Olympian Allyson Felix has become the poster child for athlete-mothers. Now, with the help of Athleta and the Women’s Sports Foundation, she’s launching a new initiative that will cover childcare for professional athletes.
According to Fast Company, the initiative will feature a$200,000 grant meant to cover expenses for parenting athletes competing in 2021.
Nine competitors, including hammer thrower Gwen Berry and saber fencer Mariel Zagunis, have already been chosen and have received $10,000 each for their childcare costs. Lora Webster, a 34-year-old paralympic volleyball player and the mother of three children, is a recipient of Felix’s grant. She told Fast Company, “I’m floored that she has made this a priority. It sends the message to all female athletes that we don’t have to choose between motherhood and our sport. We can do both.”
Felix recognized the need for childcare after she attempted to compete after the birth of her daughter Camryn.
“One of my first races back after giving birth to my daughter, Camryn, was the World Championships,” Felix tells Fast Company. “Not only was I still breastfeeding and physically and mentally exhausted from being a first-time mom while training and competing — I was assigned a roommate at the competition. There was no way I could bring my daughter into a shared room with another athlete who is trying to get in her zone.”
Felix famously became an advocate for female athletes when she detailed how she had been poorly treated by Nike, who followed their policy of cutting an athlete’s pay during and after pregnancy.
In her New York Times op-ed, Felix stated she tried to fight against Nike’s policy, asking that she not be penalized for not performing to the best of her abilities in the months surrounding her childbirth. After that request, negotiations with the sports company came to a halt.
Felix signed with Athleta, Gap’s activewear brand, after that first competition back as a mother.
“They get that I am a whole person beyond the track,” Felix says. “They jumped right in to support my training as well as my passions and advocacy platforms. In fact, part of my contract with Athleta includes provisions for Cammy to join me whenever I am competing.”
Often, other athletes aren’t as fortunate. Considering many do not have sponsorship deals, making the cost of childcare that much more of an expense. Athletes from all sports can apply through August 31 and recipients will be announced in October.
Felix said, “These grants are about showing the industry that all mom athletes need this same comprehensive support to be able to participate in their athletic endeavors.”