Barbara L. Drinkwater

One of WSI’s founding members Barbara L. Drinkwater, Ph.D., FACSM, and the only woman who has received WSI’s honorary award (2013), passed away peacefully on Monday, September 30 in Gold Canyon, Arizona.

Barbara Drinkwater was the first female president of ACSM, and a role model for many women. I saw Barbara speaking when I attended my first international conference on women and sport, in Rome 1980. I don’t think I spoke with her then, but I became very inspired by her talk. She was very dedicated to eliminate injustice for female athletes in different areas.

In 1993 I participated in the IAPESGEW congress on women and sport in Melbourne in Australia. One morning I was joining Barbara and now deceased Dr. Muriel Sloan at breakfast, and I remember very clearly the conversation we had in which Barbara said “We have to do something, Kari”. What she was referring to was the area of the Female Athlete Triad, and the fact that a member of the 1989 USA gymnastics team Christy Henrich recently had died from anorexia and bulimia. Barbara felt, like some others, that the long-established International Association for PE and Sport for Girls and Women, which had a focus on conferences and networking among women in PE and sport, was not working – in our view – toward sport for change. She felt that there didn’t exist any international organization that really focused on the emerging problems facing female athletes. Only a few days after I had come back to Norway, Barbara phoned me and repeated “we have to do something”. She convinced me. This was actually the birth or at least the conceiving of WomenSport International.
What happened was that as a result, she and I, along with Marion Lay from Canada and Libby Darlison from Australia met in connection with the NASS conference in Canada November 1993, and discussed the idea further and decided to found WSI. By 1994 WomenSport International was born. If it hadn’t been for Barbara, there would not have been any WSI. Barbara was the driving force these first years, where we had a democratic committee structure, but in name and not to speak about in action, Barbara actually was our leader, i.e. the president. She did everything, starting immediately as a chair of our first Task Force on The Female Athlete Triad, and produced our first brochure. She was the only one of us that, through her role on the Medical Commission, had contact with IOC. In 1998 we decided to have a more formal structure, Barbara didn’t want to be our first president, but took the position as Treasurer and vice president, both positions she held until she resigned from the board in 2011. She became responsible and the contact person for our website when we went on the net, editing and posting our International newsletter; ‘The Starting Line’, in the years from 1995 to 2005. She managed to get our brochures printed, t-shirts and bags with our name and the WSI logo produced. She became WSI’s liaison to ACSM, and together held different WSI-ACSM symposia. The first one already in 2002, with the title “Physical Activity and Health Guidelines for Women’s National and International Considerations related to Ethnicity and Race” another on in 2013 about “Barriers to Participation by Girls and Women in Physical Activity and Sports and in 2016 “Advancing Women’s Participation in Sport: A strategic Focus on motives, Barriers, Benefits, and Advocacy following UNESCO International Sport Charter. This work led to an official MOU with ASCM in 2016.

It was very inspiring to work with Barbara. She was very often smiling and laughing, had a great sense of humor, and was very diplomatic when it was storming around her and her opinions. She was convinced that ‘women can’, almost independent of the task. She was one of those women who not only thought, but also showed in practice that change was possible, so that sport could be a better place for women. We are very grateful for all the work she did for WSI.

Kari Fasting

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