The match captured a record-shattering global viewership of 90 million. At stake was far more than the outcome of tennis match. The world tuned in to witness a conversation.
Spoken in points, games and sets, the match laid plain two questions:
“Do women have the right to compete with men?”
“Can women compete with men?”
Earlier this week, in an interview with news anchor turned women’s leadership advocate, Tiffany O’Donnell*, former University of Iowa Athletic Director, Dr. Christine Grant, shared vivid memories of the match and marks King’s performance as an important milestone in the growth of women’s sport.
Over her career, Grant developed a women’s athletic program with few rivals, posting 12 NCAA Championships and 27 Big Ten titles.
Humble and reserved, Christine is the antithesis of the win-at-all-cost mentality. Grant points to the fact that less than 1% (.71%) of all college athletes and only 3 out of a 1000 women athletes will ever play sports professionally.
Dr. Grant suggests the value of sport is found inside the athlete, not up on a scoreboard –that real victories spring from testing one’s limits, experiencing cooperative struggle and just plain showing up, when the world offers every excuse not to.
Dr. Grant believes in, “a healthy understanding of the place of winning in sport.”
“Winning is not the purpose of sport,” she stated. “Winning is a byproduct of a very good program. A very good program that puts other values higher than winning.”
Reflecting on the development of women’s sports over her career, she’s both amazed at the progress and steadfast in her conviction that much remains be said in the conversation Billy Jean King started back in 1973.
As always, I welcome your comments directly at Jeff@jeffkaplan.com.
*Tiffany O’Donnell, serves as the COO for the IWLC, one of the nation’s top leadership organizations for women. She conducted the interview as part of a larger book project featuring the accomplishments and unique experiences of women leaders.
For more on this interview and the 10 for 10 Women’s Leadership Project, stay tuned to this blog or monitor the latest at www.iwlcleads.org.