On Thursday October 6th, the Texas A&M Women’s Basketball team was welcomed by President Barack Obama to the White House to celebrate their 2011 NCAA championship, in the Rose Garden. Fifty years ago, Texas A&M didn’t have any women -- much less a women’s basketball team. The President recognized the team for the tremendous accomplishment of winning their first national championship and the work they do giving back to their community, including a basketball clinic for local students.
Gary Blair reflects on his journey and the power of women in sports:
As a kid growing up in the world of sports, I tried to emulate my favorite professional athletes. I wanted to be my baseball heroes Willie Mays and Whitey Ford. As I grew older and my abilities waned, I asked myself, “What’s next?” For me, of course, it was coaching, and I was all-in. I was ready to make my mark coaching baseball. My plan was to start out in high school and head to the majors as quickly as I could. However, life is about adjusting to the opportunities that come your way.
I became a high school girls’ basketball coach because the girls asked me to be their coach – baseball could wait. 39 years later, I’m still coaching women’s basketball and I have the best job coaching women at an elite university, Texas A&M.
Title IX afforded me, and other men and women coaches, the opportunity to coach at this extraordinary level. Why should only male athletes and male coaches have all the fun? Willie Mays, Whitey Ford, John Wooden and Dean Smith are heroes and mentors all children should emulate just like Billy Jean King, Chris Evert, Pat Summitt, Leon Barmore, and Nancy Lieberman.
Women in sports have helped create many opportunities for women to excel in business, education, politics, and life in general. As a basketball team and coaching staff, we feel honored to represent Texas A&M, but to also represent all women and little girls who dream about being the best in whatever sport or profession they choose.
The American family is the best resource we have in America. Our athletic teams of distinction, such as Texas A&M women’s basketball, have played the game with skill and passion, have overcome adversity and have played well under pressure. We cannot promise you another national championship, but we can guarantee you we will defend our national championship like champions - with student-athletes of character and resolve, who will demonstrate the leadership skills and actions that others should emulate in order to be successful.
Gary Blair is the head coach of the Texas A&M Aggies Women’s Basketball team.
Avra Siegel is the Deputy Director of the White House Council on Women and Girls.