch, I think about ways to visit that town or country with my bike and spend several days exploring what I saw thanks to motorcycle and helicopter coverage.

I could go on forever, but my point is that if the WTA and women's tennis can be as successful as what I witnessed tonight, the WCA and women's cycling can get there. We don't have anyone to blame but ourselves. We (racers, staff, media, fans, sponsors, supporters, race organizers, officials) need to build off of processes that have worked for the WTA and other successful women's sports. We need to work together and apply pressure to organizations that throw up roadblocks. We need to keep up the momentum. The women behind the WCA have done so much already, but they are also busy racing, getting college degrees, and making a living. They can't do it all and need membership to help drive change.

I'm doing my part tonight by putting my thoughts behind my tweet and asking you all to consider a WCA membership to show your support.


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