Sports: Yesterday and Today

How past efforts by female athletes paved way for successes today

By Deb Dittner

female ATHLETERecently, I was honored to speak at the press conference for the Capital District Sports Women of the Year initiative.

This initiative honors the best and brightest young women from high schools and colleges in our area. Their excellence in the classroom, in the community, and in the sports arena will be rewarded with a gala as well as with media releases, a website, and campus recognition. A donation will also be made to the charity of choice for each of the 15 awarded recipients.

Why is this initiative so special to me?

It brings together all the hard work and many hours of study and training these exceptional women have devoted their lives to. Just as when I was in sports in high school and beyond, the dedication and hours of sweat built the foundation for what these women can experience today.

Here is what I had to say:

I am honored to be with you today in recognition of these exceptional young women’s outstanding achievements in athletics, academics, and in the community.

For me, I was a three-sport athlete in high school, and participated in basketball and volleyball in college. I continued after college mainly as a long-distance runner, and then going on to coach in local high schools and my children’s teams.

I am now providing the necessary tools for local professional athletes to find balance in their lives and empower their athletic performance through nutrition and lifestyle changes. I am amazed as to the journey I have taken all these years and enjoy watching the exceptional young women of the Capital District live their dream in sport.

But many years ago as a high school athlete, I did not realize at the time how girls’ sports were not as well supported as my male counterparts. For me as a basketball forward, I started out playing only half court and wearing a skirt and button-down blouse with a numbered pinnie, or scrimmage vest, over my top. In track and field, there were no shoes designed for women so I needed to wear men’s shoes. I so loved my pair of maroon-and -white Onitsuka Tigers!

Despite the lack of proper uniforms, equipment, and availability of sports, we were passionate, driven, highly dedicated, and committed just as you ladies are today. If you are one of them you will like to  click here to find the best deals in sporting goods.

We challenged ourselves, as you do today. We pushed beyond where we thought we could go, as you do today. This challenge and push helped us to find out what we were made of, as you do today. Even though we female athletes of then really didn’t know any better at the time, we helped pave the way for a better tomorrow as things were soon to change.

Our perseverance and devotion to our sports led to federal changes called Title IX. Some of you may even be thinking, “Title IX? What is that?”

Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972 is a federal law that states, “No person in the United States shall, on the basis of sex, be excluded from participation in, be denied the benefits of, or be subjected to discrimination under any education program or activity receiving federal financial assistance.”

Now, look how far women’s athletics have come. We’ve seen the United States women’s national soccer team win the World Cup. From Billy Jean King to Serena Williams, female athletes have ushered in a new era of power and athleticism in tennis. Joan Benoit Samuelson won gold in the first women’s Olympic marathon in 1984.

We have all traversed the waters from even before my era of sport to present day and the road has not always been an easy one to travel.  In the words of Alex Morgan, professional soccer player: “Winning and losing isn’t everything. Sometimes, the journey is just as important as the outcome.”

We’ve definitely come a long way, ladies, and I am excited for each and every one of you on your journey. But we still have a ways to go and it is with all of your hard work in the classroom, in the community and on the field that you will forge your way forward and conquer.

As Wilma Rudolph, three-time Olympic gold medalist said, “Never underestimate the power of dreams and the influence of the human spirit. We are all the same in this notion. The potential for greatness lives within each of us.”

Thank you.

The reason I share this with you is to give you a look into what sport/fitness was like in years’ past and what it has grown to become. Acknowledging women in sport today will help prepare them for future career paths in whatever arena they may choose.

To view the entire press conference, visit

There are ways that you too can become involved, so check out the site. I hope to see you at an event so please reach out to me when there.

• Deborah Dittner is a family nurse practitioner and health consultant. Her mission is to transform as many individuals as possible through nutrition and lifestyle changes. For more information, check out her website at or contact her at 518-596-8565.