Big Red Volleyball Standout Advocates for Women in Sports

Psychology major Sydney Moore ’24 was honored at the ESPY ceremony for her efforts to empower fellow athletes

By Linda Copman

Sydney Moore ’24 came to volleyball relatively late, in her first year of high school. Her mom had been a college basketball star who played professionally, and Moore had naturally gravitated to the sport. Then a friend invited her to volleyball tryouts—and she immediately fell in love with it.

“I am a passionate player,” says Moore, whose San Diego high school team was ranked first in the country her senior year. “There’s no feeling like getting a block.”

Today, Moore is a standout member of the Big Red team—and a nationally recognized advocate for women in sports. In July 2022, she was one of five winners of the Billie Jean King Youth Leadership Award, presented at the ESPY ceremony in Los Angeles. Moore and her fellow honorees shared the stage with the tennis icon at the gala event.

Billy Jean King (center) with winners of her namesake award for student leadership
Moore (far left) and fellow winners with tennis pioneer and feminist icon Billie Jean King at the ESPYs.

While the annual award typically has both male and female winners, King marked the 50th anniversary of the passage of Title IX—legislation that laid the groundwork for gender equity in school sports—by giving it exclusively to women in 2022.

“Sydney has always led by example—working hard on the court, and calmly taking care of herself and her academics off the court,” says her coach, Trudy VandeBerg. “But she has become more of a vocal leader for us.”

Sydney has always led by example. But she has become more of a vocal leader for us.

Coach Trudy VandeBerg

A psychology major in Arts & Sciences on a pre-med track, Moore is co-president of Women of Color Athletics, a group founded at Cornell in spring 2020 to provide a support network for its members and (as its website explains) “celebrate the strength, brains, and uniqueness that empowers women of color in their pursuit of being both a successful student and athlete at the highest level.”

And a few months before Moore matriculated on the Hill, she joined Voice in Sport (VIS), a virtual platform affiliated with a nonprofit that aims to advance opportunities for women athletes.

Members can access a variety of free content about maintaining their physical and mental health and finding balance within the competitive world of sports.

Sydney Moore hitting a volleyball
Making a pass during team practice.

They can also connect with collegiate and professional women athletes, whom they can ask candid questions about such topics as how to deal with anxiety around tryouts, what to do if they don’t make the cut, and how to succeed playing at the college level.

To underscore why such organizations are vital, Moore points to VIS testimony by a friend at another university about the types of pervasive comments directed at Black athletes like herself—which reflect racial biases and undercut their individual accomplishments.

“People will say things like, ‘You’re so lucky to have such natural ability,’” Moore observes. “They don’t say, ‘Wow, you’re a smart player’ or ‘You worked really hard to be able to make that block.’”

Sydney Moore with teammates
Back on campus with teammates for fall 2022.

Through VIS, Moore has been working with two members of Congress on the Fair Play for Women Act of 2022, a bill designed to enforce greater equity.

In June 2022, Moore led a panel discussion in the Russell Senate Office Building on the state of women’s athletics, as part of the formal announcement of the bill. As she stresses, even half a century after the passage of Title IX, a gender gap persists.

“There is still a general lack of respect for women in this country,” Moore says. “This is reflected in everyday terminology. For example, there’s basketball and women’s basketball. Why aren’t both of them just called ‘basketball’?”

There’s basketball and women’s basketball. Why aren’t both of them just called ‘basketball’?

Moore continues to raise support for the bill and spread the word about its importance. Among the facts she shares: while just 6 percent of Fortune 500 CEOs are women, 94 percent of those are former athletes, and 52 percent played at the collegiate level.

“Sports help build discipline, stamina, grit, teamwork, and so many other positive life skills,” Moore observes. “Why aren’t we investing in women’s sports, and making sure that all women have the same opportunities as men to succeed?”

All images and video by Ryan Young / Cornell University (except ESPY photo, provided).

Published September 13, 2022


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