Pressure is a Privilege

Pressure is a Privilege by Billie Jean King with Christine Brennan. I wasn’t even ten years old when King defeated Bobby Riggs in the Battle of the Sexes before a huge Astrodome crowd and a national television audience, but I remember watching the match. I certainly wasn’t aware of its importance for women’s tennis, women’s athletics, and women’s rights in general. I just knew that King was a fierce and talented competitor and someone that any fledgling tennis player should try to emulate. More than thirty-five years later, King is still someone worth emulating, still promoting her sport and still fighting for the causes she supports.

In this motivational book, she traces her life story using the match with Riggs as the focal point. She relates each of the lessons she learned from her parents, coaches and friends and demonstrates how she was able to apply them in that specific contest and in her prior and subsequent successes. Topics include on using visualization, handling pressure, and making adjustments. Admittedly, some sections are better than others and there are few memorable and quotable passages like this one from King from another source that is part of my personal book of inspirational quotations: “I love the challenge, the opportunity to do my best at a critical moment. I think that’s the way champions feel.”

However, the introduction, which provides her remembrances of the early 1970s and the circumstances leading up to the match, is fascinating. She mentions that she was not trying to prove that women were better than men, but was “playing to prove that men and women had the same entertainment value, which why we should be paid equally.” I find it interesting that although all four majors now have equal pay, the topic of equal entertainment value is still being debated, especially as it pertains to evening match schedules.

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