Women’s Sports Magazines

Suddenly it seems that everybody’s paying attention to women’s sports. The long-awaited Women’s National Basketball Association and the gold-medal-winning U.S. women’s Olympic hockey team have created a new wave of interest, and the mainstream magazine trade has surely noticed. What they’ll make of the opportunity remains unclear. Publishers know there’s a market out there — it’s been “emerging” for years — but it’s almost as if they can’t quite bring themselves to make a women’s sports magazine that’s really about sports.

A number of flashy publications for active women already exist, magazines like Shape, Fit, and Self that focus more on aerobics, weight loss, and workout fashion than team play and the rush of competition. Sports Illustrated recently published two test issues of a magazine called Women/Sport, but they’ve yet to commit to the real deal. Condé Nast Sports for Women (to be renamed Condé Nast Women’s Sports and Fitness in June) picks up the pace a bit, but there’s still more emphasis on looking and feeling good than on suiting up for the likes of basketball, soccer, and hockey.

Most women have read enough diet tips masquerading as fitness features to last a lifetime, but take heart: There are some cool alternative resources where you’ll find that having fun is about getting sweaty, not losing weight.

First on the list is Girljock. The spunky, funny zine that puts the jog in jogbra is the scruffy grande dame of alternative women’s sports mags, a publication that celebrates female jocks in a way that the slicker ones would never dare. Girljocks date girls, and the magazine features plenty of humorous stories about “lesbian mind games” and the sexual politics of the Ladies Professional Golf Association. Girljock is said to be losing money, which is too bad: It’s a great read for any woman whose life revolves around hockey, rugby, kickboxing, rock climbing, and other hard-core sports — or for those who just want to live vicariously through their sweatier sisters. (One bit of good news is that St. Martin’s Press plans to publish Girljock: The Book sometime this year.)

Then there’s Fresh and Tasty, the first (and only?) magazine for women snowboarders. Filled with great pictures of women doing amazing stunts, it offers an insider’s action-packed peek into the world of terminal velocity, amplitude, and halfpipes. Jos, a reader, puts it best: “There are too many mags out there that tell us how to do our hair, what to wear, etc. I just want to know about things that will help improve my ride.” Take that, Seventeen.

Faced with little or no advertising and the high cost of paper, a few enterprising souls have created Web-based alternatives. Finding a hard copy of W.I.G. was never easy in the first place, but fans can now get at least a dose of the magazine’s in-your-face design and commentary at their Web site (www.wigmag.com). The less hard-core Go, Girl! site (www.gogirlmag.com) is aimed more at women who are still trying to get used to the way their feet look in sneakers. Established and maintained by California sports and fitness enthusiast Mellissa Joulwan, Go, Girl! is a little light, but it works hard to make sport accessible to all. And the bimonthly’s No Go feature, dishing the dirt on anti-woman propaganda, is a bratty breath of fresh air.

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