is unquestionably one of the faces of Title IX. Growing up, Summer's mom didn't have many opportunities to express herself athletically, mostly due to a lack of opportunity for women in sports. However, in 1972, two remarkable things happened. First, Summer Sanders
was born and would come to change the face of women's swimming, and secondly, Title IX was enacted which would come to revolutionize the faces of athletics, and women's opportunities as athletes, forever.
The co-host of NBA Inside Stuff with Ahmad Rashad since December 1997, Sanders began a career in sports broadcasting after a remarkable record-breaking run in the sport of swimming. At the 1992 Olympic Games in Barcelona, Summer Sanders emerged as the most decorated U. S. swimmer, winning two gold medals, a silver medal and a bronze medal. The California native captured three gold medals at the 1990 Goodwill Games before embarking on her collegiate career at Stanford University. In two years at Stanford, she compiled six individual NCAA titles and four relay championships. Sanders earned back-to-back NCAA Swimmer of the Year awards and propelled Stanford to a national championship in 1992.
Summer currently travels the country to give viewers a behind the scenes look at the players and personalities of the NBA and WNBA. She has covered the NBA and WNBA Finals, All-Star Games, player drafts, in addition to following the exciting action that the leagues provide each night throughout the year. Summer’s favorite part of working for Inside Stuff is sitting down with the players to find out firsthand what it’s like to play the world’s most popular game.
See what Summer had to say in a live chat on WNBA.com near the eve of the 30th Anniversary of Title IX.
Bianca (NYC): Hi Summer! Wow, I didn't realize you were such an accomplished swimmer, Very impressive, you are a great role model for young kids. Anyways, on the Anniversary of Title IX, what does it mean to you? Thanks!
Summer Sanders: Well, Title IX means opportunity to me. Girls and women were given opportunity and you still have to work very hard once given it, but it's an honor and a priviledge. It gives girls and women self esteem.
Hilary (San Fran):
Who is your favorite Title IX pioneer and why?
Donna DeVerona. She's a swimmer and she never stops being an advocate and never stops educating people about the importance of sports in women's lives. At 17, she was basically done with her sport and didn't have opportunities in college despite having been in two Olympic games. She's also an incredible person.
In our time, which woman would you say has made the biggest impact in changing a sport?
I would say Billie Jean King in tennis because she essentially helped to create the WTA. Tennis is interesting because the women are almost more popular than the men. In the US Open, women even get exactly the same money as the men. And, a lot of that can be attributed to King's hard work and dedication.
Which WNBA players would you consider to be pioneers of the sport?
Nancy Lieberman, who played the first two seasons in the WNBA, because she was a pioneer of the sport and came back and played. Ann Meyers who (I believe) was the only woman to try out for a men's team and is involved with the league as a broadcaster. When you look at Lisa Leslie, I think she's a great representative of sports, the WNBA, basketball, and women. Then there's the Cynthia Cooper's who played overseas for many years and gave up their lives to play something that they couldn't play in the United States. There's a group of the pioneers and the people who are now here. When you look at the young players like Sue Bird, it's amazing how popular she was coming straight out of college.
Did your mom swim or play sports? How did you get into swimming and where did you get your motivation to be so good? What do you think are the most important attributes to have to help you become a champion? Thanks, Summer! Hope to see you on more WNBA games!
My mom did swim, but she took it up once my brother and I started swimming. She was a lifeguard growing up, though. I started swimming when I was four because my brother wanted to join a swim team and I wanted to do what he did. They said I had to be six, but if I could swim a lap, then I could participate. So I swam a lap and the rest is history.
To be a champion, I think you have to see the big picture. It's not about winning and losing, it's about every day hard work and about thriving on a challenge. It's about embracing the pain that you'll experience at the end of a race and not being afraid. I think people think too hard and get afraid of a certain challenge. You see it in the NBA when guys are on the free throw line. The free throw is the easiest shot in the game. Guys who don't think too much help themselves because they don't psych themselves out or overthink the situation. Guys like Reggie Miller, who does a pattern before he goes to the line, he is one of the best. Champions want the ball in their hand at the last moment.
I am a new dad. What is a good way to eventually get my daughter involved in some kind of sport, now that she will have more opportunities to play? How early can I start?
I've never been a parent before, but I've been involved in swimming since age 4! If a kid has an older sibling, they can follow in that path, but I think a kid should be involved in anything they want to be! I tried piano, acting, and a bunch of things. My family let me do what I wanted to do, they made sure I had balance in my life because I was self-driven. Listen to your kid, encourage them, and make it fun.
Mike in Storrs:
If they were going to do a movie about your life who would you want to play you in the movie?
Oh my gosh! That's such a hard question, but I can tell you who my favorite actresses are...Ashley Judd and Diane Lane. Maybe either of those two? They come across as so real in their movies.
ever considering hitting the pool again?
No, in fact, it's probably the most often asked question to me. I grew up with some beautiful pools in California. It's a little different living in New York City with all of the indoor pools! It's not as inspiring, I run nowadays.
What is your most embarrassing moment?
I'll have to think about that one! Do I have to just pick one? I have a hard time remembering people's names, so it's about an everyday occurence for me to get embarrassed calling people the wrong names. A couple of other things around the pool, too. Of course, I've fallen and tripped a couple of times! One time I almost completely face-planted on 8th Avenue in front of Madison Square Garden!!
Which current female athletes do you think are good role models for young girls?
In the WNBA, Lisa Leslie, Sue Bird and beyond WNBA, Mia Hamm, Christine Lilly, Stacey Dragila (pole vaulter) and Marion Jones. There's a girl name Natalie Coughlin who's at Berkeley who's one of the best in the world right now!
Hey, how's it going? I love the show NBA Inside Stuff. I am a huge NBA. Who do you think is the best NBA player, that is a role model to kids?
I love Shaq! Obviously he's a great player and dominates on the court. He has unbelievable size and stature, but he has worked on his skills and has improved his game a lot. I love the fact that if he gets called for a foul, he does not say anything. It's amazing that in the heat of the moment, he has never bad-mouthed the refs and I think that's great. You have to be respectful and exude confidence and poise. And he always seems to be smiling and chuckling which is good, he takes basketball seriously, but not too seriously.
UConn Fan in Ohio:
What has been the most difficult decision you have had to make in your life?
I can't really talk about the most difficult one, but a very difficult one that I made because of my age was having to give up my eligibility. It was after the 1992 NCAA Championships but before the Olympics. That meant that I couldn't officially be a part of the Stanford swim team after that point. I would do an exhibition swim between breaks during meets and would practice with the team, but I could no longer compete with them. I knew how important my teammates were and it hit me right then. It wasn't fun and I realized how to cope after I saw the effects. I don't regret my decision, though.
I'm very grateful to have had the opportunities I've had in sports and it's so important for girls who are benefitting now to remember and respect the sacrifices that women who came before us made for us. If I have a daughter, I want her to understand that not too long ago, women didn't have the opportunity to play sports beyond high school, so we should always remember their names and be thankful for the opportunities they have given us!
Enjoy yourself with sports, have fun with it and also in life! Thanks to everyone who participated in the chat, your questions were great!
Summer had to leave us because she's busy taping another episode of NBA Inside Stuff
, but for those of you who are interested, especially parents, you may want to check out her book: Champions are Raised, Not Born: How My Parents Made Me a Success