iOS app Android app More

Featuring fresh takes and real-time analysis from HuffPost's signature lineup of contributors
Katie Smith

GET UPDATES FROM Katie Smith
 

Happy National Girls and Women in Sports Day!

Posted: 02/ 1/2012 8:30 am

Title IX at 40! From the day I was born, Title IX has existed. It states that anyone receiving federal funding cannot discriminate against girls and women. Thank goodness sports are included in this law. Because of Title IX, I have been blessed not to know a time when I did not have the right to play.

When I started to play basketball around the 5th grade, I played on an all-boys team, the Logan Bobcats. There were no girls teams in my area until junior. My community and teammates had no problem with me playing on the boys team. For me it was a normal experience because I had two brothers and the boys on my team were my friends. I learned from the boys and I taught them too. I showed them that girls had the skills and competitiveness just like them.

Because of this early experience I feel that girls can impact societal views of women in sports one person at a time. My brothers supported me in my athletic endeavors and gained respect for motivated and athletic women; both married Division 1 college athletes. They witnessed firsthand that there is nothing different or inferior about the work, discipline and skill that girls have.

What has Title IX given me? The habit and lifelong love for physical activity and sport, discipline, hard work, teamwork, how to take criticism, how to handle adversity and injuries, how to be a strong and confident woman and be proud of it. Basketball has given me the opportunity to meet and play with people from all walks of life, and to live in and travel to many countries. One of the most important things for me has been the relationships that I have fostered with my teammates, fans, coaches, and people with whom I have come in contact over my career.

With all of these positives and opportunities, I feel a great responsibility to protect what others have done for us. We can't be complacent about where we are and how far we've come. For me to come along at a time when we had opportunities to play and participate in sports was a gift.

But the ABL and WNBA did not exist until after my senior year of college. I grew up not knowing that sports could be a career. Now girls grow up seeing athletes just like them on TV, in the papers and having role models to look up to. Not everyone loves sports, but as women we have to support each other and seize opportunities. As a woman I want to have the opportunity to do anything I set my mind to. It is up to us to make sure these opportunities stay around and grow for the next generation of women. I never want to forget that this was not always the way it was. There were times when women were limited in their athletic endeavors and it was not that long ago. We have to keep educating the next generation of girls so that we can continue to thrive and experience anything and everything life has to offer. I feel blessed to have had a foot in both worlds, one with no women's professional basketball in the United States and now with it. I feel such an appreciation for the experiences I have had and gratitude for those who made it possible.