The tomboys of my rural youth came in all shapes and sizes, girls who could run barefoot on gravel or make riding a horse look effortless as riding a front porch rocker.
They could climb up and down the insides of tiered tobacco barns like spiders, play backyard ball as long as any boy, ride bikes and pop wheelies ’til sundown, get just as dirty as you and love every minute of it.
We knew girls could play.
But we hadn’t seen nothin’ yet.
In 1973, we watched a woman named Billie Jean King beat a man in tennis on primetime TV. A man! Then the 1976 Olympics and Nadia Comaneci came along and all us boys were wondering, “How can a 14-year-old female flip around that high off the ground and keep her balance on that little piece of wood?”
Tip of the iceberg.
Nancy Lieberman. Cheryl Miller. Jackie Joyner-Kersee. Nancy Lopez. I went to school with and/or saw Louisiana Tech’s Pam Kelly and Janice Lawrence and Kim Mulkey and, at what was then Northeast Louisiana, Eun Jung Lee earn their Louisiana Sports Hall of Fame credentials on basketball courts all over the country.
More modern names are Venus and Serena Williams, Simone Biles, and the United States women’s national soccer team. The spotlight on female athletes has come a long since Wilma Rudolph.
We didn’t know it, but of course this sort of thing had been going on since Babe Didrikson Zaharias took to winning a couple of gold medals in track and field in the 1932 Olympics, then won 10 LPGA majors in her spare time. Legend has it she’d show up for exhibitions against men in this town or that, tee up a ball, back off and say, “So, who’s playing for second?”
Woman against boys.
All those trailblazers have made it easier for female athletes to have more opportunities, something celebrated today, February 2, the 36th annual National Girls & Women in Sports Day (NGWSD), made possible by the Women’s Sports Foundation established in 1974 “to advance the lives of women and girls through sports and physical activity.”
The Foundation’s mission is to enable all girls and women to reach their potential, both in sports and in life.
With a special assist from the WNBA and to recognize the 50th anniversary of Title IX, Caddo Parks and Recreation is celebrating the day with a “Her Time to Play” virtual event.
Girls ages 10-14 are invited to participate in the event, which will include a wellness check, education around Title IX, a panel discussion led by female athletes and trailblazers such as NY Liberty player Betnijah Laney, and interactive breakout rooms “to help inspire girls to play basketball, teach them to realize their full potential, as well reflect upon the importance of advancing gender equity.”
The time is Wednesday, February 2, 5:30 p.m. – 6:45 p.m. Register here, and you’ll receive a Zoom link after registration is completed.
Go ahead. Register. You’ve got next.
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