Let's 'Keep Her In The Game'

WALNUT CREEK, Calif. - With its unparalleled success in women's sports, the Pac-12 Conference is proud to participate in the Women's Sports Foundation's "Keep Her In The Game" initiative, bringing awareness to help young girls remain involved in sports and raise funds to support girls' programming.

In celebration of the 40th anniversary of the federal law that granted equal access to women to federally funded programs as men, the Women's Sports Foundation has launched an initiative through KeepHerInTheGame.org, to advocate, build awareness and raise funds to support girls' programming. Though many advances have taken place since 1972, there is still a lot of work remaining to be done to keep girls involved.

Recent statistics have shown that, by the age of 14, girls drop out of sports at twice the rate of boys. In addition to the physical benefits of being active in sports, there are additional sociological and physiological gains for girls who participate in sports compared to those that do not. For example (source: Women's Sports Foundation website):

  • High school girls who spend more time participating in sports also tend to have higher grades, and could also lead to education opportunities.
  • Research suggests that girls who participate in sports are less likely to get involved with drugs, less likely to get pregnant and more likely to graduate from high school than those who do not play sports.
  • Girls who are active in sports and recreational activities feel greater confidence, self-esteem and pride in their physical and social selves.
  • Half of all girls who participate in some kind of sports experience higher-than-average levels of self-esteem and less depression.
  • One to three hours of exercise a week over a woman's reproductive lifetime (the teens to about age 40) can bring a 20-30 percent reduction in the risk of breast cancer, and four or more hours of exercise a week can reduce the risk almost 60 percent.
  • The National Institute of Health reports that one of every four women over the age of 60 has osteoporosis (loss of bone mass). There is substantial evidence suggesting that weight-bearing exercise, such as, walking, and calcium increases bone mass.

Having celebrated 25 years of women's sports in the Conference during the 2010-11 academic season, the Pac-12 has been a leader of athletic success, especially in women's sports. The Conference is the nation's leader in women's NCAA Championships won, 145 to date, with Stanford leading all NCAA institutions with 42 and UCLA is second with 37. Six of the Conference's 12 member schools are among the top-15 in Division I in women's national championships.

The Conference has also produced 642 NCAA individual women's champions all-time, with the Cardinal again leading the country with 184. Half of the Pac-12's institutions rank in the top 13 in most individual champions. This season alone, the Pac-12 student-athletes captured 23 individual national titles.

Pac-12 women student-athletes have gone on to become some of the most decorated athletes in their respective sports. Women from Pac-12 institutions won 62 medals at the 2008 Beijing Olympics, including 18 golds. Among the most notable athletes to have played at a Pac-12 institution are Lisa Leslie (USC), the most decorated WNBA player and Olympic gold medalist; Natalie Coughlin (CAL), 11-time Olympic medalist in swimming; Lisa Fernandez (UCLA), three-time gold medalist in softball; Kerri Walsh (STAN), Olympic gold medalist and, along with her beach partner, is considered one of the greatest beach volleyball teams of all time; and Jackie Joyner-Kersee (UCLA), who is regarded as one of the greatest athletes of all-time, is a six-time Olympic medalist in track & field.

Pac-12 student-athletes have also gone on to be leaders off the field, off the court, and out of the pool, as well. Among the most notable former student-athletes are Cal's Monica Wiley (basketball), one of the first women African-American judges in San Francisco; USC's Melissa Ward (basketball) was the first African-American woman to be a flight instructor in the Air Force; and Stanford's Tamara Jernigan (volleyball) was a former NASA astronaut. Many of those alumni have gone on to become entrepreneurs, lawyers, doctors and surgeons, while others have become writers, philanthropists and work in the entertainment industry.

For more information about the initiative and the anniversary of Title IX, including statistics, facts and myth busters, visit www.keepherinthegame.org. Those who wish to make a contribution to the cause, can do so at that website as well.

You can also support the initiative by bringing awareness to the cause. On June 23, change your Facebook and Twitter profile picture to a photo of you playing sports as a child. If you are a male, you can support the initiative by using the photo of a loved one who you support playing sports as a young girl. Please also use the hashtag #keepherinthegame.

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