4 Influential Women in Interscholastic Sports

Patsy Mink

The field of athletics has spawned many influential people throughout the years. There are athletes who have inspired through their physical prowess, and coaches who have developed new strategies that have “changed the game.” Athletes and non-athletes alike see these role models represent dedication and perseverance. While many of these figures are nationally known, there are others who are known largely by their communities; particularly for their work within interscholastic sports programs.

Within the ranks of these influential professionals are women from the past and present, each committed to the principles of equality and community. These are women who’ve dedicated their careers to equal opportunity and female participation in athletics. They have worked diligently within interscholastic programs to promote program diversity that is reflective of the surrounding community.

Each succeeding generation has improved the reach and impact of equal opportunity within interscholastic and collegiate sports. Women and men have worked earnestly to influence policies and regulations, so that women have the same opportunities to compete as do men. One of the most notable accomplishments was achieved when Title IX of the Education Amendment Act was passed in 1972.

The Purpose and Women of Title IX

Among its mandates, Title IX requires educational institutions to offer equal opportunities for male and female student-athletes. It is important to understand the difference between equal play and equal opportunity. Title IX doesn’t require schools to have identical teams for females and males; it requires schools to provide the same chances, training, equipment, etc., to all student-athletes. For example, the female track team may be smaller than the male track team, but both must be accorded proportional treatment.

US Representatives Patsy Mink and Edith Green

Title IX created new opportunities for women to pursue athletics, as well as careers in athletics. To appropriately recognize influential women in sports, representatives Patsy Mink and Edith Green should be acknowledged.

Patsy Mink, the US legislative representative from Hawaii in 1964, was a major author of Title IX. She was the first ethnic minority to be elected to the House of Representatives, and spent twelve terms championing equal opportunity.

Representative Edith Green, of Oregon, also created the Title IX legislation. Serving in the US House between 1955 and 1974, she helped introduce the Title IX bill, dedicated herself to women’s issues, and became known as “Mrs. Education.” Both representatives Mink and Green were central to Title IX’s existence and adoption. Therefore, should be considered among the most influential women in interscholastic sports.

Ola Bundy

Even prior to Title IX, there were women who were influencing athletics. According to the National Federation of State High School Associations (NFHS), Ola Bundy earned her place in their Hall of Fame after working thirty years in Illinois as the first female administrator of the state’s High School Association.

Bundy joined the Association’s staff in 1967, five years before Title IX went into effect. During her tenure, she organized sporting events for girls throughout the state. She also helped create the Illinois State Board of Education Sex Equity Rules. These would later become the norm in Illinois, as well as become a template for other states to follow.

Bundy gave girls in Illinois the chance to compete and play in athletics well in advance of Title IX. She led the state in adopting equal opportunities before it was required, and her influence will always be acknowledged by her inclusion in the NFHS Hall of Fame.

Jean Ashen

Given the Award of Merit by the National Interscholastic Athletic Administrators Association (NIAAA) in 2016, Jean Ashen is a contemporary woman of influence. As the athletic director for North Salinas High School in California, she earned the NIAAA’s distinguished honor by running an exemplary athletic program known for its innovative and steadfast leadership.

She has dedicated at least twenty years to serving interscholastic athletics at the local, state, and national levels. Going above and beyond in everything she undertakes, she has been a part of the Salinas Union High School District (SUHSD) Sportsmanship Task Force, contributed to the Salinas Californian periodical, and participated in the National Girls and Women in Sports Luncheon for over twenty years.

Jean Ashen is the ideal example of someone who has passion, and demonstrates her boundless dedication by freely giving of her time. She has worked with the California Interscholastic Federation, the California State Athletic Directors Association, the NFHS Coaches Education Committee, the NIAAA Board of Directors, and the NIAAA Task Force. Jean still works diligently today to positively influence interscholastic sports.

Advancement of Women’s Interscholastic Athletics

Athletic programs need women who can lead and inspire young athletes, both male and female. Athletic programs that are more diverse in their mission and values tend to include more athletes, have well-rounded viewpoints, and offer better opportunities for student-athletes. Women like Patsy Mink, Edith Green, Ola Bundy, and Jean Ashen have made it their purpose to improve the athletic arena for female student-athletes. They have opened doors for the next generation to more easily pursue careers in sports as athletes, coaches, administrative professionals, or program leaders.

Learn More

The Ohio University online Master’s in Athletic Administration program specializes in developing interscholastic Athletic Directors, building on the students’ passion for serving young student-athletes and running a highly-successful athletic department. Ohio University is the pioneer in sports education. By establishing the first academic program in the field of sports administration, this online program is recognized today as the premier professional training program for candidates seeking careers in the sports industry.

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