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Our History

The Women’s Sports Foundation was established in 1974 to advance the lives of women and girls through sports and physical activity. Our mission today - we are dedicated to creating leaders by ensuring girls access to sports. We provide financial fuel to aspiring champion athletes. We fund groundbreaking research. We educate. We advocate. And we help communities get girls active. Sure, there's a long way to go. But, it's gratifying to see our hard work make sure a difference.

Billie Jean King
Billie Jean King

1974

  • The Women’s Sports Foundation is founded by Billie Jean King in San Francisco. King has long been a champion of social change and equality. She created new inroads for both genders in and out of sports during her legendary career and she continues to make her mark today. The Board of Trustees represent various fields including sport, business, education and entertainment, and have led the way towards carrying out the mission and vision.

1975

  • The Foundation publishes the first College Athletic Scholarship Guide for Women at a time when few opportunities existed for women to compete in college athletics, and there was virtually no media coverage of the few competitive opportunities. Today, more than 150,000 women are competing in sports at NCAA member institutions, making up more than 40 percent of the participants in intercollegiate athletics and receiving about 43 percent of the scholarship dollars.

1976

  • The first Executive Director, Eva Auchincloss, is appointed and heads up the office of the Foundation on only $5,000 and a donated office space in San Mateo, Calif. Athletes like Jane Blalock, Donna de Varona, Chris Evert, Diane Holum, Joan Joyce, Micki King, Karen Logan, Sandra Paulson, Paula Sperber, and Wyomia Tyus were members of the first advisory board.

1977

  • The first official Women’s Sports Foundation newsletter is distributed to its members. The Women’s Sports Experience newsletter is circulated to 25,000 members per quarter and SportsTalk reaches 5,000 youth members per quarter. Today, a weekly e-mail newsletter, S.H.E. Matters, is sent out to more than 60,000 members, the Women’s Sports Experience newsletter is circulated to 25,000 members per quarter and SportsTalk reaches 5,000 youth members per quarter.
  • The first grant programs, including summer camp scholarships, are established by the Foundation. Since then, more than $8 million in cash grants and scholarships and $42 million in educational materials and services has been provided to individuals, teams and grassroots organizations.

1979

  • Donna de Varona becomes the Women’s Sports Foundation’s first president, setting the standard for athlete involvement in the organization’s leadership. An Emmy award winning pioneer sports broadcaster Donna used her contacts and visibility to help launch the foundation and build it into a strong and credible organization. Under her leadership the foundation initiated the Hall of Fame Dinner (now the Annual Salute to Women in Sports Awards Dinner), Travel & Training Fund grants, research projects, media awards and a toll-free telephone number. Still involved with the Foundation, de Varona is now the Chair of the Founder’s Circle.

1980

  • The first Annual Salute to Women in Sports Fundraising and Awards Dinner is held to honor the women who are dedicated to making a difference, advancing participation and who dare to compete.
  • The inaugural induction class of the International Women’s Sports Hall of Fame is honored. With 124 members of the Hall of Fame, the organization continues to direct and advise hundreds of other non-sport organizations to salute women athletes and coaches as leaders and award recipients across all areas of society.

1981

  • The Foundation’s toll-free information line opens. The Foundation receives more than 100,000 requests for information each year and distributes more than 2 million pieces of material each year to girls, parents and program leaders.

1982

  • The Foundation’s Internship Program begins. More than 500 young professionals have learned professional skills, provided assistance in the implementation of programs and have gone on to successful careers.

1983

  • The New Agenda Conference brings together the leaders of women’s sports to create a blueprint for the future of women’s sports.

1984

  • The Foundation’s Travel & Training Fund grants are first awarded. To date, more than $1,500,000 has been awarded from this fund so that athletes can continue their dreams of competing at the highest level.

1985

  • The High School All-Star program begins and provides recognition for more than 1,700 outstanding high school female athletes. The Foundation granted more than $1,000,000 in college scholarships to deserving female athletes during the program’s tenure.

1986

  • The Women’s Sports Foundation relocates to New York City and hires its second executive director, Deborah Slaner Larkin.
  • The Women’s Sports Journalism Award program is created to honor women’s sports media coverage. In the 15 years that this award was given, 117 journalists from around the country were honored for excellence in media coverage of women’s sports.

1987

  • The inaugural National Girls and Women in Sports Day (NGWSD) celebration is held in Washington, D.C., as a day to remember Olympic volleyball player Flo Hyman for her athletic achievements and her work to ensure equality for women’s sports. Since that time, 18 years of NGWSD celebrations have acknowledged the past, recognized current sports achievements and celebrated the move toward equality and access for women in sports.

1988

  • The Foundation’s second major research study, The Wilson Report: Moms, Dads, Daughters and Sports, is published. To this day, it is recognized as the first large-scale, nationwide intergenerational study of the female sports experience.
  • Kristi Yamaguchi receives a Travel and Training Grant for her athletic success in figure skating. Four years later at the 1992 Olympic Games, she becomes the first U.S. woman since Dorothy Hamill in 1976 to win the women’s Olympic figure skating gold medal.

1990

  • The first “Grants for Girls” are awarded. In its 12 years of existence, $545,000 is distributed to fund equipment, facility rental and apparel to girls’ sports programs across the country. Its direct descendant, the GoGirlGo! program, has awarded more than $1 million in its first three years, 2002-2004.

1991

  • Soccer player Michelle Akers receives a Travel & Training Fund grant. Nine years later, she is named the Federation Internationale de Football Association (FIFA) Player of the Century and Best Female Soccer Player Ever.

1992

  • The Community Awards and Grants Program (later the Community Action Program) is established. This program brings together community leaders from youth-serving agencies, sports organizations, schools and businesses to promote girls’ and women’s sports in their local communities. Through the Take Action and Spread the Word awards, granted to more than 100 grassroots organizations across the country, communities are encouraged to celebrate participation and support the achievements of girls and women in sports and fitness.
  • The Minority Internship Program begins, giving more women of underrepresented populations the experience to make their mark in sports-related careers.

1993

  • The Women’s Sports Foundation gets a “new home” in Nassau County, N.Y., at the Lannin House in Eisenhower Park.
  • Michelle Kwan is named a recipient of the Travel & Training Fund grant. Four years later, during the 1997-98 season, she becomes the first woman to earn a perfect score at the U.S. national championship when she earns seven 6.0 scores in the short program.

1994

  • The Athletes’ Speaker Service (now Speaker’s Bureau) is officially launched. Since its inception, hundreds of athletes have educated people at schools, companies and conferences across the country.

1995

  • The Annual Salute to Women in Sports Awards is televised on TNT. This is the first of a total of five times that the Dinner is televised on a major cable network.

1996

  • The 1996 Olympic Games in Atlanta include 45 Foundation Travel & Training Fund grant recipients competing for the United States. Twelve of them win 16 medals, including Mary Ellen Clark in diving (bronze), Kerri Strug in gymnastics (gold) and Brooke Bennett in swimming (gold).
  • The Foundation launches its first web site. Since then, millions of people around the world have accessed the Foundation’s information via the Internet.
  • The first Wilma Rudolph Courage Award is given to Jackie Joyner-Kersee. Since then, numerous other women who have demonstrated the ability to overcome adversity, make significant contributions to sports and serve as inspirations and role models for others have received this prestigious honor.

1997

  • The Foundation publishes The Women’s Sports Foundation Gender Equity Report Card. This publication examines the compliance with Title IX of more than 700 National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) colleges and universities.

1998

  • The Women’s Sports Foundation Report: Sport and Teen Pregnancy is published. Until this study, there was little or no recognition among teen pregnancy prevention experts and policymakers that athletic participation helps reduce many girls’ risk for pregnancy. The report is so successful that it is published in major newspapers such as USA Today, San Francisco Chronicle, Boston Globe, Los Angeles Times and international outlets, generating roughly 250 million media impressions.
  • The Foundation is granted United Nations Consultative status to the Economic and Social Council, and was the first non-governmental sport organization in the world to receive such designation. WSF is also an annual presenter at the UN Commission on the Status of Women in New York City.

1999

  • The Women’s Sports Foundation Report: Addressing the Needs of Professional and Amateur Athletes is published. With this data, the Women’s Sports Foundation helps National Governing Bodies address issues of importance for female athletes.

2000

  • The Foundation’s first bilingual (English/Spanish) guide, the Parent’s Guide to Girls’ Sports, is published. Since its first printing in 1986, more than 1 million copies have been distributed.
  • The Foundation is awarded the International Olympic Committee’s first-ever Women in Sport Award for the Americas.

2001

  • The Foundation publishes The Women’s Sports Foundation Report: Health Risks and the Teen Athlete study. Now, program leaders, educators and policymakers have solid evidence that sports participation is a fundamental solution to the health risks faced by teen girls.
  • The first grant in The Project to Eliminate Homophobia in Sports is awarded. An educational curriculum and video entitled “It Takes A Team” is created to reach athletes, coaches and administrators nationwide.
  • GoGirlGo! education and grant programs are established. More than 625,000 girls aged 10-14 have been educated about avoiding health-risk behaviors and more than $2,000,000 has been given to support girls’ physical activity opportunities.

2002

  • The National Public Service Announcement campaign “Do you know who I am?” is created thanks to Element 79 Partners, Seven Worldwide and the many individuals who donated their time and expertise. The campaign appeared more than 18,000 times in print, on television and on the radio and generates 500 million media impressions.
  • The 2002 Olympic Winter Games take place in Salt Lake City, Utah. Travel & Training Fund grant recipients win four of the 11 Olympic medals earned by United States women and seven medals, four of them being gold, in the Paralympic Games.

2003

  • The Foundation helps lead a 12-month campaign with a coalition of more than 100 organizations to engineer grassroots demonstrations in seven cities to oppose the administration’s attempts to dismantle Title IX. Without these efforts, high school participation opportunities for women might have fallen by 163,000, college rates by 43,000 and as much as $103,000,000 might be lost in college athletic scholarships annually.

2004

  • The GoGirlGo! National Campaign to get one million inactive girls active and to keep one million active girls motivated to participate is launched. Obesity rates have doubled in children and tripled in adolescents over the last two decades. One in seven young people is obese and one in three is overweight. The Foundation is combating these health risks one girl at a time. Atlanta becomes the first GoGirlGo! community.
  • SuperWomen: 100 Women-100 Sports, is published. The book shows everyone that female athletes come in all races, ages and body types and that there is a sport for everyone.
  • The XXVIII Olympic Games is held in Athens, Greece. Seventeen Travel & Training Fund grant recipients compete for the United States, four of whom brought home medals in cycling, rowing, swimming and track & field.
  • The Foundation publishes the report, Her Life Depends On It: Sports, Physical Activity, and the Health and Well-Being of American Girls and Women, the first in this signature research series.

2005

  • Chicago becomes the second GoGirlGo! community project.

2006

  • San Antonio becomes the third GoGirlGo! community project
  • The Foundation publishes Women in the 2006 Olympic and Paralympic Winter Games: An Analysis of Participation, Leadership and Media Coverage. This report examined the extent to which both the international and U.S. sports communities provide equitable sports participation and leadership opportunities for women and assigned grades based on the assumption that men and women should have equal opportunities as athletes and leaders and be equally represented in media coverage.

2007

  • Boston becomes the fourth GoGirlGo! community project
  • The Foundation publishes “Who’s Playing College Sports: Trends in Participation.” It provided the most accurate and comprehensive examination of participation trends to date. Data from almost every higher education institution in the country was analyzed utilizing data and methods that are free of the shortcomings present in previous research on this subject.

2008

  • The Billie Jean King International Women’s Sports Hall of Fame opens on May 7th. The Center hosts the first induction ceremony for the International Women’s Sports Hall of Fame in its new home. The Sports Museum of America closed in 2009.

2009

  • The Rusty Kanokogi Fund for the Advancement of U.S. Judo is established by Richard Ader and administered by the Women’s Sports Foundation. This grant provides direct financial assistance to aspiring judo athletes with successful competitive records who have the potential to achieve even higher performance levels and rankings.
  • The Foundation publishes the research, Her Life Depends On It II: Sports, Physical Activity, and the Health and Well-Being of American Girls and Women.
  • The Foundation publishes, Women in the 2000, 2004 and 2008 Olympic and Paralympic Games: An Analysis of Participation, Leadership and Media Opportunities.

2010

  • The Foundation publishes, Women in the 2010 Olympic and Paralympic Winter Games: An Analysis of Participation, Leadership and Media Opportunities.
  • SHARP, the Sport, Health and Activity Research and Policy Center for Women and Girls, is established in 2010 as a partnership between the Women’s Sports Foundation and University of Michigan’s School of Kinesiology and the Institute for Research on Women & Gender. The SHARP Center between the Women’s Sports Foundation and the University of Michigan would exist from 2010 until 2013.
  • GoGirlGo! Seattle community is launched.

2011

  • The Foundation redesigns and launches a new website and newly created S.H.E. Network (Sports. Health. Education) blog is established.
  • The Foundation publishes, Progress Without Equity: The Provision of High School Athletic Opportunity in the United States, by Gender 1993-94 through 2005-06.
  • WSF’s award-wining curriculum GoGirlGo! is redesigned to reach three age groups: 5-7 year-olds, 8-10 year-olds, and 11-13 year-olds.

2012

  • The U.S. Department of State launches its Empowering Women and Girls Through Sports Initiative. WSF serves as a participant and a mentor as a part of the U.S. Department of State and espnW Global Sports Mentoring Program, which pairs female emerging leaders from around the globe with female senior executives at leading U.S. organizations in the sports sector for a month-long mentorship experience.
  • The Foundation publishes, The Decade of Decline: Gender Equity in High School Sports.
  • The SHARP Center, our collaboration with the University of Michigan, hosts the Title IX at 40 Conference on the Michigan campus in Ann Arbor, celebrating the 40th anniversary of the landmark legislation Title IX.

2013

  • The Foundation publishes the research, Women in the Olympic Games: An Analysis of Participation and Leadership Opportunities.
  • A study conducted by the Women’s Sports Foundation on behalf of the USTA Foundation (formerly USTA Serves), More than a Sport: Tennis, Education and Health, is released.
  • The International Olympic Committee selects the Foundation’s GoGirlGo! curriculum as a model for youth sports programs worldwide in their guide, “Get Moving: The IOC Guide to Managing Sport For All Programmes.

2014

  • In October 2014, the Women’s Sports Foundation, with support from espnW, launches “Sports 4 Life” a new, national grant program to increase participation and retention of African-American and Hispanic girls in sports.
  • In August, the Foundation announces the collective contribution of over $2 million from three major broadcasting companies including NBC Sports Group, ESPN and FOX Sports. The unprecedented, joint effort is a powerful testimony on the importance of women in broadcast and company leadership; it also speaks to the media’s critical role in creating, covering and shaping the stories of female athletes in sports.
  • The Foundation joins the advisory board at Aspen Institute Project Play Reimagining Youth Sports on August 1, 2014.

2015

  • On October 19, 2015, the Women’s Sports Foundation hosts the first-ever Athlete Leadership Connection, a full-day event dedicated to advancing and inspiring champion women athletes. The Connection is an opportunity for these athletes to gain exceptional insight and experience from sports and business industry leaders and is a direct result of feedback we received from athletes in 2014 at the President’s Athlete Welcome Dinner hosted by Angela Ruggiero, where athletes discussed topics of importance to their careers and beyond.
  • The Foundation’s national grant program Sports 4 Life awards $110,000 in funding to 22 grantees to serve more than 6,800 middle and high school girls across the nation it its first year.
  • The Dorothea Deitz Endowed Memorial Scholarship is established in 2015 by the Dorothea Deitz Memorial Scholarship Fund Board of Trustees and is administered by WSF to encourage young women in New York to pursue careers in the physical education teaching profession.
  • The “Hucles Rule” is adopted. It is a hiring guideline that states that an athlete must be interviewed for each WSF job opening. The Women’s Sports Foundation is an equal opportunity employer.

2016

  • The Foundation publishes its research, Beyond X’s & O’s: Gender Bias and Coaches of Women’s College Sports. This groundbreaking research is the first to compare both male and female coaches of women’s collegiate teams.
  • The Foundation launches and hosts the first “Candid Conversations,” a new series that builds on the Athlete Leadership Connection, an initiative aimed at providing champion and college athletes practical experiences and skills to advance in their athletic careers and in their transition post-competition.
  • The 30th annual National Girls & Women in Sports Day is celebrated February 3, 2016 to advocate and celebrate women and girls in sports. NGWSD Coalition representatives convene in a round-table meeting at the White House, attended by Senior Advisor to President Obama, Valerie Jarrett, and attend meetings with Office of the U.S. Surgeon General, the Office on Women’s Health, and leaders from the Office for Civil Rights.

 

The Foundation has a $4 million operating budget and offices in Nassau County, N.Y., and New York City.