[Pictured above left to right: Lyn St. James with First Lady Barbara Bush at the White House to celebrate National Girls & Women in Sports Day in 1992.]
National Girls & Women in Sports Day (NGWSD) began in 1987 as a special day in our nation’s capital to recognize women’s sports. The day united premiere organizations and elite female athletes to bring national attention to the promise of girls and women in sports. NGWSD has since evolved into an event acknowledging the accomplishments of female athletes, the positive influence of sports participation and the continuing struggle for equality for women in sports.
This year marks the 30th annual National Girls & Women in Sports Day. Lyn St. James, a seven-time Indianapolis 500 driver and former WSF President, was present for the first, along with many other, NGWSD celebrations in Washington, D.C. She took the time to chat with us and share the memories she holds dear and why she feels NGWSD is an important day for our nation to celebrate.
What was it like to be at the very first National Girls and Women in Sports Day in Washington, D.C. in 1987?
It was my first time being in Washington, D.C., not just as a tourist there to see sites and such. We were visiting but we had access to the halls of Congress and a number of different areas. NGWSD was the first time I got to meet the President or be in the Oval Office. The importance of being able to be inside the halls of Congress and go down those hallways and be in the offices of our representatives and talk about Title IX and have people talk about it in the media was huge. When you’re able to have a face-to-face you really feel like you’ve accomplished something. I felt the most impactful by being able to truly communicate the importance of Title IX and the importance of girls and women in sport. It just really felt good.
What is your most meaningful memory from a National Girls & Women in Sports Day that you have attended in D.C.?
When I was President of the Women’s Sports Foundation, I actually received the flag that flew over the White House from Senator Bill Bradley. I still have that flag. Obviously, meeting all of the Presidents, First Ladies and members of government over the years was incredible, too. Just tremendous opportunities and memories. Getting the flag from Senator Bradley though, was a surprise. I didn’t know that was coming and so that was just very a meaningful memory.
This year will be the 30th annual NGWSD. What is the significance of this day to you?
One of the more significant parts of National Girls & Women in Sports Day is that it’s a collaboration of the Women’s Sports Foundation with other girls and women-serving organizations. There are other organizations out there that we lock arms with to spread the message of women and girls in sports and Title IX. It’s an impactful way of implementing change.
Having been a part of NGWSD from the beginning, what are some strides you’ve seen made for women and girls in sports that you find particularly powerful?
I think the thing that is the most rewarding is just the huge numbers. We continue to make that our message. Because of Title IX the increase of girls and women playing sports of all ages has grown and that’s impactful. The proof is in the pudding. So that’s great to see. There are all these girls out there who want to participate so how can anyone question that this is an important thing because it is.
The other piece of it is to encourage other states and other cities throughout the whole month and timeframe to pick up the ball and create NGWSD programs and luncheons and other events to celebrate and get involved. It’s a great opportunity to piggy-back off of what’s happening with our national government.