(Billie Jean King, myself, my sister Jessica at the athlete welcome dinner prior to the 2011 Annual Salute to Women in Sports Gala)
I often find myself telling people to let the past be the past. I encourage people to move towards the future while not losing sight of the present, because unfortunately too many of us get stuck in the past. However, I strongly believe that we must also always allow ourselves to look back to the past and reflect. We must reflect on the lessons learned, cherish the memories, and most importantly have an appreciation for our past. So often we look towards the future and we want more, we dream for better, we wish the present away without even realizing it and in that we lose sight of not only the present, but our past all together. Our past in no way defines us, it is simply our starting point, but in order to appreciate our future we must always remain humble in our past.
May 2, 1974, the day that Billie Jean King started something that may have in the moment felt like nothing more than a vision for the future, a dream for better, but 40 years later what was started that day has turned into a piece of history for millions of women all around the world. Now I can’t speak for her as to what motivated her to start the Women’s Sports Foundation, but after meeting her and having the opportunity to be apart of the Annual Salute to Women in Sports three years in a row, I can only imagine that what was started 40 years ago today was just that, a vision for the future, and a dream for better.
As a female athlete myself athletics have shaped me, they have taught me courage, bravery, self-esteem, confidence, and simply put… athletics have built me to be the woman I am today. Swimming is my main passion as I have swam since I was a little girl, but that is the point, ever since I can remember girls had access to athletics where I grew up. I swam because I wanted to, because my two older sisters swam and I wanted to follow in their footsteps, but I had choices, I could have played any sport I wanted. I grew up with access and opportunity to participate in athletics because of individuals like Billie Jean King, and organizations like the Women’s Sports Foundation, but to me it was normal, it was what I knew. That is why today I am choosing to appreciate the past and look back, because too often we take those opportunities for granted.
I grew up incredibly fortunate, my parents could afford to encourage my sisters and I to participate in athletics, my parents valued the importance of athletics in our lives, and I had access to athletics. Those are all things that girls all over the country are still fighting for, not to mention the world. There is still inequality in our lives; professional female athletes are still payed less then male athletes, in certain parts of the country girls are still denied the same access to athletics that boys have, and young girls are faced with the pressures of society. But, today, it is about appreciating our past, knowing that we are all where we are because somebody that came before us helped pave the road. It is a humbling moment when you sit back and realize not a single one of us got here alone, the path was paved for us, and now it is up to us to continue to pave the path, not for just ourselves but for the next generation.
So here is a cheers to Billie Jean King, the Women’s Sports Foundation and all of the individuals that continue to inspire, motivate, and advocate for the women of our future. Wishing the Women’s Sports Foundation a very happy 40th Birthday, and feeling grateful for the courageous women that came before me and have paved the way for myself and millions more to have the opportunities we have. You have inspired us to do our part to continue to pave the way for the next generation and inspired us to continue dreaming for better for those that follow us.