Growing up, I was a competitive athlete and a very good one. I excelled in softball, golf, basketball and played volleyball, tennis, track -- I played just about everything. In grammar school, during recess when we were picking teams for sports, I was always chosen first, which no one could understand because I was a girl.
But I grew up, in Nashville, Tenn., before Title IX came along. In junior high school, I remember talking with the boys basketball coach, and telling him that I wanted to play so badly on a team, but there were no teams for girls. Even in high school, only the county schools had athletics for girls. We lived in the city, where the schools did not. So we moved to the county just so I could compete in sports. I had already known since seventh grade that I wanted to coach women's basketball someday, but there were no teams to coach. I knew even then that I wanted to help do something about that.
During my college days at Middle Tennessee State, I had the chance to play against other schools, but they were just referred to as extramurals. They didn't really count. We just played for the love of the game and because we had a passion for athletics. By 1970 when I began coaching at Tennessee Tech at age 22, I coached three sports and taught nine classes. But I didn't get paid anything for coaching. Again, we did it for the love of the game, and because I wanted to try to provide opportunities for other young women to participate in sports. We had to buy our own uniforms, take our own cars to the games, and if we had to stay overnight somewhere, we all chipped in for the hotel room. It was an interesting time.
Finally, in 1975, I can remember getting the go-ahead to give a female a scholarship to play basketball. That, I thought, was a huge turning point for women and for sports. I hadn't had the same opportunities as a player, but through coaching, I was living out my dreams through my players.
And now, all these years later, there are so many opportunities in so many sports. Any sport a young woman wants to play, there's an opportunity somewhere for her to play it. I look at our players with the Dream, and they would think I was from Venus if I started telling them about how it was at the very beginning, because they don't know. They've always grown up with the opportunities.
But if it hadn't been for Title IX, who knows where I'd be? I may have tried to play professional golf, but if that hadn't happened, I probably would have tried something in interior design. Maybe I would have been a professor since I have my master's degree. Instead, I've had the opportunity to be associated with a lot of great athletes and to have success on a much bigger stage than what was possible when I grew up. And just about anywhere you can think of in the United States -- I've been there. I've also coached internationally and now this summer have the opportunity to be part of the Olympic team and work with 12 of the best female athletes in the world.
Over the years I've been able to foster so many wonderful relationships and create lasting friendships with coaches and players that have been so dedicated to playing and love to compete. Had we not had professional sports or even collegiate sports I wouldn't have had those opportunities. It's been incredibly rewarding to think that I had a little something to do with others having those opportunities themselves. We've really come a long way. The door is wide open, and all you have to do is take advantage of it.
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