This article appeared in the June 21, 2022 edition of the Monitor Daily.

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Title IX ushered many women into sports. Some are still sidelined.

Phelan M. Ebenhack/AP/File
Lexie Blair is a star softball player at the University of Michigan and is interested in a career in sports communication.

I am a Title IX baby – born 10 months before the law passed on June 23, 1972. Title IX means different things to different people, but to me it means sports. In the 50 years since its passing, the federal law increased participation by women in collegiate sports by more than 600% – and as a varsity college soccer player and track sprinter, that included me.

But Title IX hasn’t benefited all women equally. Less than one-third of collegiate female athletes in the United States are women of color, according to the Women’s Sports Foundation.

Alpha Alexander knows something about that racial gap. When she arrived at the College of Wooster in Ohio in 1972, she had been a citywide tennis champion. At first, she turned away from sports to focus on her studies. “Our parents ... wanted to make sure that we would succeed in life,” she says. “So education was a high priority.” 

But eventually she laced up her shoes, going on to play basketball, volleyball, lacrosse, and tennis. Having been the only Black athlete on her teams, she wrote her 1978 master’s thesis on women of color in collegiate sports.

Her studies led her to Temple University in Pennsylvania, where she worked in the athletic department with Professor Tina Sloan Green, the women’s lacrosse coach and the first African American to play for the women’s national field hockey team. They soon realized how few Black women worked in sports administration. “We didn’t see anybody that looked like us on that administrative level,” says Dr. Alexander.

So together with Olympic fencer Nikki Franke, and lawyer and former track athlete Linda Sheryl Greene, they co-founded the Black Women in Sport Foundation in 1992. As the group prepares to mark its 30th anniversary, Professor Sloan Green says lack of access, financial support, and cultural acceptance still holds back women of color in sports.

“My agenda right now is to make sure that young girls pre-K through eighth grade have access to a variety of sports,” says Professor Sloan Green. “I know it works. My daughter [Traci Green] would not be the head coach of Harvard tennis had she not been exposed to sports at an early age.” 

As I share in today’s podcast, athletics made a big difference in my life. I’m grateful the Black Women in Sport Foundation is working to expand access to those opportunities.

This article appeared in the June 21, 2022 edition of the Monitor Daily.

Read 06/21 edition
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