As Title IX turns 50, Minnesota Lynx coach Cheryl Reeve is reflecting on how the landmark legislation changed her life.
“I was just a lover of sports. Now, as I’ve gotten older, I’ve thought about all the other [women] who didn’t have the same opportunities,” Reeve told Kent Youngblood of The Star Tribune. “There is no question that, without Title IX, I’m not sitting here as a professional basketball coach.”
The 1972 law prohibits sex-based discrimination in schools that receives funding from the federal government.
Reeve, 55, has had an illustrious athletic career, playing softball in high school before attending La Salle on a partial scholarship, where she broke several records on the school’s basketball team.
At La Salle, Reeve also jump-started her coaching career, moving on to the WNBA in 2001 as an assistant with the Charlotte Sting.
“I thank God I wasn’t born 20 years prior,” Reeve said in The Star Tribue. “Because I would have been in jail for the way they treated women, the lack of opportunities.”
Reeve remembers driving to Chicago for the league’s pre-draft combine, where she met Sting head coach Anne Donovan, who offered her the assistant job for $5,000.
Moving between Charlotte and Cleveland, Reeve navigated teams being disbanded and franchises teetering on the edge of folding in her early years in the WNBA.
“I was very close to not being in the WNBA anymore,” Reeve said. “I had to make a decision. Each season was met with, I didn’t know if the team would be there if the league would be there. It’s hard, because your family has to hear about your hardships. But I distinctly remember going, ‘I’m in this thing. I’m going to go down with the ship if it goes down. Just do it. Obviously, things got better.”
In 2006, her circumstances changed, with Reeve signing on as Bill Laimbeer’s assistant with the Detroit Shock. Together, they led the team to two WNBA championships before Reeve was appointed the head coach of the Minnesota Lynx in 2009.
Though Reeve is grateful for living in a post-Title IX world, she still acknowledges there is more to do.
“I hope it means ownership,” Reeve said. “That’s probably what I would set my sights on. That I’m involved, still involved, but on a grander level. Impacting and being a participant in the opportunities that are available.”