|Since Title IX was created 40 years ago, this week, women athletes have changed the face of sports around the world.
There have been countless memories and struggles these athletes have dealt with just to get the chance to have the same opportunities as their male counterparts.
Of course, I have the utmost respect for what these female stars have accomplished on the playing field.
Most of my favorite memories in women’s sports history have been made watching the court – the basketball court.
As a young kid, I gained respect for female athletes by watching my aunt play point guard in middle school, high school and even college. That respect continues today as I cover one of the best mid-major college teams in the nation, MTSU.
Let’s start with the beginning.
When I was 10 years old, my dad had just remarried to a woman who was the oldest of 10 siblings, one of who, Rachel Derrick, was becoming one of the best young point guards in the Middle Tennessee area.
“Nipper,” as she was called, is only a few years older than me, so my stepmother would take us each weekend to watch her play. Rachel knew how to run an offense and distribute the ball to the right teammate. Eventually, “Nipper” led Father Ryan High School to the state tournament, which was played at the Murphy Center.
Fast forward to my senior year at Oakland High School during the 2000-01 academic year. I got my first taste of journalism as a member of the yearbook and newspaper staff. My main job was to put together the sports section of the 2001 yearbook, and one team stuck out during that magical year, the girls’ basketball team.
That Lady Patriots team was loaded with stars, including some of my friends and classmates. Oakland had three members that would reach 1,000 career points before their high school career was over, Cora Beth Smith, Jenna Webb and Taran Hayes. Also, three other key members of the team were friends of mine: Sarah Kumpf, Kelleigh Miller and Amy Clark. I once played a couple of them in one-on-one showdowns, but I was nowhere in their league, and they beat me pretty badly.
I got to enjoy watching the star-packed team earn its way to the state tournament, which was also held at the Murphy Center.
The support that season was huge.
Remember, there were not as many local high schools back then as there are today. Oakland knocked off Dyersburg and Morristown West high schools. But, in the finals they faced a legend that is still well respected today, Rick Insell.
Of course, you know the story of the success Insell enjoyed while coaching at Shelbyville High School. In 2001, the team was no different, as Abi Ramsey, who later played at Vanderbilt University, and current MTSU assistant coach Alex Fuller led Shelbyville to a 57-50 win over Oakland in the finals.
That same success has continued with the Lady Raiders.
By now, you know what Insell has brought to the program, as he still helps make the Lady Raiders one of the best, not only in the region, but also in the nation.
A few of his players have continued their success in professional basketball, including Amber Holt, and a person I had to wonderful chance to interview a couple of weeks ago, Alysha Clark.
Clark is starting her WNBA career in Seattle this season, and she is getting the chance to learn from some of the best female players who helped put the league on the map, which began in 1997.
Today, the players who benefited from Title IX still deal with trying to gain respect with sports fans around the world. However, as I get older, I’m glad to know it is getting better.