IX AT 50: Brenda VanLengen gives a voice to women in sports

Published: Nov. 4, 2021 at 8:49 PM CDT
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June 23, 1972, President Nixon signed Title IX into law, prohibiting sex discrimination in educational institutions that receive federal funding. Title IX has largely been considered the springboard for high school and collegiate women’s sports to get where they are today — but the fight for equality is far from over. Every Thursday night at 10:00 p.m. leading up to the 50th anniversary of the law’s passing, 13 Sports will honor the women who changed the game for girls’ and women’s sports in Kansas.

“IX at 50: The Trailblazers of Women’s Sports in Kansas”

OLATHE, Kan. (WIBW) - Emmy Award-winning broadcaster Brenda VanLengen has been giving women in sports a voice since 1996.

“I’m really interested in promoting and advocating for women in sports and lifting up our stories,” VanLengen said. “Visibility is critical, because I believe that whether it’s men or women or children or whomever, once they go and actually watch a game in person and see the skill and see how hard the women work and see the competitiveness and the strategy and the fundamentals, they want to watch.”

She has always been a master of the Xs and Os — from her playing career at Nebraska-Kearney, to her five-years as an assistant coach at Nebraska.

“I love the strategy,” she said. “I love the decision-making, how to position yourself to beat your opponent.”

But it’s the stories, she says, she values most.

“I think when people get to know the stories of the girls and women that compete, they are more likely to want to cheer them on and support them,” VanLengen said. “That’s what I try to do in my television broadcasts is tell those stories. So as I’m calling the game, I’m pointing out how things happen, why they happen, the strategies, the skills that it took to get there, but I’m also blending in those stories so that people get to know them better, so that they’re more interested in they’re drawn to really supporting them and cheering them on.”

Her keen eye for the game, knack for storytelling and quick reaction on the call have been heard on ESPN’s NCAA Women’s Basketball Tournament games since ‘96, and on Big 12 women’s basketball games on Fox Sports for 22 seasons.

While she chronicles women’s college basketball as it happens, she’s also working on preserving its history. She’s currently working on a docuseries honoring the sport’s pioneers, If Not For Them.

“Generally in society, women were not only discouraged, but prevented from participating in sports,” VanLengen said. “The first opportunities really nationwide started happening in the seventies and into the eighties. So we’re very young in our history as far as having real opportunities.”

“They were the ones that really said, ‘Hey, I have had great benefit from playing sports all my life. I want this opportunity to be available for girls and women of the next generation,’” she continued. “They were the ones that made it happen. I just think it’s so important to know those stories and to share those stories of the women whose shoulders that we stand on.”

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