The Women’s Sports Foundation was established in 1974 to advance the lives of women and girls through sports and physical activity. Our mission is to enable all girls and women to reach their potential in sports and life. We provide financial fuel to aspiring champion athletes. We fund groundbreaking research. We educate. We advocate. And we help communities get girls active. Sure, there’s a long way to go but we’re not going to stop until we get there.
The Women’s Sports Foundation (WSF) is founded by Billie Jean King in San Francisco. A long-time champion of equality and social change, King’s goal is to create new inroads for all genders, inside and outside of sports. Now led by a Board of Trustees from many walks of life, the WSF continues to inspire generations of female athletes and cultivate paths for women to realize their full potential in life, through sport.
Eva Auchincloss is appointed as the first executive director of the Foundation. Starting with just $5,000 and working out of donated office space in San Mateo, CA., she takes the Foundation from a fledgling organization with a dwindling bank account to a growing force with a $1 million endowment. Auchincloss makes a point to add athletes to the WSF advisory board – including Jane Blalock, Donna de Varona, Chris Evert, Diane Holum, Joan Joyce, Micki King, Karen Logan, Sandra, Paula Sperber, and Jyomia Tyus.
The Foundation establishes its first grant programs, including summer camp scholarships. Since then, more than $8 million in cash grants and scholarships and $42 million in educational materials and services has been provided to individuals, teams and grassroots organizations.
The first official newsletter is distributed. Today, a monthly e-newsletter is sent out to more than 60,000 members.
The first president of the Foundation, Donna de Varona is appointed in 1979. A celebrated Olympic swimmer and later sports broadcaster, de Varona sets the standard for athlete involvement in the WSF’s leadership positions. Under her guidance, the Foundation initiated Travel & Training Fund grants and launched important research projects.
The International Women’s Sports Hall of Fame is launched by The Women’s Sports Foundation. Its creation is to honor history-making female athletes and coaches and to help solidify the reputation of female athletics worldwide. Over a 28 year period, a total of 113 athletes and 21 coaches were inducted.
The Foundation’s toll-free information line is opened. The hotline helps connect girls, parents, and coaches with valuable information and resources, to give more girls and women the chance to play.
The WSF launches the Internship Program. Since then, countless young professionals have benefitted, developing the skills they need to realize their futures. WSF interns assist in the implementation of Foundation programs and events. They provide real value and learn real skills. Many go forward to excel in similar careers of their own.
The Foundation’s first Travel & Training Fund grants are awarded. To date, more than $1.8 million have been awarded to athletes nationwide, helping to make their dreams a reality. The implementation of the Fund has been pivotal in carrying out the Foundation’s mission — creating opportunity for female athletic participation regardless of financial standing.
The High School All-Star program is set into motion, recognizing more than 1,700 female athletes. The program makes participation in high school sports a possibility for many deserving female athletes. And granted more than $1 million in college scholarships to deserving female high-school athletes, during its tenure.
The Women’s Sports Foundation relocates to New York City and hires its second executive director, Deborah Slaner Larkin.
WSF establishes the Women’s Sports Journalism Award, honoring those who excel in women’s sports coverage. In the 15 years this award is given, it honors 117 journalists nationwide, bolstering a continued interest in, and dedication to, multi-media excellence in women’s sports.
The first National Girls and Women in Sports Day (NGWSD) is celebrated. Since that day, more than 35 years of NGWSD celebrations have taken place, honoring past, present and future achievements in women’s sports. Not only is it a significant day for the athletes it honors, but for marking the importance of continuing efforts to further girls’ and women’s access to sports.
The Foundation publishes The Wilson Report: Moms, Dads, Daughters and Sports, the first large-scale, nationwide, intergenerational study of the female sports experience. The report examines the influence parents and familial factors have on girls’ continued participation in sport.
Kristi Yamaguchi receives a Travel & Training Fund grant for her athletic success in figure skating. Four years later, she becomes the first U.S woman since Dorothy Hamill in 1976 to win the women’s Olympic figure skating gold.
This year marks the first awarding of Grants for Girls. Through this program, the Foundation distributes $545,000 over 12 years to fund equipment, facility rentals, and apparel for girls’ sports programs nationwide.
Soccer player Michelle Akers receives a Travel & Training Fund grant to help fuel her game. Nine years later, she is named the Federation Internationale de Football Association (FIFA) Player of the Century, in addition to being deemed as the Best Female Soccer Player Ever. The Foundation’s Travel & Training Fund continues providing opportunities, helping more female athletes to become everything they could dream of being, in sport and life.
The Community Awards and Grants Program is established (later to be renamed the Community Action Program). The program brings together leaders from youth-serving agencies – including schools, businesses and over 100 grassroots organizations – to promote girls’ and women’s sports. The program’s Take Action and Spread the Word awards encourage communities to celebrate the participation and achievements of local female athletes.
The Women’s Sports Foundation relocates to its ‘new home’ in Nassau County, N.Y., at the Lannin House in Eisenhower Park.
Also significant in this year, Michelle Kwan is named a recipient of the Travel & Training Fund. Four years later, during the 1997-98 skating season, she becomes the first woman to earn a perfect score at the US National Championship. Kwan earned seven 6.0 scores for her short program.
Recognizing a need to increase awareness of women’s sports, the Athlete’s Speaker Service (now the WSF Athlete Ambassador Program) is officially launched. Since its inception, hundreds of athletes have helped educate and inspire the public, on fields and courts, in boardrooms and classrooms, across the country. Raising the profile of female athletes continues to be an integral part of the WSF mission.
Exciting times: The 1996 Olympics include 45 Travel & Training Fund recipients. Twelve women win a collective 16 medals. These outstanding athletes include diver Mary Ellen Clark, gymnast Kerri Strug, and swimmer Brooke Bennett.
The Foundation presents the first Wilma Rudolph Courage Award to Jackie Joyner-Kersee. This award honors brave athletes, specifically those who have overcome adversity such as injuries, financial hardships, physical ailments, etc. Athletes who, in the face of adversity, demonstrate immense courage in their athletic performance and contribute significantly to the sport.
The first website for the Women’s Sports Foundation is launched. Since then, millions across the globe have gained access to valuable online resources.
Achievements mount. The Foundation publishes The Women’s Sports Foundation Gender Equity Report Card, examining more than 700 National College Athletic Association (NCAA) universities for compliance with Title IX.
The Foundation identifies the need for NCAA universities to publish data showing participation rates between women and men, coaching salaries, expenses, student aid, and operating expenses. With the publication of this information, data became available, by name of each institution, and rendered individual schools accountable for their compliance with Title IX.
The Women’s Sports Foundation publishes important findings in its Sports and Teen Pregnancy report. Prior to this study, there was little to no recognition among teen-pregnancy prevention experts and policymakers that athletic participation significantly reduces the risk of teen pregnancy.
WSF is the first non-governmental athletic organization in the world to be granted UN Consultative status to the Economic and Social Council. The Foundation is also an annual presenter at the UN Commission on the Status of Women.
The Foundation publishes Addressing the Needs of Professional and Amateur Athletes, to identify issues of importance for female athletes. The information is helpful to national governing bodies, facilitating conversation about athletes’ needs, and serving as the basis for different policy implementations and/or recommendations.
The International Olympic Committee presents the Women’s Sports Foundation with its first Women and Sport Award for the Americas. This award recognizes individuals and organizations who have made remarkable contributions to the development, encouragement, and reinforcement of women through sport.
The Foundation publishes Health Risks and the Teen Athlete, providing evidence that participating in sport fundamentally reduces common health risks faced by teen girls.
The Foundation goes on to create a game-changing curriculum and video, It Takes a Team, to educate athletes, coaches, and administrators nationwide on creating a fair, inclusive and respectful environment for LGBTQ+ student-athletes.
A big first. The national GoGirlGo! campaign is launched, bringing an award-winning curriculum and sports education program to girls across the country. Since inception, GoGirlGo! has become a resource for over 15,000 girl-serving organizations, awarding more than $6,300,000 in grants, reaching over 1 million girls, and counting.
More achievements: The 2002 Olympic Winter Games take place in Salt Lake City, Utah, and Travel & Training Fund recipients win four of the 11 U.S. Olympic medals in women’s events. In addition, Travel & Training Fund recipients win seven medals – four of them gold – in the Paralympic Games.
The Foundation works tirelessly with over 100 organizations to protect Title IX, as the law is threatened to be dismantled by the current administration who regard the regulations for women’s equal opportunities in sports, to be unnecessary. In turn, the Foundation helps lead a campaign of demonstrations in seven cities to protect Title IX and the athletes who depend on it. The law is successfully defended.
Without these efforts, high school participation and opportunities for female athletes may have fallen by 163,000, and college rates by 43,000. Plus, an estimated total of $103 million may have been lost in annual athletic scholarships for college students.
The first of several GoGirlGo! signature demonstration cities is launched, providing a free curricula, leader training and technical assistance to schools, recreational programs, and other girl-serving organizations. From 2004 to 2010, the Foundation established communities in Atlanta, Chicago, San Antonio, Boston and Seattle.
WSF publishes yet another significant study: Her Life Depends On It: Sports, Physical Activity, and the Health and Well-Being of American Girls and Women. This is the first in a focused and comprehensive research series which studied the impact of physical activity on the psychological, physical, and cultural health and well-being of girls and young women.
The Foundation publishes Women in the 2006 Olympic and Paralympic Winter Games. The study analyzes the extent to which both international and national (U.S.) sports committees provide, or fall short on, equitable participation, opportunities for leadership, and media coverage between male and female athletes.
WSF continues its research efforts to improve women’s athletic opportunities, publishing Who’s Playing College Sports: Trends in Participation. Analyzing data from almost every higher education institution in the nation, this is the most accurate and comprehensive examination of participation trends involving female athletes, to date.
New honors. The Billie Jean King International Women’s Sports Center opens in New York City inside the Sports Museum of America, recognizing athletic achievements of female athletes and coaches who have proved an ongoing dedication to women’s sports. The Center hosts the induction ceremony for the International Women’s Sports Hall of Fame, as it is introduced to its new home. The Museum subsequently closes in 2009 due to the recession.
Continuing its efforts to understand how gathered data reflects upon ongoing efforts and programs, the Foundation updates and expands previously published studies: Her Life Depends on It II: Sports, Physical Activity, and the Health and Well-Being of American Girls and Women, as well as Women in the 2000, 2004, and 2008 Olympic and Paralympic Games: An Analysis of Participation, Leadership and Media Opportunities.
Women in the 2010 Olympic and Paralympic Winter Games: An Analysis of Participation, Leadership and Media Opportunities is published. The report’s objective is to examine and ensure the consistent growth of female Olympic and Paralympic participation and leadership opportunities.
The Sport, Health and Activity Research and Policy (SHARP) Center for Women and Girls is established in partnership with University of Michigan’s School of Kinesiology and its Institute for Research on Women and Gender. Using gender as a critical lens, SHARP researches and searches for solutions to pressing questions in public health and healthcare. The partnership concludes in 2014.
WSF publishes a crucial study, Progress Without Equity: The Provision of High School Athletic Opportunity in the United States, by Gender 1993-94 through 2005-06. Providing educators and policy makers at state and national levels with information necessary to examine the influence of Title IX.
Building upon its continued success across the nation, WSF’s award-winning curriculum GoGirlGo! is redesigned to reach three, more targeted, age groups: 5 to 7, 8 to 10 and 11 to 13 year olds.
The US Department of State and espnW launch Empowering Women and Girls Through Sports Initiative. WSF serves as a participant and advisor of its Global Sports Mentoring Program, pairing emerging female leaders with female senior executives at leading sports organizations for month-long mentorships.
The Decade of Decline: Gender Equity in High School Sports is published. Educating policy makers on the importance of equitable athletic opportunities to all high school students.
SHARP Center hosts the Title IX at 40 Conference, celebrating 40 years of the landmark legislation. The outcome is Progress and Promise: Title IX at 40, a report that identifies how far we’ve come…and what work is left to do.
The Foundation publishes the research study Women in the 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games: An Analysis of Participation and Leadership Opportunities. This study closely examines the athletic and leadership opportunities for women in the Olympic movement. These findings provide a better understanding of women’s opportunities on the international stage.
The IOC selects the Foundation’s GoGirlGo! curriculum as a model to inspire youth sports programs across the globe. The program model is detailed in their manual Get Moving! The IOC Guide to Managing Sport for All Programmes.
Sports 4 Life, an initiative co-founded with espnW, launches with a mission to increase the participation and retention rates of African-American and Hispanic girls in youth sports. To date, the initiative has funded 267 grants in 34 states (plus Wash, D.C. and U.S. Virgin Islands) with $1.4 million in grants, benefitting 60,000 girls in over 34 sports.
The Foundation announces the collective contribution of over $2 million from three major broadcasting companies: NBC Sports Group, ESPN and FOX Sports. The unprecedented, joint effort emphasizes the media’s critical role in creating, covering, and shaping the stories of female athletes and fans.
The Foundation joins the advisory board at Aspen Institute’s Project Play: Reimagining Youth Sports.
WSF hosts its first Athlete Leadership Connection, an annual event connecting top industry leaders with professional and collegiate female athletes. The mission is to impact, cultivate and inspire the next generation of female athletes as leaders both on and off the field of play.
The Dorothea Deitz Endowed Memorial Scholarship is established, and administered by WSF, to encourage female undergraduates to pursue careers in physical education.
WSF adopts the “Hucles Rule,” a hiring guideline that ensures a champion athlete is interviewed for each job opening. This rule serves to promote career opportunities for women athletes past the scope of athletic competition.
The Foundation continues with its groundbreaking research, publishing Beyond X’s and O’s: Gender Bias and Coaches of Women in College Sports, the first study to explore the experience of male and female coaches in women’s collegiate sports.
WSF launches and hosts the first “Candid Conversations,” a series derived from the Athlete Leadership Connection. Providing champion and college athletes with experiences and skills to advance in their careers, post-competition.
The 30th annual National Girls & Women in Sports Day (NGWSD) is held, and Foundation representatives meet with President Obama’s Senior Advisor Valarie Jarrett, the Office of the U.S. Surgeon General, the Office on Women’s Health, and leaders from the Office for Civil Rights on Capitol Hill.
WSF publishes Title IX and Girls in Sports Poll Report, marking the 45th Anniversary of this landmark legislation. And measuring Title IX awareness and support as well as attitudes and behaviors surrounding girls’ sports participation.
WSF joins forces with Athlete Ally, a nonprofit LGBTQ+ athlete advocacy group, and over 60 elite athletes globally, join in opposition to the International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF)’s eligibility regulations for female track athletes.
To increase the number of women in coaching and scouting pipelines, WSF launches two new granting funds: The Tara VanDerveer Fund for the Advancement of Women in Coaching, and the Scott Pioli & Family Fund for Women Football Coaches and Scouts.
WSF produces two more groundbreaking research reports this year, The State of High School Sports: An Evaluation of the Nation’s Most Popular Extracurricular Activity and Coaching Through a Gender Lens: Maximizing Girls’ Play and Potential.
WSF introduces the new Champion for Equality Award at its Annual Salute to Women in Sports. The award recognizes individuals or organizations who show unwavering commitment to gender equality and the advancement of girls and women in sports.
Celebrating a pivotal moment in the Foundation’s history, with an eye towards its future, WSF archives its history and artifacts at the iconic New York Historical Society Museum & Library, also home to the Billie Jean King Archive.
WSF publishes Keeping Girls in the Game: Factors that Influence Participation. And, Chasing Equity: The Triumphs, Challenges, and Opportunities in Sports for Girls and Women, a comprehensive report on the current landscape for girls and women in sport in the U.S.
In response to Chasing Equity, WSF establishes The Equity Project, a bold, new collective-impact initiative designed to close the gaps in equitable access to, and opportunities in, sports; to achieve true gender equity in this generation.
In response to the COVID-19 crisis, the Foundation Yahoo Sports debut #WeKeepPlaying, a first-of-its-kind live event featuring renowned women in professional sports, sharing stories to inspire resilience within young athletes. The event garners 600,000+ live streams and 4 million views on demand, making it WSF’s largest online event to date.