Oiselle's Lauren Fleshman on Advocating for Women in a Sports System Built by Men
Lauren Fleshman has spent the last 25 years dedicated to elite sport, standing on top of national and international podiums on the track and field circuit after a Hall of Fame career at Stanford, where she studied women's health and athletic performance. Lauren has emerged as one of the most important and honest voices in the sport of track and field, whether advocating for athletes' rights, discussing the relative lack of women in coaching, or working to protect girls from predatory coaching and harmful team environments.
Before her new role as brand strategy advisor at Oiselle, she was the head coach of Littlewing Athletics for eight years, founded Wilder Running and Writing Retreats and co-founded Picky Bars. Lauren is currently working on her memoir—Good, for a Girl—to be published by Penguin Press.
We spoke to Lauren for our Time-Out series, where we chat with folks in the sports world about their favorite athletes, teams, sports movies and shows, and their love of sports generally.
Lauren, tell us...
Where you grew up, and where you live now.
I grew up running through the sagebrush and tumbleweed covered mountains of Santa Clarita, in Southern California. Now I live in Bend, Oregon. Same sage brush and tumbleweeds, but I've traded those January outdoor brunches in a T-shirt for ALL the puffy coats and accoutrements required of the snowy Pacific Northwest.
Your earliest sports memory.
Hide-and-go-seek with all the neighborhood kids in the cul-de-sac.
Your favorite sports teams.
I'm an all-around women's sports appreciator with no team loyalties whatsoever.
Your favorite athletes.
Sue Bird. Valarie Allman. Dame Valerie Adams. Brittney Reese. Megan Rapinoe. Natasha Hastings.
Your favorite sports show or podcast.
My partner and I have one called Work, Play, Love, which is about the intersection of sports with relationships and career.
Your favorite sports movie and/or video game.
Athlete A. What incredible bravery and strength from the USA Gymnastics women!
A recent project you're proud of.
I'm working on revisions of my book—Good, for a Girl—which is related to an opinion piece I wrote for the New York Times, and a philosophy of coaching female athletes I developed over eight years with Oiselle's Littlewing Athletics. Through my personal story, research and the stories of others, I will illustrate the ways the female body experiences harm in a sports system built by men for men and boys, from youth to the professional level, and provide insights on the philosophy shifts that can change it.
Someone else's project that you admired recently.
The work Alison Mariella Désir is doing with the Running Industry Diversity Coalition and Dr. Sarah Lesko's work with Bras for Girls.
What sports can do that nothing else can.
Legally form monopolies, exploit free athlete labor and perpetuate abuse against primarily women and girls in the name of an overinflated "movement" called "the Olympics."
What you'd be doing if you weren't in the sports world.
Writing songs and learning every instrument I could get my hands on. More realistic and just as exciting: writing more books and poetry, and hosting more Wilder Retreats.
Time-Out is a weekly series, publishing on Tuesdays, where we chat with folks in the sports world about their creative inspirations, favorite athletes, teams, sports movies and more, and what sport means to them. For more about Time-Out, and our Clio Sports program, please get in touch.