Title IX Helped Forge a U.S. Soccer Legacy That Continues Today

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This week, Sportico is commemorating the 50th anniversary of Title IX with columns from top women’s sports leaders. Today’s guest columnist is Cindy Parlow Cone, president of the U.S. Soccer Federation. JohnWallStreet returns on Monday.

When I was 5 years old, my mom signed me up for ballet. I was excited. I flew down the stairs in my leotard. And, my soccer cleats! My mother gave me a look of shock and explained that I couldn’t wear cleats to ballet. I protested that my brothers could wear cleats to all their activities. Ultimately, we didn’t go to ballet. Needless to say, my mother later understood that there was no world in which cleats would not exist as part of my wardrobe.

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Since I can remember, sports have been not only a passion, but a given in my life. Be it soccer, softball or basketball, if I wanted to play, I could and I did. I came to realize the opportunities that sports could provide—allowing me a college education, a chance to travel the world and compete in championships. I also came to understand that I would not have been allowed to pursue my passions for sports had I been born just one generation earlier.

One. Generation. Earlier.

Title IX was in place six short years before I was born, providing me and other girls not only the option to play but the opportunity to dream.

I am the person and leader I am today because of the opportunity to play sports. Being able to ride the first wave of Title IX threw me into the deep end of what men and boys had been afforded since, well, forever. Having sports be a part of my early life led to a college career at the University of North Carolina, which catapulted me onto the national and international stage. Title IX allowed me to play my game all the way to the Olympics and World Cup.

The journey of women’s soccer, arduous at times, has benefited greatly from Title IX and the leaders who emerged as its torchbearers. Title IX, through the impact it has had on college sports, gave the United States a jump-start in women’s soccer and has helped propel the U.S. 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 provided with equal opportunities and investment, women always rise to the occasion.

Even after hanging up my cleats, I continue to use what I learned on and off the field, which ultimately nurtured the skills needed to cultivate a career in coaching, and my current role as U.S. Soccer President.

In this role, I see firsthand the legacy of Title IX. I am forever indebted to the trailblazing women who fought for a reality they were never able to realize themselves, and I am inspired by the current generation of players and coaches who continue pushing for progress and challenging us all to think bigger and better.

I am proud that we are the first country in the world to work together with our Men’s and Women’s National Teams to fully equalize compensation, including World Cup prize money! While it took us too long to get to this spot, the USWNT, USMNT and the U.S. Soccer Federation are all incredibly excited that we were able to come together and finalize this historic deal. While the moment is one we will all remember, what I’m most excited about is the opportunities it will create for the future. We’re fully committed to investing in the women’s game, and that will drive more fan interest and sponsorship opportunities, all while sharing the important message of equality.

While there are many successes to point to, there are also reminders everywhere of how far we still have to go. I will feel like we’ve truly arrived when things like equal pay and equal support for women and girls not just in soccer, not just in the U.S., but around the world, are no longer a question. We will be successful when equal investments are being made at the youth, college, professional and international levels.

Beyond sports, we need to continue the push for equality in education, business and society. I hope that my 4-year-old son and the rest of his generation will value people based on what they bring to the field, and not by their gender or any other identifier. After all, we all wear cleats.

Cindy Parlow Cone is first female president of U.S. Soccer, the second sitting National Soccer Hall of Fame inductee and the first to hold the position who played for a senior U.S. National Team.

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