Higher Goals

Women's Ice Hockey and the Politics of Gender

By Nancy Theberge

Subjects: Sociology Of Work
Series: SUNY series on Sport, Culture, and Social Relations
Paperback : 9780791446423, 195 pages, August 2000
Hardcover : 9780791446416, 195 pages, August 2000

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Table of contents


1. The Blades, Women's Ice Hockey, and Paradoxes of Gender

2. Competitive Dominance, Class, and the Organization of Women's Hockey

3. The Dynamics of Team Life: This Team Is about What Happens on the Ice

4. The Everyday World of Elite Women's Hockey

5. The Politics of Gender

6. The Change Room and the Construction of Community

7. Physicality, Body Contact, and the Construction of Women's Hockey

8. Gender, Sport, and the Construction of Difference

9. Female Gladiators and the Road Ahead


Offers a fascinating ethnography of physicality and gender relations in women's team contact sports.


Winner of the 2001 North American Society for the Sociology of Sport Book Award

The most extensive treatment to date of women's experiences in team sports, Higher Goals provides an ethnographic account of the "Blades," a Canadian team that plays at the highest levels of women's hockey. With a vivid depiction of life on the Blades, the book follows the team over two seasons, tracing their journey to a national championship. Key issues in the sociology of sport and gender studies are explored, including the construction of community among women athletes; the "feminine apologetic" and pressures on athletes to conform to feminine ideals; homophobia and the experiences of lesbian athletes; and physicality and women's experience in contact sports.

Nancy Theberge is Professor in the Departments of Kinesiology and Sociology at the University of Waterloo. She is coeditor of Sport and the Sociological Imagination and coauthor of Why People Recreate.


"In Higher Goals, Theberge effectively ties broader themes of gender and sport to the experiences of the Blades and examines the complex ways in which team members view themselves as women athletes in light of the social pressures surrounding that identity. This makes Higher Goals an ideal read for those interested in sport, women's hockey, and the politics of gender in women's sport. " — Gender & Society

"Nancy Theberge's Higher Goals: Women's Ice Hockey and the Politics of Gender does a wonderful job of advancing feminist research in sport … one of the main strengths of Higher Goals is Theberge's extensive use of (often lengthy) quotations from interviews and conversations with players during her two-year stay with the team. In the finest tradition of ethnographic research, the subjects' voices are permitted to develop into themes which in turn have an interactive relationship with Theberge's feminist theory–both informing it and being informed by it … Higher Goals is an enlightening piece of feminist research. " — Resources For Feminist Research

"An in-depth look at the personalities who have led in the growth of women's hockey. This is not a history book but an intriguing look at the steps taken by a team responsible for creating women's hockey history. This is an outstanding book for anyone interested in an accurate portrayal of the growth and development of women's hockey. It follows the women's hockey program responsible for raising the bar for all others to follow. " — Margot Page, Niagara University Women's Hockey Coach, former member of the Canadian National Team, and hockey analyst for CBC and TSN television networks

"A powerful and well-crafted analysis that provides a unique insider's view of the social world of women's ice hockey. " — Richard S. Gruneau, coauthor of Hockey Night in Canada: Sport, Identities, and Cultural Politics

"Nancy Theberge provides her readers with a clear view into two seasons in the life of an elite women's hockey team. Her highly readable account documents, in full detail and with great immediacy, the excitement of sport in the lives of young women today. The book provides flashes of recognition at the same time that it furnishes new insights into familiar moments. This solid ethnography is an important addition to the field. " — Susan Birrell, coeditor of Reading Sport: Essays on Power and Representation