I've been fortunate over my career to travel the world, not only to play basketball, but also to speak with different organization, CEOs, entrepreneurs, you name it. I've always tried to share the information I've attained over the years, in hope that it could help someone else.
I'll never forget giving a speech out in Pebble Beach, California, to a group called the Young Presidents Organization (YPO). Now many people who know about this organization might say, "What in the world could a female athlete have to offer some of the top business minds in our country?" I'm hoping by the end of this journal, that question and a few others will be answered for you.
My opportunity to receive a higher education, play at powerhouse UConn and travel the world came on the backs of many women before me. Women that believed a skinny, bold, long-legged girl from McKeesport, Pa., deserved the same opportunity as her brothers. They believed that young girls like me would one day benefit from their blood, sweat and tears. Then one day I could share my story with people around the world.
I share this same hope with children through my charity, Cash For Kids. We teach them to Believe, Achieve, then Lead! See, these women had dreams long before I was a thought in my mother's mind. They just had a hope, a drive and faith that their hard work would surely come to pass. And with that determination, Title IX was born. For those who don't know what Title IX is, let me take a moment to share how this piece of legislation helped level the playing field for women.
Title IX is a law that promotes gender equity. It actually isn't just about athletics. It addresses other areas including sexual harassment and discrimination based upon pregnancy. My focus though is Title IX's impact on sports -- and sports impact on each of us.
Before Title IX, there were very few opportunities to play sports in high school or college. Imagine you had the skills of a Michelle Wie, Hope Solo or Allyson Felix but you had nowhere to play and no one to teach you how to get better? Or maybe you just enjoyed playing basketball or wanted to learn to play a sport. You would not have had that chance in school before Title IX. Since Title IX was implemented, there has been a 456% increase in college women participating in sports and a 904% increase in high school girls participating in sports.
Because of Title IX I went on to receive a scholarship to the University of Connecticut. To the women who fought for Title IX, we salute you! This year is the 40th anniversary of Title IX. The system isn't perfect but it has been effective and changed so many lives. When President Obama gave the State of the Union and addressed equal pay, the first thing that came to my mind was equal play! Never underestimate the empowerment you give a woman who can participate in sports!
So now you understand how I was afforded the opportunity to go to college. (My parents definitely couldn't have paid for it. Nowadays, who can?) From college to the pros, my success on teams at every level in which I played gave me an insight on winning. And if anyone understands Corporate America, it's about the bottom line and getting your employees (team) to work as a winning team. So when I gave my speech out in Pebble Beach that was the theme -- building a winning team and getting the team to understand their roles within the big picture.
I remember giving my speech and getting amazing feedback. During the Q&A section I was asked a (let's just say a "sarcastic") question by a gentleman and my response was this: "Sir, do you have any children?" He said, "Yes a boy and a girl." I said, "Excellent, So would you tell your son he can be whatever he wants to be, the sky's the limit? Then look into your daughter's eyes and tell her she cannot?"
See, the point is this: every male or female who participates in sports won't become a professional athlete. But everyone -- male or female -- who participates in sports should have the same opportunities to thrive and chase their dreams even if it's only winning the state championship in high school. I may not have the same basketball gifts as a Kobe Bryant or LeBron James, but like them I was given a chance for equal play.
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