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Making Progress in Women's Sports

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Title IX was put into place to give women the same opportunities as men when it came to playing sports in schools. It states (in part) that "No person in the United States shall, on the basis of sex, be excluded from participation in, be denied the benefits of, or be subjected to discrimination under any education program or activity receiving Federal financial assistance..." This year Title IX is celebrating its 40th anniversary and Ann Meyers Drysdale was practically a poster child for how this law impacted women across the United States. She received the first full ride to a Division 1 school, UCLA.

Ann said that at the time she didn't know or understand what it really meant. As a sophomore in high school she grew up always playing with the boys. She came from a very athletic family of five brothers and five sisters, who were all encouraged to play sports. She looked up to her older sister Patty who was an athlete, who encouraged and inspired Ann. She said their home had high ceilings and all of the siblings used to regularly play ball in the house trying to make a basket into a square up high in the architecture of the house. Ann said having a big family kept her from ever having a big head. Everyone was equal in her parents eyes.

Receiving a scholarship to UCLA as part of the basketball team meant Ann would earn an education, which would impact her life in more ways than she could ever imagine. Title IX meant more money for women's sports, for equipment and for practice facilities. Title IX opened doors for Ann that allowed her to have a career in athletics.

Now 40 years later, women expect to be given the same opportunities as men but Ann believes there is still a lot of progress to be made when it comes to women's sports. The title of her new book, "You Let Some Girl Beat You?" plays off of the fact that in sports often women are still referred to as "girls." Ann is extremely passionate about changing this in our language from "girls" to "women's." It shouldn't be the "Girl's team," It should be the "Women's team." If women are going to be taken more seriously as athletes, to reach the same level as Men's Athletics, it has to start with the little things like the language we use. In some women's sports there have also been changes made to accommodate women such as different size volleyball nets and in basketball a smaller ball. There is talk of lowering the basketball hoop to nine feet. Ann keeps an open mind and realizes that it is all about marketing today. She thinks some of these changes are good, although she is not a big proponent of raising the basket, because it help to make the game more exciting such as women being able to "dunk," which leads to making women's sports more marketable, a good thing.

Title IX has helped to overcome some of the social taboo's of women being athletic and over the years more and more young women are encouraged to step up and play with the boys like Ann did. There has been a lot of progress and women aren't as afraid to use their talents on the playing field as they used to be. Infact, this year at a High school in Florida a female, Erin DiMeglio joined the Football team and played as Quarterback on an all men's team. Her coach knew she could play and throw as well or better than the boys on the team so he put her in as Quarterback. She was the first female quarterback to play high school football.

This years Olympics in London, where Ann broadcasted from the basketball arena for NBC, many times was referred to as the "Women's Olympics." The United States for the first time in history sent more women than men and many countries such as Saudi Arabia and Qatar sent women for the first time. The women really represented at London 2012.

Was there a downside to Title IX? Yes there was. Before Title IX, 75 percent of coaching jobs were held by women, now less than 50 percent are. With more money in women's sports, men began to take over those coaching positions. Ann is extremely passionate about needing more women role models as coaches. She believes that women need to be validated by women. Interestingly enough when I asked Ann about the different coaches she had throughout her athletic career she named one inspiring woman after another and said that every single one of them had an impact on her. Of the six or seven coaches she named only one was a male. Ann also looked up to her mother who she described as headstrong and played some sports even back in the 40s. It's obvious why Ann believes women need other women as role models, because as much as she was comfortable "playing with the boys," her career was impacted by a number of inspiring women, throughout her lifetime.

One of the other coaches who Ann had the opportunity to learn from was Coach John Wooden, who is known as one of the greatest coaches to have ever lived. She affectionately refers to him as "Papa" and although he didn't allow people to watch his practices he made an exception for Ann to be able to watch her brother David play. She would sit in the bleachers and watch as Coach Wooden would take his team through the same drills everyday. She described him as a hard-nosed coach who had three rules: 1. Don't be late. 2. Don't criticize your teammates. 3. No Cursing.

Over her lifetime as an athlete, working with so many inspiring coaches and having people surrounding her that made such a huge impact on her, Ann learned a few life lessons. Among these lessons is that, "We all fail." Never look back and say, "What If?" instead don't be afraid to take opportunities. So what if you fail? Ann has lived her life open to the opportunities it brings, which has led her to create an amazing career and life. On the other end, another lesson, "Success is not final." As she put it, "So what, you won a race...what are you going to do next? It's not the end." Everyday Ann strives to impact somebody in a positive way and be a better person.

When Ann was in elementary school she read a book about Babe Didrikson Zaharias, a track & field Olympic athlete in 1932. That book had a HUGE impact on her, and started her dream to one day become, an Olympian. Writing her own book and sharing her story, Ann Meyers Drysdale hopes to impact people the way that book impacted her. "You Let Some Girl Beat You?" came out this year and Ann thanks her co-author, Joni Ravenna for pulling a lot of stuff out of her that she never would have otherwise put in the book. She is also extremely grateful to Julius Erving for writing the foreword and is thankful for their friendship.

Meeting Ann and reading her book had a huge impact on me so she is accomplishing her goal by publishing this book. In addition to being an author and broadcaster, Ann serves as the Vice President of the Phoenix Suns & Mercury. Phoneix Mercury will be playing at the Staple Center on September 18th and you can meet Ann at her book signing on September 19 at the Barnes and Noble in Huntington Beach. To learn more check out www.annmeyersdrysdale.com.

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