Our Grandmothers & Mothers: Laying the Foundation for Girls to have a Sporting Chance

With Mother’s Day quickly approaching (Sunday, May 9th), I thought I would take a moment to think about where we have come as a nation to support girls and women’s participation in sport. With the recent passing of my 90 year old grandmother, many memories come flooding back yet the ones I cherish the most are connected to the hours I spent at her house prior to my high school basketball games. Although she did not formally participate in sports during her life, she stayed physically active through water aerobics and daily walks while also being a basketball fan. In particular, she was extremely supportive of me and my sporting endeavors.

Similarly, my mother was a pre-Title woman whose only opportunity to stay active was through cheerleading or the pom pom squad in which she choose the later. However, she admits given the option to participate in the sports reserved for her male counterparts there’s no doubt she would have seized the opportunity. Despite there being many women who broke gender norms and expectations by competing in sports traditionally reserved for men, the fact remains that since the passage of Title IX the number of academic, athletic, and employment opportunities for girls and women has dramatically increased.

As a result, we have seen—either personally or in the lives of our sisters, daughters, and nieces—how Title IX has helped women compete at all levels, producing real benefits for them later in life. What’s even better news is that just last week, the Obama Administration overturned a controversial Title IX policy that was put into place by the Bush Administration in 2005. The guidelines issued in the new ‘Dear Colleague’ letter, shifted the burden of proof back on university leaders and away from female students by no longer considering survey results alone to be a sufficient way to demonstrate the level of interest for female students to participate in sport, which is just one of the three ways a school receiving federal funding can be in compliance with the law.

As Vice President Joe Biden, stated during his announcement of the Administration’s new policy, “Making Title IX as strong as possible is a no-brainer. What we’re doing here today will better ensure equal opportunity in athletics, and allow women to realize their potential—so this nation can realize its potential”—a potential that women have been fighting for decades and have known all along. As you begin to explore how you will honor and celebrate your mother and grandmother this Mother’s Day, remember we stand on their shoulders and we are who and where we are today, both as women and athletes, because of their strength, courage, and foresight to break down the sporting barriers.

CALL 2 ACTION: Unsure of your mother and/or grandmother’s sporting background? Well, ask…begin by simply asking, what sport or activity, if any, did you participate when you were a girl (K-12)? And, see where the conversation takes you. Again, this is another way to unearth the unheard stories while also learning more about a family member.

A NOTE TO MY READERS: I apologize in advance for the change in topic as Alana and I have had difficulty coordinating schedules for our interview; however, things keep getting even more exciting for her as she recently accompanied Michelle Obama along with 2 Olympians and another Paralympian to a school visit to promote the “Let’s Move” Initiative. You can check it out here. My plan is to share my interview with her in my next post (keep your fingers crossed). J


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