'V is for Victory. So is IX'

PHILADELPHIA – Don’t look now, but there just might be another quarterback named McNabb playing for a Pop Warner football team someday not too far down the road.

And this one might be a girl.
Granted, it may be a long shot, but if Wilma McNabb gets her wish, her granddaughters will have the opportunity to one day quarterback a football team if that’s what they aspire to do.
“I wish for my granddaughters to play whatever sport they want to play, be it football or whatever,” said the mother of Philadelphia’s most famous football player, Donovan McNabb. “We have a football clinic we do every year for the (Donovan McNabb) Foundation, and girls sign up all the time. They do the skills and the training, and they’re good at it.
“So if they want to play football or whatever sport they want to get into, I think they should have the opportunity. They should fight for the position. If they want to be a quarterback, they can be. Yes, they can.”
McNabb, a long-time advocate for youth participation in sports, is going to do her part to ensure her granddaughters and all young women will find themselves on an even playing field when they compete in sports.
On Monday, in the Mayor’s Reception Room in Philadelphia’s City Hall, McNabb joined the Women’s Sports Foundation and Women’s Law Project to launch the Youth Sports and Title IX Campaign, “V is for Victory. So is IX.” The national campaign is aimed at educating students, parents and administrators about Title IX, the federal law banning sex-based discrimation in schools.
Wilma McNabb acknowledged that she and her husband Sam, who was also in attendance, stressed sports in their home. Both Donovan and his older brother, Sean, played numerous sports.
“The reason we did it was to keep the boys out of trouble,” she said. “As long you participate in sports, you have to keep your grades up. They loved sports, so they had to have a liking for school. “
It wasn’t until Donovan married his college sweetheart, Raquel Nurse – a former point guard for the Syracuse women’s basketball team – that the women’s side of sports came to the forefront for Wilma McNabb.
“Now I have granddaughters,” she said. “I want them to have everything that’s out there that was (there) for my sons. That’s why I am stressing equality for young women and girls.
“I tell you this – I was not aware of Title IX, but my daughter-in-law was. When this was first brought to me, we sat and we talked about it. It is a great effort, and I have taken on the passion for this.”
McNabb was the final speaker at Monday’s launch, but she wasn’t the only one whose words had impact at a news conference that was a who’s who of women who have been advocates for girls’ sports in the Philadelphia region.
The Suburban One League was represented by one of its own. Former Neshaminy athletic director and field hockey coach Sheila Murphy has been working tirelessly with the Women’s Sports Foundation on this initiative since last September.
Philadelphia is one of four cities – joining Seattle, Los Angeles and Boston – to receive grants from the Women’s Sports Foundation for this project. The goal, according to Murphy, is ‘to get out correct information about Title IX.’
 “We want to eliminate the problems before you’re cited by the OCR, which is a great deal of work for the athletic directors and principals, and we also want to avoid possible lawsuits,” Murphy said.
Over 30 schools in the Philadelphia region were cited for violations. A major violation is the inequity created by booster clubs.
That being said, Murphy, a Pennsylvania Public Policy Officer, gave the SOL high marks.
“Personally, I think the suburban schools have done a wonderful job,” she said. “Everything needs a little bit of tweaking now and then, but in my visits, I am so impressed with what they have done with turf fields and the fitness rooms which give the girls a place to go to prepare physically for the season.”
Too often it is a far different story for schools located in an urban setting.
“I’m a product of Philadelphia, and to see so much wasted talent has really bothered me for so many years,” said Tina Sloan Green, president and co-founder of Black Women in Sports. “To see something like this (initiative) happening is really gratifying.
“I’m hoping this is more than rhetoric, and they will actually follow through, especially in these tough times.”
Sloan Green, a professor emeritus in the College of Education at Temple University, is herself a pioneer. She was the first African-American head coach in the history of intercollegiate lacrosse.
“We need to provide the girls in the city of Philadelphia the same opportunities the girls in the suburbs get,” Sloan Green said. “I had a fantastic career at Temple, but most of the young ladies I coached came from the suburbs. I think maybe two people actually came from Philadelphia in 16 years.”
Susan Slawson, the Commissioner of the Department of Recreation for the City of Philadelphia, experienced that inequity firsthand when she was growing up in an urban setting, and she briefly shared her story, which included becoming a teenage mom.
“I was very athletic,” she said. “But nobody knew it. In sixth grade, I broke every record, but nobody noticed. Nobody said, ‘You should run track.’
“So I didn’t have what young girls have today. If I had that back then - although my life is wonderful and I have a wonderful daughter, I’m sure my life would have been different.”
Another woman who has made a difference in the lives of young girls growing up in an urban setting is former University City girls’ basketball coach Lurline Jones, who accumulated more than 600 wins during a prolific career.
Jones was an advocate for countless girls who went on to have successful collegiate careers – three went on to play in the WNBA. She derives an equal amount of pleasure from the number of former athletes who have gone on to become doctors, lawyers and other professionals.
But Jones acknowledged that the work is far from finished in terms of creating a level playing field for young women.
The goal of this national campaign, according to Carol Tracy, Executive Director of the Women’s Law Project, is to work toward that end by improving and expanding the athletic opportunities for girls, particularly in middle school and high school.
“Because of Title IX, tens of thousands of young girls have participated in sports over the past 35 years,” she said. “There’s been remarkable growth and remarkable change.
“Title IX has not only provided an opportunity to participate in sports, but it’s put to rest the notion that women are the weaker sex. That’s incredibly important for the self esteem of women, and it’s also opened many opportunities for women in business and industry.
“We’re here to celebrate this. We’re here to raise public awareness about the importance of athletics and physical activity in the lives of women and young girls. We’re also here to say we’re not done. A lot more needs to be done. Too often athletic opportunities are thwarted for young girls. Too often their opportunities are limited.
“We’re teaching young women the world is theirs. They can be anything they aspire to be, and at the same time they’re experiencing what it means to be a second class citizen, and that is not acceptable.”
That, according to Tracy, is where the ‘V is for Victory. So is IX.’ campaign comes into play.
The Women’s Sports Foundation has local staff providing free educational workshops to parents, coaches and students.
For additional information, girls and young women interested in athletics can visit the web site www.Vis4Victory.org/girls, and parents, coaches, athletic directors and educators are invited to visit www.Vis4Victory.org.