Two women with a passion for sports told personal stories about the challenges they faced growing up as female athletes Thursday night at the Nursing and Health Innovation Building II.
Phoenix Mercury General Manager Ann Meyers Drysdale and ASU point guard Dymond Simon presented “Gender, Race, Sports and Equality,” the final installment of this semester’s Humanities Lecture Series from the School of Letters and Sciences.
Meyers Drysdale played on the 1976 women’s Olympic basketball team in Montreal and received a silver medal. She was also the first female to receive a full athletic scholarship from UCLA, as well as the first female elected to the UCLA Athletic Hall of Fame.
Both Meyers Drysdale and Simon, a red-shirt senior, played sports throughout their childhood, but constantly ran into issues with other players because of their gender.
“It’s never been about race,” said Simon, who is black. “It’s been more about my gender and my height.”
Simon, who stands short compared to other female athletes at only 5 feet 4 inches tall, said her teammates call her “short stuff and “short stack.”
As a child, she said she joined many boys’ basketball teams at local youth centers.
She said a “little boy” on one of these teams would say to her “Why are you here?” because she was the only girl on their team.
“My story is a lot older than (Simon’s), but there are a lot of similarities because as much as things have changed, they haven’t at all,” Meyers Drysdale said.
Growing up, Meyers Drysdale used to go out and play sports with her brothers and their friends, she said.
“When I was younger, I loved playing sports,” Meyers Drysdale said. “It didn’t matter what … I played seven sports in high school.”
She played on the boys’ varsity basketball team between her junior and senior years in high school, but ultimately made the decision to quit. She said parents would get upset with their sons, saying things like “You’re letting some girl beat you.”
“When Dymond says there wasn’t a lot (of opportunities for female athletes), think of what it was like in the ’50s and ’60s for women,” Meyers Drysdale said.
Both Meyers Drysdale and Simon noted gender inequalities in sports go far beyond their own childhoods.
“The media’s portrayal of women in sports is not equal yet,” Simon said. Women’s sports are “still in (their) infancy. Hopefully down the road we’ll be just as popular as the men are.”
But media coverage of women’s sports has improved, Meyers Drysdale said.
“Are the women’s games on TV?” she asked. “They’re on TV a lot more than when I played.”
Audience members found the lecture enjoyable and informative overall.
“Basically, if you really love something, go for it and don’t let anyone stop you,” said Karen Saenz, a sophomore nutrition major. “Don’t let anyone stop you.”
Arcelia Banalon, a general studies sophomore, said she liked how down-to-earth the presenters appeared.
“I loved the way that Dymond stated her family really focused on her sports and pushed her on that and how her mentality is focused on academics and her career,” she said.
Meyers Drysdale said it is important for women to support other women.
“Don’t say you don’t want to watch a bunch of girls play because you don’t know,” Meyers Drysdale said. “It’s a good product.”
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