The Upside Newsletter
The Upside Newsletter
🔥Upside Chat with Female Sports Experts: Joelle Muro (New York Liberty),Allison Schmitt (Olympic Champion),Laura Matthes (VivoSensMedical),Mélanie Pauli (Swiss Football),Kirsten Legerlotz (Humboldt)
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🔥Upside Chat with Female Sports Experts: Joelle Muro (New York Liberty),Allison Schmitt (Olympic Champion),Laura Matthes (VivoSensMedical),Mélanie Pauli (Swiss Football),Kirsten Legerlotz (Humboldt)

Today as part of our continued effort to bring more awareness on female athletes, teams and associated trends related to female athletes, we have the honor to interview a group of female sports performance experts:

  • Laura Matthes, the head of sports and research at VivoSensMedical, a German small innovation and female health company producing and distributing OvulaRing.

  • Joelle Muro, the Head physical therapist of the New York Liberty (WNBA).

  • Allison Schmitt, a 10 time Olympic medalist and multiple world champion in swimming (Team USA), and consultant with Orreco a leading sports data company.

  • Mélanie Pauli, Best Player on the Pitch & Athletic trainer at the Swiss Football Association.

  • Kirsten Legerlotz, Professor at the Humboldt University.

📝Show Notes: Through this interview, we touched on the 2023 Women soccer world cup and how women teams plan to measure their athletes' menstrual cycles to improve performance and reduce injuries. Then we discussed a Deloitte report whose forecasts suggest that the women’s sports industry will generate more than $1 billion in revenue in the years. We also talked about whether or not Women's physiology is overlooked. Lastly we touched on the fact that some leading vendors that were historically focused on men teams and athletes, are now launching products tailored for women teams.

🚀Best Quotes: Here are some of the key discussion points and best quotes from our conversation with Laura, Joelle, Allison, Mélanie, Kirsten:

  • On the 2023 Women soccer world cup and how women teams plan to measure their athletes' menstrual cycles to improve performance and reduce injuries while some teams plan to put all the athletes on a birth control pill to delay menstruation during the World Cup:

    • Mélanie Pauli:

      • “Right now I am in New Zealand (to prepare for the 2023 Women soccer world cup). We will begin the competition in about a week. First of all, when I read what you said (Teams putting some players on a birth control pill), I was shocked because we are in 2023 and I'm really shocked that it's still happening”.

      • “I am shocked because with the Swiss team, we already track menstrual cycles. And thanks to the US US team who led the way there. We have been working with Orreco on this since the Euro 2022. And for me it's so natural to track menstrual cycles. So again I'm shocked, but at the same time, I know that there is still a lot of things to do in that area”.

      • “First we have to empower women athletes, and we have to break the taboo. We have to speak about it. There is also a lack of education about this. And I'm so happy that we already do this with the Swiss team, and we are making our girls aware of this, not just our first team, but also all our youth teams”.

      • “I hope we can keep doing that. And I'm sure that now the science, and the visibility of this World Cup will help bring more awareness about this, woman health, research related to women teams and athletes”.

    • Kirsten Legerlotz:

      • “It was actually a common practice in the GDR to tell women to take hormonal contraception so that they didn't have to worry about, but that was many, many years ago, and there's a good reason why we don't have this system anymore”.

        It's just not a solution to tell everyone to take the pill, because for some women it might actually be better to take it because if they suffer enormously from menstrual symptoms, there might actually be advantages to get that under control, but that's just not for everyone”.

    • Allison Schmitt:

      • “It's not crazy to me just because I've lived it my whole life and I've been on a male program and trained on a male program for years. And I've had a lot of success training on a male program. But now understand that in my thirties we did not have the education, and that's why I work with women to educate the world and to hopefully empower women for this global change, not only for female athletes, but all female who are exercising”.

      • “And it's a mission of mine because when I got on the international scene in 2007, I was anemic in 2010, and I was told to get on birth control. I went years without having a period, which at 20 years old, you think that's great, and you don't have to deal with anything but now I realize that I was suppressing those hormones and how in the future, we use those hormones to be a superhero”.

      • “But there's a lot of females out there that can be superheroes and I definitely encourage all women to use their hormones to have to release their inner superhero”.

    • Joelle Muro:

      • “So from a personal perspective, one time I had a question about my cycle phase, and I have a lot of best friends who are in the medical field, right? And I had a question about my cycle, and I texted a friend who's a doctor, and I asked her the question and she really couldn't give me a direct answer and I really couldn't give a direct answer”.

      • “And we were both like, what is wrong with this situation? Why can neither of us really answer this question? This is actually a problem if we can't even answer this question. And so you've all touched on a really important piece of just bare minimum education. How can we take away the stigma of just even talking about menstrual cycles and things like that, and just the effect of not only sports, but daily life?”.

      • '“And Allison, to your point, if we tap into that, how can we change the narrative and really utilize it as a strength? I think just something as simple as de-stigmatizing, normalizing and improving the education across the board, is important”.

    • Laura Matthes:

      • “If we think back a few years, there is a lot of awareness now, even though not so much is integrated or it is now accessible for everybody, but still there is so much more knowledge and so much more resources”.

      • “Obviously there's still so much to do in research, education and everything, but still there are professional teams that train based on the menstrual cycle and thy include female physiology, which we did not have five years ago. So I think a lot has happened, but still there's so much to do”.

  • On a Deloitte report forecasting that the women’s sports industry will generate more than $1 billion in revenue in the years:

    • Laura Matthes:

      • “I'm not really surprised because this is like something that we don't see only in sports, when it comes to health or nutrition or several markets that were focused on men before. Here we have this growth potential in all these markets for women and especially in sports”

      • “When you compare it from the viewership standpoint or the money that goes into it, there's obviously a huge gap in sports”.

      • “When it comes to menstrual cycle or hormone fluctuations, there is a huge growth potential. I'll probably be a little too candid in saying this, but there's a lot of room for growth when you're starting below the bare minimum. There's so much we can do”.

    • Joelle Muro:

      • “So I have worked in professional sports in the WNBA and the NWSL, and when we were in the NWSL, in the bubble tournament in 2020. If you looked at viewership statistics, the viewership of all the sports were in the red.

      • The NWSL was actually in the green in terms of how many people chimed into watching the NWSL bubble tournament. And it wasn't just 20%. If I can remember correctly, I'm pretty sure it was over 400% in viewership. And a most recent article came out, I think that said that the WNBA viewership this year was over 40% greater than in previous years”.

      • “So it's a no-brainer (to focus on women sports) if we put some resources into this, we're going to see some outcomes. So is there room for growth? Absolutely”.

    • Mélanie Pauli:

      • “So now we are in this phase where everybody is speaking about it (..) But where I am the most excited about is to see what will happen after that. Because when you reach a certain level, that's good, but that's the minimum of what you need”.

      • “I don't really care about the glamor of things. What I care about is the culture and what is the drive behind what we're doing for the team. What's the ultimate goal? What's the thing that we're truly trying to achieve here? Not just in the day-to-day game in the league, but also for the greater good of everything”.

      • “And I've seen it with the team that I work with where when you just have people from the top because it does start from the top, right? When you have people from the top that are willing to put their money where their mouth is and invest. I mean, it just works”.

    • Allison Schmitt:

      • “Everyone on this call is passionate about female sports and educating and empowering females. I actually just pulled up a few stats that I'd like to say about the gaps. 36% of female is represented in research studies, and only 6% of those are female oriented research, which is absolutely crazy to me”.

      • “Regarding education, 28% of women receive education. And 90% of women actually report symptoms. 7 out of 10 girls quit sports during puberty, and by age 14 they drop out at twice the rate of boys”.

      • “And 65% to 70% of athletes say their performance is affected at some point in their cycle. And so these are the gaps that everyone on here is trying to close, and empower women to be the CEO of their own bodies. And I think so I'm not surprised that it's projected to keep on growing and generate more than one billion dollars in revenue. I could see that”.

  • On whether or not Women's physiology is overlooked and how measuring menstrual cycles for women athletes works well in football:

    • Kirsten Legerlotz:

      • “It's definitely overlooked and we know that for sure. I wouldn't necessarily say that there are monstrous gains to be made, but I think that in elite sports it can also be trivial changes that can be important, or that can be decisive between losing or winning. So it doesn't necessarily have to be monstrous gains (..) There is certainly a lot more that we need to know about women's physiology”.

      • “What I hear from many other sports is that well they are training in a group and it's so complicated if they track the menstrual cycles and they can't actually adapt their training protocol to the menstrual cycle because it's too difficult. And I find that very funny because it seems like football is driving that development actually of cycle tracking. And that's the sport where you have a big team, and it seems to work in football, whereas it doesn't seem to work in other sports”.

    • Mélanie Pauli:

      • “Women’s physiology has been overlooked. The first question I get from a performance coach regarding some of our girls in our clubs was, what is the output for this tool? And I told him, I have no idea. I can't tell you that it will be a 5% improvement in performance. But once I know if your key player is feeling better, I don't care if it's because of awareness or because we track menstrual cycles and we make a strategy accordingly”.

      • “But what I'm sure and what I observed is that all my players are much better and they feel better. If they feel better, they will perform better. They will focus on the right things. And so I'm convinced about this and if it just a 1% improvement and in the key moments she scored a goal to qualify in a group, I would take it”,

      • And sometimes coaches have the feeling that it's really complicated, but it's not. And they are thinking that you are training cycle oriented. But it's not just this, it's a monitor monitoring tool and what we can do with it is to help athletes better recover, and better perform depending of the phase they are in”.

    • Joelle Muro:

      • “Growing up playing football or soccer, primarily working in that sports, and knowing that the culture behind it is so data driven and so science based, I have a hard time when people say that to me as well, where I know teams with rosters of 20 plus people that are doing this (measuring menstrual cycles), so I know that it's not that difficult to implement”.

      • “But again, I think that's where the importance of establishing a culture, like you said, Mel. So you want to do this ? Okay, but first, have we even talked about this? Have we even discussed this? What are the foundations of why we're doing this? The reasonings of why we're doing this and how we're gonna implement it”.

      • “So let's have those conversations first. I see the culture of sport being a little bit different from others that I've worked with, and also I think in the groups and teams that you work with, establishing that culture too, is super important”.

    • Laura Matthes:

      • “Another point that wasn't mentioned yet is the question of respect. For me it must be possible to talk about how you feel and not necessarily take painkillers for a week or a few days or whatever, and nobody cares. I mean no. It is not okay”.

      • “One thing is that if you don't have the taboo and you can speak freely about it, of course it makes you feel better. But it's just such a denial and disrespect to not include what is just so natural and I think this is a point, which is really important”.

    • Allison Schmitt:

      • “I've really enjoyed this conversation because there's been bits and pieces of everyone's conversation that have resonated with me and with the getting the 1% better and how female athletes can get that 1% better. And that's through more research and we have to find different ways, which we are in the process of doing”.

      • “And even when there is the research out there you have to figure out how to translate that research and make it relatable so that everyone can understand that high level research. Because as an athlete who doesn't have my PhD, how am I supposed to translate that? And that's when we turn to the professionals to really translate that for us. I've loved working with Brian Moore (Orreco CEO) in the fitter women team to really translate that research and help optimize performance. It's been an absolute blessing to be able to do that, and I know that there is so much more work to be done”.

      • “I hear a lot of people say that as a male coach, I don't know how to speak to my athletes, and that is the part of the education that we have to give, as well as how do males talk to females about their period, about bleeding, about their feelings, and not feel uncomfortable talking about that”.

  • On the fact that some leading vendors that were historically focused on men teams and athletes, are now launching products tailored for women teams:

    • Allison Schmitt:

      • “And this is one of the ways and having bigger companies like Joelle talked about, starting at the top and having those people at the top invest in female athletes in female sports. It is the way that this is going to continue to grow because yes, the conversation has started and yes, we've seen a little bit of change in my opinion in the past few years”.

      • “But I believe that there can be so much more change and so much more beneficial information out there and tools out there that can be tailored for women”.

    • Mélanie Pauli:

      • “For me, I don't care if it's a product for women and men, I just want to know what the content is, how I can use (the product) for women, and they did not just build this product for marketing purposes”.

      • “I think it's really, really important to be aware about the quality of the product, and the research behind it. If I have a GPS system that is supposed to be marketed towards women teams, what is the content? What is the calibration? What is the measure? What can I really use for women? I can use it for the men, but also for women. Okay. But what is the difference? And that's this question that we have to take care if we want to keep the quality and not just the marketing or the hype or whatever it is”.

    • Laura Matthes:

      • “For example, I read this a few weeks ago, and there are still so many female soccer players that are struggling with their shoes because they are designed for men. So there is still a lot to do, but on the tech side I think, and especially these physiological things where you have to track other things because they are fluctuations or that they have different meanings, the measures and that you might need different data density or so on, or different evaluations. So you need different software for this but this will come”.

    • Joelle Muro:

      • “It is funny that Laura you brought up the shoe issue because that's not just in soccer. I see it in basketball right night now too. I was blown away when I found out that pretty much all the WNBA athletes wear male shoes, and male sized shoes (…) From my understanding, there's really only wo lines or two styles that are actually made for women. And they're both because two athletes created those styles. And I happen to be very fortunate to work with both of those athletes”.

      • “So that's on one team. So it's mind blowing. And even the other day, it was funny. I might be speaking a little too candid, but someone I know offered a fan a pair of WNBA basketball shorts and it was a guy and he said, I'm not wearing those shorts. I was like, why? And he is like, because they're women. And I said, do you realize that my whole life I've had to wear men's sized uniforms so I don't want to hear that, so put the shorts on. And so it was just kind of a funny moment, but in terms of the work with the data and the metrics, I'm interested in seeing how this changes too”.

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The Upside Newsletter
The Upside Newsletter
Data, insights, and stories from the world of sports, business, and technology.