41 years ago today in San Mateo, California, our visionary founder Billie Jean King signed the papers that made us officially the Women’s Sports Foundation. Since that May day in 1974, we’ve been the passionate guardians of Title IX, we’ve given millions of dollars in grants to athletes of every level, we’ve lobbied on Capitol Hill for equal opportunities in sports for girls and women and we’ve celebrated the inspiring accomplishments of incredible champions at our Annual Salute. While we think every day is a perfect one to support our work that shapes girls with dreams into leaders with vision, today is an extra-special one. Keep reading for four (plus one bonus!) reasons to celebrate our 41st birthday with a gift to our needle-moving Advocacy efforts, our groundbreaking Research initiatives or our powerful programs – wherever it is that your passion lies.
1.We give a voice to the voiceless and we never stay quiet when we see inequities happening. Billie Jean founded the WSF as a platform to stand on when speaking out about the pay disparities between female and male professional tennis players in the early 1970s. In that spirit, we are first and foremost a vocal advocate for girls and women in sports and sports leadership. Our most recent focus has been on female coaches who continue to lose their jobs under suspect circumstance.
2. Our Research fuels the fires of national conversation around important topics for girls and women in sports. To date, we’ve released 44 groundbreaking reports that range from a close look at female athletic participation in the Olympic Games to an examination of the effects children playing sports has on the wellbeing and happiness of American families. Our evidence-based research drives our programs, is cited in Congressional testimony and legal cases that support enforcement of Title IX and is widely used among sport, governmental and community-based organizations to set health and well-being policies and law.
3. For 36 of our 41 years, we’ve honored inspiring champions, unmatched courage and the important contributions of individuals and companies alike. For the Sportswoman of the Year award winners and those we honor with our Wilma Rudolph Courage and Billie Jean King Contributions Awards, our Annual Salute to Women in Sports is an unforgettable, life-defining event. For our guests, the gala has been called “amazing” and “inspiring.” And for every female athlete, the Annual Salute continues to share those chill-inducing stories that aren't always making the front page — but should.
4. We saw a dire need for increased sports opportunities for girls of color and created a program to address that need. Sports 4 Life, our program with espnW that specifically works to increase sport opportunities for girls of color, is an investment in the future of African-American and Hispanic girls. Sports 4 Life recruits and retains girls by enabling organizations around the country to makes sports accessible while imparting four foundational benefits of sports: leadership, self-esteem, confidence, and perseverance.
And a special 41st birthday bonus reason: In the coming week, we will release the third in a series of landmark studies that point to physical activity and sport as fundamental solutions for many of the serious health and social problems faced by American Girls. Stay tuned for our exciting announcement — you won't want to miss it.