COLUMN: Fighting for a following

Pat Summitt passed away on Tuesday.

If you aren’t familiar with her, she is the all-time leader in coaching wins in NCAA Division I basketball history. Not just women’s basketball, but men’s too; more wins than names like Mike Krzyzewski, Bob Knight, Dean Smith and Adolph Rupp.

Pat Summitt was a pioneer.

If you aren’t familiar with her, unfortunately you are not alone.

Women’s sports are on the rise across the country, but there’s still a long way to go.

One of the biggest areas lacking is respect.

June 23 marked the 44th anniversary of the passing of Title IX. While it has created opportunities that previously weren’t there for women, it hasn’t had a big effect on the perception of those sports and the respect the players get.

After the Cleveland Cavaliers won the NBA Finals, headlines were written about how Cleveland is no longer the sports market with at least three major sports teams suffering the longest title droughts in pro sports.

The new title-holder, according to many, is Minneapolis-St. Paul.

There’s only one problem with that – it’s not true.

In fact, Minneapolis-St. Paul had a pro sports team at the White House on Monday to be recognized as the reigning champs. The Minnesota Lynx have won three championships in the last five years.

It’s not good enough for many sports fans.

Lynx head coach Cheryl Reeve recognizes this and has gone on the offensive. Whether on social media or in press conferences, she’s not afraid to speak her mind about how the WNBA is portrayed. It’s not about men’s sports vs. women’s sports for her though, saying in a recent tweet, “I like the men’s game too! We can do both.”

Not everyone sees it the same way, but Reeve won’t give up.

“We feel like every day we’re fighting it but it’s worth the fight,” she said in a recent column by Chip Scoggins of the Minneapolis Star-Tribune. “It drains the heck out of you. There are some days you walk out of here so angry at some of the things that you hear and see because it’s not right.”

One of the upsetting remarks I’ve heard is that a high school boys basketball team could beat a WNBA team. Who cares? It’s a different level of basketball, but that doesn’t make one better or worse than the other.

We’ve been blessed with some great female athletes in the Marshall area over the years – from Mary Jo Miller to Shannon Bolden to Riley Nordgaard, Taylor Reiss and Marah Mulso. Many of these players had high school careers you could put up against any area male athletes and they’d easily hold their own.

The list of names will continue to grow as women’s sports continue to grow. People like Pat Summitt have been pioneers, but it’s the pioneers of today who are trying to take it to the next step.

Cheryl Reeve and her players are part of the growth that will happen. But the biggest growth needs to come from you, the fan.

Give women’s sports a chance. It doesn’t matter what game you go to; just go. You just might be watching the area’s next pioneer for women’s sports.

 -This column was published in the June 30 edition of the Marshall Independent. Direct link:–Fighting-for-a-Following.html

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