Featuring: Yael Averbuch
Sport: Soccer
Level Played: Professional
College: UNC
Teams: F.C. Kansas City and USWNT

1. How do you feel about the way female athletes are portrayed in the media? Do you think there are positive role models for young athletes to look up to? If yes, who? If no, why not?

I think that there are definitely many positive role models for young female athletes to look up to. Just thinking in the soccer world, there are players like Abby Wambach and Carli Loyd, who are powerful, confident leaders who take it upon themselves to take over and win on behalf of their team. There is Megan Rapinoe, who speaks out representing the LGBT community and advocating for fair treatment and inclusion for all athletes. There is Heather O’Reilly, who is the “ultimate teammate,” so to speak. She is hard-working, humble, positive and always willing to share those messages with young girls and women. I do think that often the media still places a large emphasis on the appearance of the female athlete. I know that appearance and marketability will always be big factors in the media, but I do feel there is a gap still between how male and female athletes are treated in this respect. For men, the game speaks louder than how anyone looks. Yes, players like David Beckham and Cristiano Ronaldo are popular because of how they look in addition to their performance on the field, but on-field ability is always #1. With female athletes, sometimes popularity is based largely on appearance and this is highlighted above actual playing ability. So while there are certainly many positive role models for young girls to look up to, I still think the media can do a better job of highlighting qualities in addition to beauty.

2. How strong are you? and how do stereotypical images of what the female body should look like make you feel? Do you think you would feel or act differently if those stereotypes did not exist?

I am a big, powerful woman. I am nearly 6 feet tall, and while I may not be as strong as I should be (something I’m working on!) considering my size, I am much larger and stronger than the average female. Sometimes I get thrown off when I hear “normal women’s” weights and realize at my ideal playing weight I’m a solid 30 pounds heavier. But I’ve learned to accept my size and my height and be proud of them as opposed to how I’ve felt at times. As a young woman, the stereotypical images of a female body affected me much more. I felt uncomfortable with my size, especially my height. Now I am proud of who I am and have realized many ways that being me are advantages in soccer and in life, but only if I view them as advantages. I try to embrace my physical presence on and off the field and not shrink away from it. I think being fit and healthy is beautiful, whether that comes in a 5’2″ thin frame or a 5’11” muscular one! Screen Shot 2015-12-22 at 9.50.45 AM

3. What do you think makes a strong female athlete?

I think being strong is both a mental and physical endeavor. Strength is not something you just have, but something you embody by constantly working at it. Physically, strength is about being imposing, whether it is by having big muscles or being aggressive in how you use your body. Mentally, strength comes through determination, competitiveness, and self-belief. There is a grittiness to strength. When you think of a strong female athlete you know it’s a person who has had to work to become who she is.

4. Tell us about your life now and how being involved in sports has shaped who you are today.

My life is very much defined by being an athlete. My involvement in soccer has given me the confidence to believe in myself and go after my goals. Sports have also taught me a lot about overcoming adversity and how to face both success and failure with grace. Soccer has taken me all around the world, forced me to make foreign cities my home, introduced me to some of the most amazing people I’ve ever met, and allowed me to connect with people of all different backgrounds and belief systems. As much as I’ve put into being an athlete, it has given back to me many times over. Being a soccer player has empowered me to be a confident woman, a leader, and an entrepreneur.

New Zealand v United States
COLUMBUS, OH – OCTOBER 30: Yael Averbuch #7 of the US Women’s National Team in action against New Zealand at Columbus Crew Stadium on October 30, 2013 in Columbus, Ohio. (Photo by Jamie Sabau/Getty Images)