Wie, Muhammad, Stephens, and Longo on Achieving Their Dreams in Sports

Ask a group of people to name the greatest athlete ever and you'll likely get the same answer from many of them: Serena Williams. (She even had a Nike campaign based on that idea.) The tennis star has broken boundaries, stood up to adversaries, and earned some major hardware in the process. And if there's one lesson to learn from sports — even solo ones! — it's that wins are sweet whether you're on the podium by yourself or with your teammates.

Yes, 2017 was a watershed year for women making their voices heard and standing up for their rights. Of course there's a long history of powerhouses who didn't just change the game but rewrote the rulebook. For years, women athletes have been challenging archaic notions everywhere, and in many instances they've been doing it simply by showing up and putting in the work in a sport they love. Playing like a girl has never been a bad thing — the U.S. women's soccer team has racked up more wins than the men's team (and, frustratingly, they get paid less).

As we venture into another year of competitions, Teen Vogue spoke with four female professional athletes who are breaking — and kicking, parrying, putting, and backhanding — the glass ceiling in sports, continuing the movements pioneers in their industry kickstarted. These women are the future of women’s sports, exhibiting as much inner strength as they do in a physical competition. Take, for example, 32-year-old Olympian Ibtihaj Muhammad — who inspired Mattel to create the first hijab-wearing Barbie. And consider 18-year-old Becca Longo, the first female football kicker to earn a full-ride college scholarship for her sport. Groundbreaking? More like ground-shattering.

Marissa Kleber