Women Can Talk Sports: Changing what it means to be a female fan
For Taryn Foshee, a Mississippi State graduate, former Miss Mississippi and top five finisher in the 2007 Miss America pageant, sports have always been a part of her life. She grew up playing different sports and going to MSU games with her dad. Now a Nashville resident, she has set out to change what it means to be a female fan.
It wasn’t until she moved to Nashville and completed a public relations internship at Country Music Television in 2007 that she began thinking about how she wanted to do something that would help other women. She knew she wanted to do something – she just wasn’t sure how yet. She continued on with her professional life, going into medical sales for the next five years, all the while carrying with her the thoughts of doing something more for women.
“Working in medical sales, I saw that being able to talk about sports allowed me to develop relationships quickly in what is largely a male dominated industry,” Foshee recalled. “I knew that other women should have this opportunity, too, but for many of my girlfriends, it wasn’t as simple, as no one had ever talked to them about it.”
While working full time in medical sales, Foshee was also obtaining a Master’s Degree from Vanderbilt University. Her thesis research was in Sport Sociology, with an emphasis on how to create more space for the female fan in sport culture.
With ideas that had been building for five years and now with a clear path shaped by her education, Foshee started the “Women Can Talk Sports” website in 2012. It was going to be the place for any women who had ever avoided talking about sports because they “didn’t understand” the game or didn’t have anyone to answer their “silly questions.” Foshee set out to develop a community where they could comfortably learn about the different sports and find answers to those “silly” questions.
“I had a passion in my heart and knew I should be doing something with this,” she said. “I just had to start writing and putting it out there, because I knew there are women who can benefit from what I’m learning and teaching myself about sports – other women need to learn this too.”
She did just that, posting blogs not just about the basics of baseball, basketball and football, but also about major events and news items in the world of sports as well. She also encouraged women with recommendations on how they can “win in the workplace” with sports and avoid being intimidated by reminding them of what she always says. “You don’t have to know everything. You just have to know something.”
It wasn’t without trepidation, though, that Foshee launched “Women Can Talk Sports,” and she relied on her previous pageant history to get started. “My pageant years really taught me perseverance and how to put myself out there,” said Foshee, who competed in the Miss Mississippi pageant four times before winning it. “Knowing that people were going to be judging me and what I write, that gave me the confidence to start the blog. I told myself, ‘You’ve done this before and survived. So just go for it!’”
After the launch of the “Women Can Talk Sports” website in 2012, the response was immediately positive. Foshee began hearing from readers saying how they now, for the first time, understand what a first down was. Moms were printing off lists of player positions and basic formations and taking them to their sons’ football practices to better understand the plays.
After the early success, Foshee then began speaking at “lunch and learn” sessions and “ladies night” gatherings. She has been asked to speak on a number of panels to educate women not only about sports but also how they can use that knowledge in their personal and professional lives.
The website and blog have been such a success that, at the start of 2014, Foshee made the leap and left her stable job of medical sales to become the first full time employee of Women Can Talk Sports.
Since doing so, Foshee has continued to build a community of women engaged in the sports conversation. That community grew even more at a party on Selection Sunday for the NCAA Tournament when “Women Can Talk Sports” launched an app that lets female fans connect from wherever they are. Foshee hopes the app will allow female fans to upload pictures, have discussions and expand that community for any level of fan to talk freely.
Foshee and “Women Can Talk Sports” also hope to reach those female fans who say they don’t care about sports. “Usually that means she doesn’t care about what happens on the field or court, but being a fan is about so much more. There is always something we can connect with whether it’s a player, a storyline, or the social aspect of attending or watching a game.”
With the successful start of “Women Can Talk Sports,” it is clear that Foshee is doing every day exactly what she dreamed about – empowering women to join the sports conversation.
Originally published in Sports & Entertainment Nashville, May 2014.