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June 20, 2012

The next hurdle: Women coaching men's teams

(Continued)

Title IX was around for 20 years before most of Farrell's players were out of diapers. While compliance issues still exist – Women's Sports Foundation research shows less money and fewer opportunities for female athletes than male athletes in high schools and colleges – Farrell is convinced that 40 years of the law has transformed how both men and women see sports.

"I can't think of one negative experience I've had with my players because of my gender," Farrell said

Building confidence and self-esteem

The transformation caused by Title IX was witnessed by female coaches who have come to embody the success of women’s sports.

Lin Dunn, 61, is the coach of the Women’s National Basketball Association Indiana Fever professional team. She is also one of the winningest basketball coaches in the nation, with more than 500 victories in college and pro ball. She was a child in Alabama when girls were barred by law from team sports. "I remember being told I couldn't play Little League ball," Dunn said. "I didn't understand why, especially since I knew I was better than most of the boys."

In high school in Tennessee in the 1960s, she could play on the girls' basketball team, but only under rules that restricted players to half-court action. The rules were designed to assure that the girls didn’t overexert themselves.

In Dunn’s first college coaching job, at Austin Peay State University, her players had to buy their own meals when they played on the road. Instead of staying in hotels, they often laid out sleeping bags on their opponent's gym floor.

Title IX passed when Dunn was at Austin Peay, but little changed until much later. "I'd take old stuff from the men's locker room that they weren't using anymore," Dunn said. "I would literally pull out the bleachers before every game."

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