I am a Title IX baby.
The law was passed in 1972 and I was born in 1973. Just as important, I am the daughter of a woman who was very aware of Title IX. She was a teacher and the Title IX compliance coordinator at her school. She was a woman who cared about what was fair and right for her daughters and all girls. And she was armed with the power of Title IX.
When I was in the fourth grade in Southwick, Mass., I signed up to play basketball for my town's Park and Rec team. When the head of Park and Rec called to tell my mother that only two girls signed up to play, she replied : "That's OK. You'll just have to let Rebecca play on the boy's team."
And they did.
On the first day of practice, my mother told the coach, "I realize Rebecca is the only girl on the team but I want you to treat her exactly the same as the boys. When they run sprints, she runs sprints. When you yell at them, you yell at her. Everything needs to be the same. Except when you scrimmage shirts and skins. Then I want her on the shirts team."
In the fifth grade, I was a tomboy who dressed in jeans and sneakers so I could play sports with the boys at recess. I was the only girl to do so. One day my teacher told me she was "very concerned" about me. She said I needed to "act more like a girl" and "dress more like a girl."
My mother flipped her lid. After hearing what my teacher had said, my mom immediately drove me to the school. I was terrified — for the teacher.
Fortunately (for the teacher), she was not there. The principal incurred my mother's wrath and promised a remedy. I was removed from the class. My mother wasn't satisfied. She wanted the teacher — and me — to know that it was her behavior and not mine that was wrong and needed to be changed. I got the message loud and clear.
I started paying attention to the women's basketball team at the University of Connecticut after Geno Auriemma and Chris Dailey began recruiting me. Even before I decided to play at UConn, I liked attending games and learning about the team. I distinctly remember watching the evening news on WFSB one night and waiting for the sports report. There were highlights and interviews from a UConn men's game. After that the anchor said, "And we should congratulate the UConn women's team. They won the Big East title tonight." End of report. On to the weather…
Earlier that year, I listened to a rare interview of Coach Auriemma on WTIC 1080 Sports Talk. Gampel Pavilion had recently opened and all of the men's games were sold out. The host kept encouraging people to come to a women's game not to see elite athletes competing but so they could get a glimpse of the shiny new basketball palace in Storrs.
Fortunately, that palace had locker rooms and offices and other facilities that were equal for the men and women that it housed. As a UConn athlete, I had the same opportunities and support that Ray Allen, Kevin Ollie and Donyell Marshall were given. Title IX made it illegal to do otherwise.
Countless times during my career and since my retirement, I have listened to women from an earlier generation tell me how lucky I am to have had the opportunities I had. They too loved sports but didn't have the opportunity or encouragement to play. Their mothers weren't armed with Title IX.
Now I am a mother of four children — three of them girls. It is my responsibility to teach each of them about Title IX and help them understand its importance.
Three years ago, when my eldest was 4, she walked into a room where my husband, Steve, was watching the UConn men's team play basketball on TV. She looked at the television and said to her father, "Are those boys playing basketball?" Steve said, "yes." My daughter replied, "I didn't know boys played basketball too."
That is the power of Title IX.