Because of Title IX: Shonna Brown

Executive Associate Commissioner, America East Conference

Finish this sentence: “Because of Title IX..."

I had a safe place to go to after school each day, as my life wasn’t always sunshine and rainbows. I joined my first basketball and track team when I was seven years old—nowadays folks call that a late bloomer! As a basketball player in my teenage years, I found my external voice encouraging and leading teams. As a distance runner, I found my peace and learned to listen to the voice within. When I was competing, the rest of the world did not matter. During practices and competitions, the only person that could stop me was me. If I could be a Hornet, a Raider, a Fighting Irish, and a Tiger, I could be anything I wanted to be. I survived because of Title IX. I’ve made life my sport and naysayers my opponents. I’ve been told numerous times throughout life that I am not good enough, smart enough, pretty enough, or strong enough, but because of Title IX I know I am ENOUGH.

How have the athletic and academic opportunities afforded to you because of Title IX impacted your life? Can you imagine your life without them?

I cannot imagine my life without sports. I had to keep my grades up in order to compete and that made me a better student. I went on to receive a couple academic scholarships in college because I worked hard in the classroom and on the court/track.

Tell us about a woman who championed you in pursuing your goals. How did her influence inspire or affect you and your career?

My mom has always been my cheerleader. In the '80s when we lived in Germany, there was only one television in the house and we always had to watch MLB when the Atlanta Braves were on. My mom was a Braves fan, and I thought she knew all about sports and baseball in particular. Later in life, I learned that she didn’t know very much about it at all; sports were simply a connection to life back home. During my junior year of college, when I came home and told my mom I was changing my major from pre-med/biology to sport administration and that I was no longer going to be a doctor, she didn’t fuss or tell me I was crazy. She asked, "what does that mean?" and after a short explanation, she offered her support. Over the years, whether I was broke sleeping on an air mattress as an intern in Pennsylvania, packing everything I own into my Mazda 626 to move across country for a new job, or flying her and my grandmother in to attend their fourth NCAA DI Women’s Final Four, she is always proud of me and is still my biggest cheerleader.

How are you continuing to champion the next generation of women and girls in sports, and raise awareness on the importance Title IX?

In my community, I mentor young girls and talk to them about the importance of being strong, healthy, and active. My niece is 12, and I have been grooming her to be an athlete since she was born. I want her to know that she is strong and unstoppable. I’ve taken her to five NCAA DI Women’s Final Four events, and I always talk to her about the time, effort, and dedication the student-athletes put in to being at the top of their game on and off the court. I like to introduce her to some of the veterans that fought for Title IX years ago so she can be the athlete she is today.

I encourage my sister to coach her son’s soccer team. Boys and young men need to see women as leaders and understand the value we bring to the table, and if she can influence a child’s attitude early, he will be our partner in the future. I also sponsor up-and-coming female administrators and assist them with attending conventions and building their network so they can continue to make changes and lead athletic departments in the future.

If you could send an empowering tweet to every woman and girl across the country, what would you send?

Learn from the past, make the most of the present, focus on the future. Your future is her past and your present is her future. #BecauseofTitleIX

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