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    Sunday, September 25, 2022

    A day to celebrate women in sports ... and raise awareness, too

    It has been suggested that silence is an elusive document, impossible to verify or quote. And that used to be the accompaniment for girls' and women's sports: silence. And what's worse than the hollowness of being ignored?

    Maybe that's the true genius of Title IX after all: You must get people listening before you change their minds.

    Wednesday marks another triumph of Title IX: National Girls and Women in Sports Day. No parades, no telethons, no seminal moments. Just a day to raise awareness and listen to the roar of the revolution from the daughters of Title IX.

    "Out of anything else besides my family, sports have had the biggest impact on my life," Morgan Tuck, the forward for the Connecticut Sun and former UConn great was saying Tuesday. "I don't know what life is like without them. Sports have allowed us to get a crazy number of opportunities. I've traveled all over with USA Basketball. I would never have gone to those places. I've built lifelong friendships. I was able to go to school for free. Graduate with no debt. Some of my other friends who didn't play would talk about finding ways to pay for their books. I just picked them up at the co-op. Sports made my life a lot easier."

    And there, in 116 words, Morgan Tuck illustrated how decades of systematic exclusion have gone poof. Girls and women have a place now in athletics. And they benefit from the enduring lessons, not the least of which is the relationship between sports and a young girl's self-esteem.

    "Growing up, I was always the tallest in my class. As a girl, you don't want that," Tuck said. "You don't want to be bigger than all the boys in your class. For me, I always had pretty low self-esteem growing up. But in basketball, I loved it. I loved being tall. Loved my body type. When you are playing and successful, you think, 'well maybe how I look is fine.'

    "Social life is not that easy. After a UConn game, I met a mom and her daughter who was an eighth grader with my height. She said her daughter didn't have a lot of self-esteem. I told her that how you're made is how you're supposed to be made. You don't have to pick the mold of the average person to be accepted."

    Is there a more powerful message for a young girl — and anyone for that matter — to absorb?

    Surely, the idea of "National Girls and Women in Sports Day" will be met with a dismissive wave from the "who cares?" crowd. Or better, the clods who want to know why there's not a "National Boys and Men in Sports Day." This is what happens when your frame of reference comes from the privilege of the majority.

    "There's not a need to bring attention to boys and men in sports because they get all the attention anyway. Every day is their day," Tuck said. "It's nice to have the day for women and girls, but at the same time, you wish you didn't need it to bring awareness to it. You wish it was already there."

    Happily, it is. And the revolution grows. One look at The Day sports section on Tuesday would have showed a female athlete as a rallying point for the athletic program at St. Bernard. They filled the gym Monday night, many with signs, to watch basketball player Caitlyn Dittman break the school scoring record.

    Imagine: a female athlete as The Show. Wasn't always like that.

    "A lot of UConn fans I talk to who are a little older talk about when they played," Tuck said. "Three on offense, three on defense. I can't even imagine. When I was born it wasn't like that. It wasn't even, but not that drastic. My aunt played at Delaware State. She's been able to come to drafts and Final Fours and says 'Oh my God, this is like my dream.' Those things weren't there for her."

    Girls and women have an outlet of expression now that hasn't always been there. The power of the fields and courts are boundless. Bravo to Tuck to use her influence to trumpet the message.

    "People get this image now of what they're supposed to look like because of social media," she said. "I talk to girls all the time and tell them 'just be yourself.' That's what I want girls to understand. There's no such thing as what you have to look like or what you're supposed to be doing. I want more girls to understand that you don't have to do what someone else is doing and be a follower."

    In other words: join the revolution.

    This is the opinion of Day sports columnist Mike DiMauro

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