Bryn Mawr alumna continues to crusade for sportswomen
By biconews On 22 Feb, 2000 At 05:00 AM | Categorized As Archives | With 0 Comments

By Tracey Posluszny

After graduating from Bryn Mawr last May, field hockey player and history major Libby Sander went on to intern for the Women’s Sports Foundation where she sought to play an influential role in the development of women’s sports.

Sander’s participation in an internship at the 1996 Summer Olympic Games in Atlanta fueled her interest in women’s sports. At Bryn Mawr, she and three other students worked closely with President of the United States Field Hockey Association and former Bryn Mawr Athletic Director Jen Shillingford, to ensure that all the appropriate preparations were made for the Olympic field hockey games. Through this experience, Sander gained an enlightened perspective on women in sports. “I didn’t know women could play sports like that,” noted Sander.

Since then, her interest in women’s sports has grown. She continued to play field hockey for the rest of her duration at Bryn Mawr as well as participated on Bryn Mawr’s Athletic Association and the Centennial Conference’s Student Advisory Committee. She also served on the NCAA Division III interpretations and legislature committee for three years. But it was her internship with the Women’s Sports Foundation that gave her a “broader understanding of all the issues [surrounding women in sports],” says Sander.

Not having a set plan after graduation, Sander began looking on the Internet for possible job placements, keeping her interest in women’s athletics not far from hand. She soon stumbled upon the Women’s Sports Foundation, where she spent from May to November working as the Advocacy Intern.

The Women’s Sports Foundation, established in 1974 by Billie Jean King, Donna de Varona, and other champion female athletes, is a national nonprofit, educational, member-based organization located in Long Island, New York. It serves “to promote the lifelong participation of all girls and women in sports and fitness, and to create an educated public that encourages females’ participation and supports gender equality.”

As an Advocacy Intern, Sander was responsible from responding to all telephone, mail and email requests for information that related to Title IX and other gender equity situations in women’s sports. There is both a business line and an 800 hotline that people can call with concerns ranging from “blisters on their heels from their running shoes” to unfair treatment in the school system. Sander dealt with both ends.

Rarely was a controversy settled with one call. Nonetheless, Sander look people through the motions that they otherwise would have not been able to do on their own. This involved explaining Title IX to them, trying to devise a strategy, and if necessary planning to write a letter from the Foundation addressed to the local school board, or whatever institution was not abiding by Title IX restrictions. Through such outlined, organized procedures positive changes could arise. Sander learned that “being antagonistic is never the way to go … being educational is a billion times better.” So, it was Sander’s role to educate people about Title IX, in particular.

Title IX is a Federal law passed by Congress and signed by the President in 1972 that prohibits sex discrimination. While it is often applied to sports, the law also extends into the classroom and beyond, covering “any program, organization, or agency that receives Federal education dollars.” Noncompliance with Title IX can result in a “cut-off of all Federal funds.”

Since Title IX was enacted, men’s sports at some institutions have suffered cut backs, or have been cut completely. However, Sanders says, “[it is not a direct result of Title IX, but because] schools don’t make the right decision in budgeting.” Nonetheless, many Title IX groups exist.

Another part of her advocacy work involved a letter writing campaign to Congress, making them aware of these anti-Title IX groups.

Her experience with the Women’s Sports Foundation is one that she will have with her forever. Sander is proud to have done her part “to help women get ahead.” Now she plans to take some time off to relax, after which she will begin her job search. Sander hopes to explore other areas of interest while keeping women’s sports close to her heart. She is particularly interested in learning more about other non-profit organizations like the Foundation. Before going to bed each night, she wants to be able to “put [her] finger on how [she] has helped people.”

With women’s sports on the rise, Sander hopes that more young women will recognize and address their potential in the world of sports. It is “a tough battle … but girls deserve a fair chance in sports … [There are] so many other girls and women that have been struggling against barriers since day one.” To these girls, she would simply say, “Stick to [your] guns.”

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