06/21/2012 01:08 pm ET Updated Aug 21, 2012

From the Soccer Field to the Senate Floor

Sports were a huge part of my life growing up in Montana. I was a Butte High Bulldog and I was proud to wear Butte High purple. I also know I was lucky to wear Butte High purple, because I was born after Title IX was written.

Title IX did so much more than eliminate gender discrimination in sports, Title IX changed women's lives. Title IX changed the way I thought about success, changed the way I thought about competition and changed the way I thought about myself. If there was no Title IX, I would be a different person, and the same would be true for women and girls across the country. If there was no Title IX, I have no doubt this would be a different country. And not for the better.

Women and girls can learn so much from sports. I know that there are lessons I learned about teamwork, competition and coaching in Butte I rely on every day at EMILY's List.

At the heart of sports and politics is competition, which is probably why I like both so much. Playing sports taught me how much fun it is to win, and how much you can learn when you lose. And in the world of electoral politics, I'm reminded of that lesson every day. It also taught me that a loss in a race - political or athletic - is not the end of the world, it's the end of the race. It made me less scared to take risks and get involved in a challenge. We need women and girls in this country to feel like they can take risks and try bigger things.

Val Demings, one of our candidates for Congress in Florida, who ran track in school said, "I have never been very tall in stature or very heavy, so you gotta use what you have to win the game. I think mental competition is just as important as the physical. And it starts long before the race begins." This couldn't be more true, and I hope women recognize what they have that can help them win in whatever field they pursue.

Playing sports also taught me the importance of good coaching -- getting the right advice at the right moment can change everything. I see that when we're talking to women who are getting ready to run for office for the first time or take the next step in their political careers, like Cheri Bustos, a fellow athlete, who is running her first Congressional campaign in Illinois.

I played Y-ball, softball, volleyball and swam, and my favorite part of each sport was being part of a team. There is nothing like the camaraderie of a team, a group of equals with a common purpose, sharing the highs and the lows. It's one of the things that attracted me to politics, the spirit of a shared challenge that drives a campaign.

And that element of teamwork in politics doesn't end when a campaign ends. I see the firewall our EMILY's List women in the Senate create against anti-women, anti-family legislation coming out of John Boehner's House and I know, and they know, that they are a much stronger front together than apart. When you see Kirsten Gillibrand on the Senate floor fighting for what American women need and deserve, you see the determination of a former Dartmouth squash captain.

Sports and politics have so much in common we often use the same terminology. You know how they say strong teams have a deep bench? We have the same theory at EMILY's List, where we are always working to build a pipeline of future leaders.

We work every day to make sure pro-choice, Democratic women are ready to run for office at every level. Our Political Opportunity Program trained over 1,300 women to run for state and local office this cycle alone. That pipeline means that when a woman like Rep. Tammy Baldwin is ready to run for the Senate, we have a woman like Kelda Roys ready to run for her seat in the House.

We see our EMILY's List women fight for pro-women and pro-family legislation every day, so it probably shouldn't surprise you that the original Title IX legislation was drafted by Patsy Mink, a pro-choice, Democratic, EMILY's List woman. Celebrating the 40th anniversary of Title IX this weekend reminds me just how much is at stake in November if we don't continue to elect strong women like Patsy to Congress. We need to send women like Cheri, Val and Kelda to the House and make sure that we send Kirsten Gillibrand and the women in the Senate reinforcements. We need to make sure that young women have role models from the soccer field to the Senate floor, so they can change the way they think about success too.