This is a guest blog by Anne Guerrant, who played tennis on the pro tour for 9 years, ranking as high as #11 in the world. She played at Wimbledon, the US Open, and all the major tournaments. Her record includes wins over Martina Navratilova and Billie Jean King. Anne and her husband co-founded the Guerrant Foundation (www.guerrantfoundation.org), which endorsed our Day of the Girl campaign.
Today is the 40th anniversary of the creation of Title IX, which provided equal opportunities for girls in education and sports in high school and college. Title IX was not around in 1966 when I entered the 11th grade at Iowa City High School. Even though I was the best tennis player in the state I couldn’t play in the state high school tournament. I could easily beat all but one of the boys on our tennis team, but I couldn’t play there either. My school had no sports for girls and was not a member of the Iowa High School Girls Athletic Association. After watching other girls win the state high school tournament for my first 2 years of high school my coach, Dr. Don Klotz, Ph.D., and I had had enough. Dr. Klotz, you are a saint in heaven now. He decided that I should go to the local school board (five men) and plead my case. He called two of the board members whose kids played tennis and who knew me and my skills very well and won their support in advance. This was my introduction to lobbying. It was also the day I became a feminist at the age of 16.
He told me to go on down to the school board meeting the next week and just get one more vote. He didn’t go with me. My parents didn’t go with me. My friends didn’t go with me. In those days I didn’t expect anyone to go with me. I went by myself. I sat for two hours through their boring meeting waiting for them to get to New Business. When it came to my time I spoke very shakily and seriously about my desire to play and win the state tournament for my school. I must have said something right because I got all five votes!
That year they allowed me and no one else from my school to play in the state tournament, which I won. My senior year I became student body president and used my office to clamor for a girls’ tennis team. The athletic director told me that my sister, Jean, and I were probably the only ones who wanted to play, but he agreed to try it for 3 matches. Thirty girls showed up for the first meeting! Most of them had never played tennis before, but they wanted to play something! Even I was surprised. That year a golfer was allowed to play in the state tournament. A year later we got a swim team. When Title IX passed in 1972 a second gymnasium was built to accommodate practice schedules for all the girls’ teams. They built a new trophy case and it is now full of state championships won by girls in many sports.
Five years after I graduated, Iowa City High School created an award for the outstanding girl athlete. They named it after me. They still give it out every year. Twice as many girls as boys give up sports by age 14. Help keep girls in the game. You can Text WSF to 50555 to make a $10 donation to the Women’s Sports Foundation to help more girls reach their potential.