Although female athletes perform in their chosen sports at highly competitive levels, spend hours upon hours in training and achieve victory on the field every day, there is always the potential that these accomplishments can be perceived as less significant than that of boys or men’s participation in sports.
No one knows this better than Donna and Joseph Czysz, owners of All4Her Sports, a brick-and-mortar and online retailer of athletic equipment and gear that caters to the female athlete.
"We still run into that mindset that this is a girl's store that we can only do girls' team stuff," Donna Czysz said. "We have done the entire Hissborough recreational program but we still run into that gender bias."
While many of their customers are very young athletes—three-year old ballet dancers and five year-old T-ballers—the Czysz’s say that they even see the results of society’s limited thinking about what female athletes can accomplish in their older customers.
“You get these women who come in and they have really bad issues," Donna Czysz said. “And no one really cares. People just want to sell them shoes or some physical device or a medical service and nothing really helps. When they come in here they are crisis mode. We are nurturing to them and actually listen to what they are saying.“
All4Her Sports started as a service the local community—to provide apparel and accessories that female athletes needed that they could not get at the big box stores. Because their daughters were involved in sports, the Czsyz’s saw first-hand that there was an opportunity to fill some gaps in the athletic equipment needs of female athletes.
Quite often when a sport is offered to both boys and girls, from a retail perspective, the boys get more attention because they are more profitable.
"With lacrosse, for example, most of the loyalty from the manufacturers is on the boys' end," Donna Czysz said. "The girls's end is just an add-on. We focus just on the girls. So it's very hard to compete."
Sometimes parents also perpetuate a sense of limitation with girl's athletics.
"Sometimes fathers come in with thier daughters to buy equipment and they say that they don't want to spend alot of money because they don't know how long their daughters are going to be do the sport, while for their sons they buy everything possible," Joe Czysz said.
That isn’t the case with field hockey. The Czycz’s daughters’ participation in field hockey, traditionally an all-girls sport, allowed them to get closer than ever to understanding what made the athletes who played the sport tick and what they expected from an equipment and service perspective. Today, after 10 years in business, All4Her Sports offers a nurturing approach to the female athletes it serves and has become known as somewhat of an authority on equipment and apparel for women’s field hockey teams.
“We are very selective about the field hockey lines that we carry,” Donna said.
All4Her Sports has as its clients many area universities and club programs.
“On your typical Saturday in the store, the customers that you will see are some who will drive as far as an hour-and-a-half to come here,” Joe Czysz said. “A woman came in last week and said she was talking to so-and-so and that she said this the only place to go. If you want to talk to anybody about field hockey you come here.”
While specialization in field hockey is great thing, it is perhaps the consultative approach they maintain with all customers—from field hockey to dance—that keeps new customers coming in the door and keep existing ones coming back.
“We were watching the TV show The Office and the new head honcho was trying to encourage his people to sell more paper,” Donna Czysz said. “‘He said, ‘When I know exactly what I want I go to a big box store. When I am not sure about what I want I go to a little guy so that they can help me figure out what I want.’ That is pretty much what we have always been doing and that why we are still in business.”