This is Interview No. 2 in a series of 3. If you missed last weeks, click on “Blurred Lines: What it is and what it means to be a Female Athlete: Post 1 of 3 featuring Amy Huling” in RECENT POSTS.
(All interview question text is in the respective athletes’ favorite color, notice none of them chose pink).
Interviewee No. 2:
Aimee Kodat Plumb. Division I shot putter and discus thrower at University of South Carolina (USC), competed in the SEC, the best track and field conference in the country. Originally a competitive soccer player playing for the Washington Area Girls Soccer, Plumb (maiden name Kodat) discovered her love for track and field after the heartbreak of not making her high school’s soccer team. In high school, Plumb competed in the state track and field meet six times and nationals three times. Today she still holds the meet record for discus, which she set when she won districts her senior year in high school. At USC she was a four time SEC scorer and NCAA qualifier; placing 7th place three times and 8th place her final season. Additionally, she was Track & Field Captain for three years and received the South Carolina Track & Field Coaches Award in 2009, and the South Carolina Track & Field Leadership Award her senior season.
How do you feel about the way female athletes are portrayed in the media today? Do you think there are some positive female athlete role models for young girls to look up to and if so, who?
I often find watching sports on TV stressful! Regardless of the sport I understand the pressure they’re handling and don’t find it relaxing. This has changed some since ending my career; I miss those types of feelings. It’s a high that I am struggling to find outside of athletics. I think there is always something you can take away from a successful athlete. My suggestion to young girls is to always remember that female athletes are humans just like themselves. They aren’t perfect, so be selective about what you take from their lives and apply to your own. Consult a trusted adult about their actions. Fame impacts all people. My female role models growing up were Mia Hamm and Abby Wambach.
How strong were you in college? and how did stereotypical images of what the female body should look like make you feel?
I actually was a weak thrower… I had some medical complications as well that impacted this. I had knee problems and a herniated disc in my back that made my lifting regimen more difficult. However, even with such injuries I was able to get stronger. Instead of back squats I did front squats and instead of power cleans, I did hang cleans. I never maxed out in these lifts though. The highest I went in the front squat was 185lbs. In bench my max was 165lbs. (Get it girl!)
In high school, I have a solidified memory of a coach at a track meet telling me I was in the wrong area to check in. He had made a judgment based on my size regarding the event I should be competing in. He made the decision that I was too small to be a thrower and tried to send me to the sprints. This pissed me off and I won the meet.
I have a distinct memory of freaking out my freshman year at USC when I went from wearing a medium shirt to a large. I was in Wal-Mart buying who knows what. I thought, “I’m never going to get married! I’m going to look like a man from all this lifting!” That didn’t happen! Lifting just toned me up though. Sure my shoulders got larger, but I never looked like a man. And after five years of serious lifting and competition, I got married.
Looking back, it was a pretty ridiculous thought. I was comparing my body image to people with different body frames than myself. The media may have impacted this, but mostly I was just comparing myself to the women around me. I stayed within my body frame and lost body fat. In fact, after a while those women I had compared myself to started to look fat! Although they had a small frame, they weren’t toned at all. It taught me a valuable lesson – to always compare my current weight and size to myself.
What do you think makes a strong female athlete?
Mental toughness and courage are crucial to being a strong female athlete. It is crucial to keep your head in the game until the very end. Don’t give up mentally. Additionally, you have to be courageous in competition. If you work hard in practice, you should take that confidence to your competition – that you put the time and heart into your training.
How do you feel about the color pink always being associated with female athletes?
I understand why pink is associated with female athletes. In fact, when it’s neon I really like it. However, pink is not my favorite color. I guess the best way to sum-up how I feel about it is to relate it to babies… Why do people always buy girls pink clothes? We have decided that all girls like pink! Why don’t we let them decide for themselves? I think I’m not going to find out the sex of mine beforehand just in order to get yellow and green clothing!
Tell us about your life now and how being involved in sports has shaped who you are today?
In college my coach believed in me and was all about developing athletes. I red shirted my freshman year and spent hours after everyone left practice with my coach. Often I was glad for my sunglasses that kept him from seeing my tears. I sucked. I had a lot of work to do and there were many of my teammates that verbalized I didn’t have it in me. During my freshman year evaluation with the head coach, he talked to me about hard work. I hadn’t put any numbers on the board being red shirted. But I recall feeling very upset because he had no idea of the hours I had been putting in. The next year I ended up scoring at SECs and qualifying for the NCAAs in the discus. My head coach kissed me on the cheek. And my throws coach smiled to himself as all my teammates who doubted me watched my performance. I overcame the odds and allowed them to drive me.
I wish I could say that I rocked every competition, that I achieved perfection. But I didn’t. In fact, I don’t feel like I ever truly peaked, which was a real disappointment to me. I was a four time SEC scorer and NCAA qualifier. Unfortunately, I got 7th place three times at SECs and got 8th my senior year. Although I improved each year and could have won it, I didn’t. I never made it to the NCAA finals. At my last NCAA qualifier meet, my coach told me he would have chosen me every time… All my athletic accomplishments to that point were great, but that comment is the one thing I will always remember about my career.
Being involved in sports teaches you so many life lessons that most people don’t learn until later in life. Sports give you a leg up on your peers. Work ethic is crucial to every aspect of your life! My head coach at Carolina used to say, “Hard work beats talent when talent doesn’t work.” It’s true! There have been many talented people who didn’t reach their potential because of their lack of work ethic. Athletes are used to receiving criticism from their coaches – in fact, they welcome critique. This is HUGE! Most people don’t like their areas for needing improvement pointed out. If you’re going to be the best at anything, you need to welcome input on your weaknesses. Lastly, mental toughness is so important. Life is full of ups and downs. There is no “normal”, so learn how to deal with the ups and downs so that you’re able to stay relatively stable.