Jasmine Thomas NGWSD Blog

I grew up in an era where Title IX had been passed, established and extended. Therefore, playing sports was always something I took for granted. As a child, I went from gym to gym watching my brother play basketball but he wasn’t the only athlete I knew of. I had classmates and cousins who also played various sports for local recreation centers or AAU programs. When I finally took an interest in playing basketball not one person told me I couldn’t or judged me for wanting to try. In fact, when people realized that I was talented they encouraged me to become more serious and pursue the sport long-term since the WNBA had become a notable professional league.

As I matured, I remained naïve to just how privileged I was to be a female athlete. I played for the successful Fairfax Stars AAU program where I competed nationally and attended Oakton High School where the girl’s basketball team was one of the winningest programs at the school. I went on to play for an elite Division I women’s basketball program at Duke University where I finally realized the impact of Title IX. At a place like Duke, that’s primarily known for the accomplishments of its men’s basketball team, most other sports are overshadowed—especially women’s sports.

When it came to essentials, Title IX was well appreciated. Even though our team didn’t bring in as much money as the men’s team we still reaped some of the benefits that they expected. We received scholarships, ample gear, chartered flights, catered meals, had preferential housing, etc. But what Title IX couldn’t (and can’t) control is attendance and fan following. I was fortunate that our program and athletic department put forth a sincere effort to increase the support for us. We had decent home attendance at our games and when we really needed a big crowd we always had it.

With 2012 being the 40th anniversary of Title IX we were all able to reflect on its significance. As a professional athlete in the WNBA and around the world, I understand that the ongoing battle for equality in media coverage and a consistent, lucrative fan following continues. As I’ve experienced playing in other countries I noticed that some cities around the world appreciate and support women’s sports like you couldn’t imagine. Naturally, I find myself wondering whether the lack of enthusiasm is mainly an American issue. While I‘m extremely appreciative for the women in history that sacrificed and strived to allow me to play basketball for a living, I realize just how many other women in other sports may not have that opportunity.

It is important to have a day like National Girls and Women in Sports Day where we honor those who have paved the way but, more importantly, we use current girls and women that are succeeding in the sport world to show society that supporting our young girls in sports is an investment in the future. With all the young girls I see idolizing their favorite collegiate and professional female athletes, I can only hope that the efforts to grow and sustain women’s sports continues so that they might have the same, or better, opportunities and experiences than I had.