IX AT 50: Becker advocates for next small-town girl with big dreams in sports
“Let’s continue. Let’s be persistent. Let’s not back off. Let’s keep pushing for better.”
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”
LAWRENCE, Kan. (WIBW) - As a young girl growing up in the early 1970s, opportunities in sports were limited for Theresa Becker.
“You’re talking about a small town girl that was not introduced to any formal kind of competition or athletic opportunity until junior high,” Becker said.
So, when she got to college fresh off of Title IX’s passing, it was in her words, “like a candy store.”
“Literally, my freshman year in college, I double sported in every season,” she said.
That’s six sports.
It wasn’t perfect, but it was a start.
“We were buying our jerseys, we were buying our own shirts, having our own numbers put on them,” she remembered. “We were cutting off our jeans to wear in competition, sneaking additional food out of the dormitory so that we would had something to eat on our road trip. And we were packing multiple kids in hotel rooms if we had to stay overnight, you know, but no regrets. I mean, it was either that or not have an opportunity.”
Becker didn’t hang up her athletic career after college.
“I had a teammate my junior year in college that was a member of the national women’s team handball squad, and she basically recruited me,” she said. “She said, ‘You know, I think you should come to a tryout.’”
After five years on the national team, she transitioned to college coaching: first at Furman in South Carolina, then later as associated head women’s basketball coach at Nebraska and head coach at Iowa State.
“The coach definitely is the voice,” Becker said. “She is the advocate. She is the representative of her young women.”
Becker would touch every area of college athletics over her career: in coaching, compliance at Nebraska, and compliance and academics at the University of Kansas — all while ensuring other small town girls with big dreams have the best opportunities to make them come true.
“When the commitment to both sides is there, then everyone is rewarded. Everyone rises higher,” she said. “There obviously are some still some issues, but overall, certainly the opportunities are certainly much greater now for for the girls and young women.”
“Let’s continue,” Becker continued. “Let’s be persistent. Let’s not back off. Let’s keep pushing for better. Let’s keep pushing for quality.”
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