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Snider graduate Tiffany Gooden, right, gives Iowa teammate Malikah Willis a hug in this 1998 photo.

40 years of Title IX great start for equality

As a Fort Wayne native who grew up in the Title IX era, I was blessed to have the opportunity to compete in several sports such as soccer, track, baseball, softball, basketball and volleyball.

Thanks to Title IX (and my parents, of course), those experiences were available to me, just like they were to my male counterparts.

As such, I gained the benefit of learning at an early age the importance of hard work, commitment, sacrifice, time management, communication, goal setting, teamwork and several other transferable life skills that many student-athletes learn through their participation in sports.

As a former high school, collegiate and professional athlete, I appreciate the positive vision that others had before me that led to the enactment of Title IX. Had it not been for that landmark legislation, I may not have been able to attend the University of Iowa on full athletic scholarship while pursing my long-term goal of becoming an attorney.

Yes, I acknowledge that even without Title IX, I probably would have still attended college and graduated with honors in large part because of the wonderful role models I had (and still have) in my mother, the wise and compassionate educator, and my dad, the hardest working man and most committed father and husband I had ever known.

However, the aforementioned academic-only scenario would not have included the unique, life-altering experiences I ultimately was so blessed to have, such as competing for and winning multiple Big Ten championships, playing in front of packed crowds in college and professional arenas, earning a spot on a USA Basketball team and traveling throughout Japan as a part of the Big Ten’s overseas tour, which included the opportunity to help raise money for the 1995 earthquake victims of Kobe, Japan.

Those types of experiences, along with a host of others too numerous to list here, have left indelible imprints on my mind, which I have carried with me throughout my academic and professional journeys as well as my journey as a wife and mother.

Does all of this mean that Title IX has been the proverbial “end all, be all” of educational and athletic equality? No, but it’s a great 40-year start.

I cannot imagine how my life would have been growing up as a young girl without the belief that I could achieve anything to which I set my mind, both on and off the court. Title IX has helped to level the playing field and promote equal educational, athletic and professional opportunities for females.

Opportunity plus preparation equals success in most cases. Now, because of Title IX, girls and boys are better equipped to navigate life’s challenges and more prepared to succeed.

Thankfully, I live in a world in which my 2-year-old son and his preschool classmates will ultimately have a more full appreciation of the positive evolution of women in this society and respect the many hats we wear as business, community, educational and spiritual leaders, athletes, wives and mothers.

I hope that my little guy will be proud of whatever role his mom has played in that positive evolution.

Tiffany L. Gooden, a founding partner at Hall & Gooden LLP law firm in Fort Wayne and president of the Fort Wayne Sports Corp., is a Snider graduate. She is a former Indiana Miss Basketball and played basketball in college and professionally.