34th Annual Salute to Women in Sports – A Grand Celebration for a Grand Year in Sports

34th Annual Salute to Women in Sports – A Grand Celebration for a Grand Year in Sports

By: Natalie Mikolich

Recently holding their 34th Annual Salute to Women in Sports, the Women’s Sports Foundation (WSF) – a leader in promoting sports, health and education for girls and women – put on the greatest celebration of the year recognizing women in sports at the Cipriani Wall Street . All of the event’s proceeds benefitted their grants, advocacy, research and educational programs for women and girls.

A star-studded line-up was in attendance again this year to honor the most accomplished women and girls in sports and included WSF Founder, Billie Jean King, along with WSF President Angela Ruggiero, award-winning ESPN sports broadcaster and event host, Hannah Storm.  High-profile athletes in attendance included Missy Franklin (Swimming), Michelle Kwan (Figure Skating), Annika Sorenstam (Golf), Julie Foudy (Soccer), Tatyana McFadden (Track & Field) and Diana Nyad (Swimming).

This year’s Women’s Sports Foundation’s coveted 2013 Sportswoman of the Year award was given to Missy Franklin (Swimming) for an individual sport while Candace Parker (Basketball) received the award for a team sport.

“Tonight we saw once again how important it is for us to continue to do more for future generations,” said Women’s Sports Foundation Founder, Billie Jean King, about this year’s grand event for a grand year in sports for women.

Just prior to the Annual Salute to Women in Sports getting underway in October, we had the opportunity to connect with a representative from their organization who provided us more information about the Women Sports Foundation on why it was started and how they are making a difference in sports for females.

Here are a few of the questions from our conversation with the Women’s Sports Foundation:

1.Can you tell us why the Foundation was started and describe what the Foundation strives to achieve on and on-going basis?
Founded in 1974 by tennis legend Billie Jean King, she was looking to make social changes for women on and off the field and working to improve gender equality in sports for females. Starting with $5,000 from her Virginia Slims tournament prize money, she was able to donate her earnings to any organization she wanted to but didn’t come across anything that helped improve gender equality for women in sports so therefore decided to create the Women Sports Foundation.

The Women Sports Foundation is now dedicated to advancing the lives of girls and women through sports and physical activity.

“We want to equal the playing field for men and women in sports and athletes,” said a Women Sports Foundation representative.

2.What are some of your current programs and activities that support your Foundations goals and who are they aimed for to have an impact on?

GoGirlGo!
At a grassroots level, Physical Education programs have been getting cut back on because they are becoming too expensive to pay for things they need like equipment and traveling (especially teams in urban and rural areas) so we are focusing on reaching girls in underserved communities through our GoGirlGo! national program where they might not have safe places to place sports or opportunities to participate because it is too expensive.  We also focus on communities and cities where girls are more obese and overweight (such as NYC , Chicago, Atlanta and San Antonio) through GoGoGirl  national program and have people on ground in these areas.

So far, the GoGirlGo! program has reached over one million girls and provided more than $5 million in funding to girl-serving organizations that support sports and physical activity programming.

Travel & Training Fund:
We were the first (and still the only) charitable organization to offer grants to aspiring women athletes with elite potential. Between 1984 and 2004, we awarded 1,200 grants to more than 950 aspiring women athletes. Many of these women went on to capture national championships and Olympic medals, including figure skaters Michelle Kwan and Kristi Yamaguchi, alpine skier Picabo Street and gymnast Kerri Strug among many others. The Travel & Training Fund provides direct financial assistance to aspiring athletes – in individual and team sports - with successful competitive records who have the potential to achieve even higher performance and rankings. Travel & Training grants allow serious female athletes a chance to fulfill their potential on the regional, national or international level through assistance for coaching, specialized training, equipment, athletic attire, and/or travel.

Advocacy Program:
Forty years after the passage of Title IX, women athletes lag behind their male peers in every measurable criteria. During 2011-2012, females were provided over 63,000 fewer college sports participation opportunities than males and received $183 million less in annual athletic scholarship funds. The Women’s Sports Foundation is helping institutions adopt new legal precedents along with athletes and their families eliminate some of the long-standing gaps between men’s and women’s athletics.

“Our advocacy program looks to keep our policy strong, but also works on gender equality and protecting athletes’ rights,” said a Women Sports Foundation representative.

Research:
All of our work done is evidence based.  In 2010 the Women’s Sports Foundation teamed up with the University of Michigan to establish the Women's Sports, Health and Activity Research and Policy Center (SHARP) Goals that include supporting evidence-based public debates and policies that help eliminate obstacles girls and women face in sports participation

3.How does the Annual Salute to Women in Sports Gala support the Foundation and what do you look to accomplish at the Gala every year?
The Annual Salute to Women in Sports Gala is our biggest fundraiser every year to honor the most accomplished women and girls in sports while inspiring others.

“The Women’s Sports Foundation’s mission is simple – we are dedicated to creating leaders by ensuring all girls have access to sport, and the Annual Salute to Women in Sports event brings together advocates from Fortune 100 Corporations to passionate individuals who share that mission with us.” shared Women’s Sports Foundation CEO, Kathryn Olson in their post-event press release. “The Annual Salute is an important component in not only spreading awareness of our mission but also increasing support for our work to ensure all girls have the chance to play.”

“When the organization was founded 39 years ago we envisioned events like tonight's dinner where we would celebrate the world's greatest women athletes and renew our commitment to Title IX and health,” said Women’s Sports Foundation Founder, Billie Jean King, about the 34th Annual Salute to Women in Sports. “Tonight we saw once again how important it is for us to continue to do more for future generations.”

4.How does PR support your Foundation and Annual Gala?
Public Relations is important for the work we do as a non-profit organization educating the  public.  Informing the public is a big part of what we do including things like the 40th Anniversary of Title IX that is also a good time for WSF to engage in the conversation and talk about Title IX as well.  Through our social media, website and working with the press, it is a way to shape our messages and get stories out there…not only to tell others about the work we do, but get more support and help the growth of girls and women in sports.

At the Annual Salute to Women in Sports Gala, on the red carpet there are 50 of the top female athletes in attendance who will cross the red carpet and talk to the media about their accomplishments and help others understand the event is not only to uplift and highlight women in sports, but also share where we are and how far we still need to go.  The more support they can get through the media exposure, the more girls and athletes we can help around the country.

5.For females looking to work in or be involved in sports, what would you like them to know about opportunities for females in general these days and also in the sports industry? Do you see any correlation between females playing sports to those working in sports?
Our Gala shows that anything is possible.  We look at amazing feats of women, or how someone is breaking a record we never thought was possible, and  we encourage girls to be whatever they want to be because the only thing holding them back is their self belief .There are many things girls learn from playing sports like team work, perseverance, if you fall you have to get back up and if fail you have to move on which are all important in work and life

 

PHOTO CREDITS:
NEW YORK, NY - OCTOBER 16: ESPN sports journalist Hannah Storm speaks onstage at the 34th annual Salute to Women In Sports Awards at Cipriani, Wall Street on October 16, 2013 in New York City. (Photo by Michael Loccisano/Getty Images for the Women's Sports Foundation)

NEW YORK, NY - OCTOBER 16: Women's Sports Foundation CEO Kathryn Olson speaks onstage during the 34th annual Salute to Women In Sports Awards at Cipriani, Wall Street on October 16, 2013 in New York City. (Photo by Michael Loccisano/Getty Images for the Women's Sports Foundation)

NEW YORK, NY - OCTOBER 16: (L-R) Sasha DiGiulian, Nastia Liukin and Sarah Hughe attend the 34th annual Salute to Women In Sports Awards at Cipriani, Wall Street on October 16, 2013 in New York City. (Photo by Mike Coppola/Getty Images for the Women's Sports Foundation)

NEW YORK, NY - OCTOBER 16: Figure skater Michelle Kwan and Bryant Gumbel onstage during the 34th annual Salute to Women In Sports Awards at Cipriani, Wall Street on October 16, 2013 in New York City. (Photo by Michael Loccisano/Getty Images for the Women's Sports Foundation)

NEW YORK, NY - OCTOBER 16: (L-R) Grete Eliassen and Aimee Mullins present Olympic gold medalist Missy Franklin with the Individual Sports Woman of the Year Award onstage during the 34th annual Salute to Women In Sports Awards at Cipriani, Wall Street on October 16, 2013 in New York City. (Photo by Michael Loccisano/Getty Images for the Women's Sports Foundation)

NEW YORK, NY - OCTOBER 16: (L-R) Women's Sports Foundation CEO Kathryn Olson, Womens Sports Foundation Founder Billie Jean King and ESPN sports journalist Hannah Storm attend the 34th annual Salute to Women In Sports Awards at Cipriani, Wall Street on October 16, 2013 in New York City. (Photo by Michael Loccisano/Getty Images for the Women's Sports Foundation)

NEW YORK, NY - OCTOBER 16: (L-R) Former Olympic soccer player Julie Foudy, Women's Sports Foundation CEO Kathryn Olson and Former professional tennis player Mary Carillo attend the 34th annual Salute to Women In Sports Awards at Cipriani, Wall Street on October 16, 2013 in New York City. (Photo by Michael Loccisano/Getty Images for the Women's Sports Foundation)