From courtside at Wimbledon, I'm celebrating two important anniversaries this week: the 50th anniversary of my first championship win at Wimbledon, and the 40th anniversary year of Title IX, legislation that ensures equal access to both men and women in federally-funded educational programs and activities, including sports programs.
Both milestones have special importance to me. When Karen Hantze and I won the Ladies' Doubles at Wimbledon in 1961, there were not nearly as many opportunities for girls and women in sports as there are today. The passage of Title IX legislation in 1972 opened important doors, but I knew it would take long-term and continued efforts and dedication to ensure those doors remained open. I founded the Women's Sports Foundation in 1974 with the goal of keeping the promise of Title IX alive.
There has been important progress. For example, high school varsity sports participation has increased from one in 27 in 1972 to about two in five girls today, and women's collegiate participation is up 500%, as a result of Title IX.
But forty years later, the reality is that women still have 1.3 million fewer high school and more than 55,000 fewer college sports participation opportunities than men. Women receive almost $150 million less in athletic scholarship funds each year and women still have fewer professional sports opportunities.
I know firsthand the life lessons that sports teaches from an early age and I often hear stories from other men and women of all ages about how playing sports and being active has helped them build confidence, self-esteem, leadership skills and long-lasting friendships. You don't build these on the world stage or at the Olympics - they are forged at an early age and in the grind of daily training and discipline. So as I celebrate these anniversaries, I am not interested in looking back as much as I am interested in looking forward. How do we build on the momentum and make sure this generation and the next generation of youth are provided equal opportunities in sports and in life?
It takes more than one voice, and more than one athlete, parent or friend. I encourage you to share what Title IX means to you, and find out more about the importance of keeping Title IX alive for future generations, at Women's Sports Foundation on Facebook or www.WomensSportsFoundation.org. Let's work together to make sure all girls who want to get active and involved in sports have that opportunity.