Are you wondering who said these two contrasting statements? No clue. Let me give you a few hints…
She’s a 4-time All-American while at Stanford; 3-time Olympic medalist; 2-time World Cup champion; a member of the U.S. Women’s National Soccer team , the National Soccer Hall of Fame, and the 2002 Title IX Commission on Opportunity in Athletes; plus, served as President of the Women’s Sports Foundation.
If you guessed Julie Foudy, then “ding, ding,” you are correct!
I had the pleasure of interviewing this “phenomenal role model and American icon for what she’s accomplished in women’s sports, as well as just women’s business and leadership.” Which is how Amy Love—Equal Rights Advocate’s (ERA) first Title IX client—described Julie prior to me sitting down with her. I must admit, it feels odd referring to this woman I’ve admired for years— starting as a 9- or 10-year old girl though my formative undergraduate years when my advocacy work for Title IX began—in such an informal way, yet this is the energy and presence she exudes—comfortable, confident, curious, and conscious.
In fact, as I introduced myself, it was clear the commonalities we shared:
Jillian (JR): I did an independent study in my undergrad creating a program called Backyards & Beyond…because I felt like my generation had no idea what it was.
Julie (JF): That’s what I’m going to talk about today.
(JR): That actually leads me to my first question, how are you feeling about today’s event and what message do you hope the audience takes away from your keynote?
(JF): Well, I’m totally pumped to be here for ERA because I just think the world of what they’re doing. We need groups like them…. When I read what they’re doing, I just think, “Ah, the world’s a better place because they exist.” When they asked me to come, I said, “Of course, I’ll come, it’s a great honor and that it’s the 40th anniversary of Title IX is huge.” It does sadden me that more kids don’t know what Title IX is and I don’t blame them. I just don’t understand why…it’s not more a part of the curriculum….I think it’s one of the most profound civil rights laws we’ve had in this country. And, the fact that kids don’t know about like they know about their civil rights pioneers in this county, I get a little bit madden by that and frustrated.
There you have it, one item on Julie Foudy’s self-proclaimed bucket list—getting Title in the K-12 curriculum. In the meantime, she shared with both the crowd of 600+ at ERA’s Annual Luncheon and I, “Title IX has been such a gift for me, the [U.S. Women’s soccer] team, my career, [which] why I will always advocate for girls playing sports.” This felt like a good transition to my next question, which was actually created by Haliee Kaliban—friend, former professional soccer player, and owner of City Gym.
(JR): How do you think Title IX has fostered the sisterhood experienced in women’s professional sports between the athletes and young women who hope to be them? For example, staying longer after the lights go off to sign little girls’ soccer balls, being accessible to the younger generation, etc. since you’ve really been known for this throughout your career?
(JF): That’s a great question! We’ve never taken it for granted. The fact that we have the opportunity to play at that level—[at the Olympics and professionally]—and the importance of being a female role model…I grew up when there weren’t many [female role models] you could watch on television, certainly not any soccer players. I grew up thinking I would be an eight foot tall Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, and I was 5-5, 5-6 on a good day. I wasn’t going to be a 300 pound lineman for the Los Angeles Rams, so those were kind of the guys I was watching.
We always felt with the [U.S. Soccer] National Team that here’s this wonderful opportunity to touch someone’s life and it doesn’t take a lot of time and to show them they could be out here someday, we got that. I think women athletes, in general still, even those who didn’t have to fight as hard for the right to play…still get it and don’t take it for granted and understand the value of touching a young girl’s life.
This understanding still resonates, as Julie took photos with admirers and fans, as well as signed programs, balls, etc. for anyone that asked, especially a young girl. Curious if her perspective of being a mom has changed or affected her advocacy work, I asked and she immediately lit-up and revealed:
JF): It’s great because I have one girl and one boy, so I have the full set. People ask, “do you want your daughter to play soccer or do you want your son to play?” Yes, of course, but really I just want them to play. I just want them to experience sport…, it’s not like I’m advocating more intensely (laughing).
(JF): I’ve always been a die-hard for playing sports, but it just makes me realize that I want Izzy, my five year old, to not only have the opportunity to play but to understand the historical perspective of it—that girls did not always have this opportunity and not to take it for granted. I just hope Izzy knows when mommy was playing, she played because of pioneers like Billie Jean King, Donna de Varona, Nancy Hogshead, ERA, and the National Women’s Law Center, the Women’s Sports Foundation, Senator Bayh, Patsy Mink, and all these people that are not household names and I think they should be when it comes to women’s sports.
(JR): Sounds like all great names to be included in that curriculum.
Nonetheless, there are still plenty of skeptics—pre- and post-Title IX, male and female, revenue sports and non-revenue sports. Some would even argue that Title IX is non longer relevant and should be updated. That led me to ask Julie, “how is Title IX still relevant and how would you respond to such an argument?”
(JF): I think it’s incredibly relevant and it gets a bad wrap. Unnecessarily so, because schools are escalating the funding they’re giving to certain programs and hoping to get a return. Unfortunately, over 80% don’t get a return and they pour millions and millions into football, basketball, or the higher revenue sports. I understand why, [yet] Title IX doesn’t dictate how they should spend their money. Don’t turn around and blame it on Title IX and use that as an excuse to not manage the budget well and not getting the return on your investment. Because of Title IX, they’re not able to cut the women’s sports. Unfortunately, which is something we never want to see, the men’s minor sports get cut to make more room for spending on the revenue sports because they can’t cut the women’s sports legally…I think it is still vital because there would be a lot less women’s teams at the collegiate level now, if it weren’t for Title IX. Unfortunately, that’s where collegiate sports at the Division I level are going. Where there’s just fewer and fewer [with the focus on revenue male-dominated sports]] instead of this broad based approach, which I think is sad to see.
I had to play the devil’s advocate for a moment, which then led me to a question that I had pondered since the release of the 2002 Commission on Opportunity in Athletics’ Minority Report by Donna De Varona and Julie Foudy. I asked,
(JR): How did it feel when you put that report out in the universe? What was your big hope and did it ultimately accomplished?
(JF): It was a bit nerve-racking actually because during that whole Commission we were the dissenting voice, and it was a rapid-fire tutorial on D.C. politics…But it was a great lesson for me on being okay with being the minority voice and having the courage and strength of conviction to say, “I know that there are all these people who think I’m nuts by saying this, but I know also that there are millions of young girls out there, dads and moms, that support what we are saying and there is value to what we are saying. When we [she and Donna] came out with the Minority Report, we were branded the problem children on that Commission, but it wasn’t for lack of effort and trying to incorporate [our voices] into the majority report…, we tried. I’m not just one to take a minority voice just to stir things up, but we just felt in the end, it [the Majority Report] didn’t get accomplished so we needed to do a report on our own.
Listening to Julie firsthand perspective was inspiring and reminded that the greatest power we each have is our voice. Yet in order to raise your voice, we each have our own way of making ourselves feel good or affirming our strengths. That said, my final question was what I call a “fun” one,
(JR): What do you say to yourself in the mirror when you need to feel amazing?
(JF): [Big laugh] You know that Saturday Night Live skit, “I’m good enough, I’m strong enough, and gosh darn it, people like me.”
(JR): Yep, absolutely. Because we all have those days, right?
(JF): Yeah, that’s a good one, what would I say in the mirror? You’re dead sexy.
(JF): No, I don’t know. I think I would say, “people like me.”
I find Julie’s response a perfect mix of each of our realities: what we tell ourselves (and hope) and what we know to be true. On this day (and everyday for that matter), honor both of thees realities and raise your voice for what you believe in!
~ One Love
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Big THANKS to Julie Foudy for sitting down to chat with me!!