this week, Sportico Celebrating the fiftieth anniversary of Chapter Nine with columns of top women’s sports leaders. Today’s guest column is Cindy Barlow Kohn, president of the US Soccer Federation. JohnWallStreet returns on Monday.
When I was five, my mom enrolled me in ballet. I was so excited for. I went down the stairs in my clothes. And my soccer cleats! My mother gave me a shocked look and explained that I could not wear ballet shoes. I objected that my brothers could wear cleats to all their activities. In the end, we didn’t go to ballet. Needless to say, my mother later realized that there is no world where cleats are not part of my wardrobe.
Since I can remember, sports wasn’t just a passion, it was a thing in my life. Whether it was soccer, softball or basketball, if I wanted to play, I did it. I came to realize the opportunities that sport could provide – giving me a college education, the chance to travel the world and compete in tournaments. I also realized that I would not have been allowed to pursue my passion for sports if I had only been born a generation ago.
One. generation. earlier.
Title IX was in effect six short years before I was born, giving me and the other girls not just the option to play but the opportunity to dream.
I am the person and leader that I am today because of the opportunity to exercise. Being able to ride the first wave of Title IX has pushed me to the deep end of what’s been made available to men and boys ever since, forever. Sports being a part of my early life led to my undergraduate career at the University of North Carolina, propelling me onto the national and international stage. The ninth title allowed me to play my game until the Olympics and the World Cup.
The women’s football journey, sometimes arduous, has benefited greatly from Law IX and the leaders who have emerged as torchbearers. The ninth title, through its impact on college sports, gave the United States a strong start in women’s football and helped propel the US women’s national team to four FIFA World Cup titles and four Olympic gold medals. I believe the success of our women’s national team has proven, both in this country and around the world, that when equal opportunities and investments are made, women always rise to the occasion.
Even after hanging up my cleats, I’m still using what I learned on and off the field, which eventually cemented the skills needed to grow my coaching career, and my current role as President of American Football.
In this role, I see for myself the legacy of Title IX. I am forever indebted to the pioneering women who struggled for a reality they could never realize themselves, and I am inspired by the current generation of players and coaches who continue to push for progress and challenge us all to think bigger and better.
I am proud that we are the first country in the world to work alongside our men’s and women’s national teams to achieve full equality in compensation, including World Cup prize money! While it has taken us a long time to get to this place, the USWNT, USMNT and the United States Soccer Federation are very excited that we were able to come together and finalize this historic deal. While the moment is a moment we will all remember, what makes me most happy is the opportunities it will provide for the future. We are fully committed to investing in the women’s game, and this will lead to increased fan interest and sponsorship opportunities, all while sharing an important message of equality.
While there are many successes to point out, there are also reminders everywhere of how far we still have to go. I’m going to feel like we really arrived when things like equal pay and equal support for women and girls were, not just in football, not just in the States, but around the world, It is no longer a question. We will be successful when equal investments are made at youth, university, professional and international levels.
Besides sports, we need to keep pushing for equality in education, business and society. I hope my 4-year-old son and the rest of his generation will appreciate people based on what they bring to the field, not by their gender or any other identifier. After all, we all wear cleats.
Cindy Barlow Cohn is the first female president of American football, the second inductee of the National Football Hall of Fame and the first woman to hold the position who played for a major national team in the United States.