Title IX: Nine (or so) to know on the 50th anniversary

Compilation photo of title IX pioneers Billie Jean King, Venkayla Haynes, Tatyana McFadden, Sedona Prince, Rebekah Bruesehoff, Patsy Mink, Annie Clark, Andrea Pino, Bunny Sandler, and Justine Siegal
Getty Images

By Risa Isard

Fifty years ago, Title IX changed the landscape for women across the United States – on sports fields and in classrooms.

Before President Richard Nixon signed the law forbidding sex-based discrimination at all federally funded educational institutions, women accounted for less than 10% of all medical and law school graduates while fewer than 4% of girls played high school sports. What’s more: it was legal for schools to deny women classroom opportunities, reject them from colleges just for being women, prevent them from competing in athletics, discriminate against pregnant students, sanction hazing and sexual harassment, and retaliate against those who advocated for equality.

Title IX’s impact has been prolific (albeit the progress imperfect and unfinished), with some calling it the most important legislation for women in America after the right to vote. As part of On Her Turf’s celebration of the landmark civil rights law, we recognize these nine (or so) to know who paved the way for Title IX, have championed its transformative legacy, and given women a sporting chance.

I. The Title IX Starters: Dr. Bunny Sandler, Rep. Edith Green, Rep. Patsy Mink, and Sen. Birch Bayh

It was 1969 and Dr. Bernice “Bunny” Sandler had recently earned her doctorate from the University of Maryland. Her department had seven openings but failed to consider her for any of them. When she asked a colleague about it, he told her “Let’s face it, you come on too strong for a woman.”

Sandler’s then husband helped her understand that there were plenty of strong men in the department and therefore, this was sex discrimination. “It was the first time I had ever thought of myself as having been discriminated against,” Sandler, who died in 2019, recalled decades later.

But just because Sandler had a term for the discrimination she encountered didn’t mean the discrimination itself was against the law.

Over the next few years, she amassed an impressive team and launched a master strategy for change. Some of her most notable teammates: Rep. Edith Green (D-Ore.), Rep. Patsy Mink (D-Hawaii), and Sen. Birch Bayh (D-Ind.) in Congress.

Green chaired the Special Subcommittee on Education, sponsored Congress’s first-ever hearings on sex discrimination in education, and ultimately drafted Title IX and sponsored it in the House.

She was joined by Rep. Patsy Mink, the first woman of color in Congress. Mink would become one of Title IX’s strongest voices, leading the bill to be ceremoniously re-named ‘the Patsy Mink Equal Opportunity in Education Act’ after her passing.

Meanwhile across the Capitol, Sen. Birch Bayh launched a parallel effort in the Senate, where he was also busy authoring the Equal Rights Amendment.

Dr. Bunny Sandler
Dr. Bernice “Bunny” Sandler was considered “the godmother” of Title IX (J.M. Eddins, Jr./Tribune News Service via Getty Images)

Collectively, “the Starters” and their other behind-the-scenes colleagues – including Pauli Murray and Rep. Shirley Chisholm (D-N.Y.) – fought for a law that they believed would do the most good and be the most inclusive.

Between Sandler’s awakening in 1969 and June 23, 1972, when President Nixon signed Title IX into law, the bill had several starts and stops. There were efforts to limit its application, delay its implementation, and defeat it in its entirety. Given that the bill’s origins stemmed from Sandler’s experiences on the job market and the fact that the conversations in Congress focused on academic employment and admissions, the potential impact on sports was largely ignored.

“One member of the Senate needed reassurance that women would not be allowed to play football, but that was it,” Sandler wrote in 2007.

“By 1972, when Title IX was close to passage, there were about five or six of us (plus Rep. Green) who realized that Title IX would cover sports and athletics, but again, we had no idea of how bad the sex discrimination was in the world of college sports or in K-12,” Sandler continued.

“My understanding of Title IX’s impact on sports was something like this: ‘Isn’t this nice! Because of Title IX, at the annual Field Day Events in schools, there will be more activities for girls.’ If those of us close to Title IX did not fully realize its impact, especially on sports, how could others have known what it would be?”

RELATED: Title IX is 50 years old. Why aren’t schools complying with the law?

II. The Superstar: Billie Jean King

Tennis great Billie Jean King was as formidable on the court (39 grand slam titles, anyone?) as she is off it. Her playing career started long before Title IX, so as a college athlete in the early 1960s, she watched as the men’s team members received scholarships while she worked two jobs. Shortly after Title IX passed, King bested Bobby Riggs in the famed Battle of the Sexes, demonstrating to the 90 million people watching worldwide that women deserved equal opportunity in sport.

“I wanted King/Riggs to change the hearts and minds of people to more closely align with the legislation of Title IX,” King reflected decades later. “I was afraid if I did not win we would give people a reason to weaken Title IX. It was definitely a pressure-packed moment.”

In a symbolic victory lap, King co-founded the Women’s Tennis Association, as well as the Women’s Sports Foundation, an organization that continues to be integral to expanding opportunities in women’s sports and enforcing Title IX.

III. The Athlete-Advocate: Tatyana McFadden

Tatyana McFadden is a force. Between 20 Paralympic medals, becoming the first person to achieve a marathon “Grand Slam” (followed up by doing it for the next three years), and running the Paralympic marathon followed by five marathon majors last fall, her place as an athlete is cemented. Her legacy out of competition is perhaps even more important, though.

As a ninth-grade girl in Maryland, McFadden was supposed to be protected by Title IX – but as an athlete with a disability, she still faced discrimination. Notably, she was prohibited from racing alongside her able-bodied teammates and competitors.

“All I wanted to do was join high school track, but I was denied a uniform, I was denied (the opportunity) to race alongside others, and was practicing separately as well,” recalls McFadden. “I just thought, ‘We are in the 21st Century and I am 100% being discriminated against as a female athlete with a disability.”

McFadden and her mom sued the Howard County Public School System and won. Three years later, Maryland passed the Maryland Fitness and Athletes Equity for Students with Disabilities Act (also known as “Tatyana’s Law”). Five years after that, the US Department of Education issued a national mandate requiring equal access to extracurricular activities for students with disabilities.

SLUG: SP/MCFADDEN DATE:6/17/2004 Neg#:156642 Photog:Preston
Tatyana McFadden, then 15, trains for the 2004 Athens Paralympic Games. (Photo by Preston Keres/The The Washington Post via Getty Images)

The mandate has been called the “Title IX for people with disabilities.” It’s a fitting name. Thanks to McFadden, all kids with disabilities have a right to equitable sport.

IV. The Organizers: Dana Bolger, Alexandra Brodsky, Annie Clark, and Andrea Pino

While Title IX is often best known for its impact on women’s sports, the law is also integral to expanding opportunities for girls’ education (looking at you, shop class) and other school-affiliated activities, protecting survivors of sexual assault and harassment, and guaranteeing rights of pregnant students and those who are parents.

Perhaps no movement has transformed campus cultures in recent years than the one Dana Bolger, Alexandra Brodsky, Annie Clark, and Andrea Pino started in the 2010s, connecting universities’ obligations under Title IX to their handling of sexual assaults.

After finding each other through mutual connections and related news stories about student survivors of assault, Bolger, Brodsky, Clark, and Pino, then students or recent alumnae from three different universities across the country, worked together to make noise about Title IX violations at their alma maters and nationwide. Clark recalled connecting with Pino, “We started talking and realized that this was not an isolated incident, that it was a national epidemic and no one had really connected the dots because we had been looking at these cases in isolation.”

The four organizers shared strategic notes with each other, started conversations on campus, and filed suits against their universities. As their stories reached students across the country, they received countless notes of support and requests for advice, leading them to sit at the helm of a growing network and serve as informal consultants to survivors nationwide, in part through social media.

'The Hunting Ground' Screening And Discussion At The Coolidge
Title IX activists Annie E. Clark, left, and Andrea Pino, right, during a Q&A session in 2015. (Photo by Dina Rudick/The Boston Globe via Getty Images)

“You don’t need to be in a survivors’ group meeting to hear these stories anymore…the human connection is the same, but social media lets you do it on a completely different scale,” Bolger told the New York Times in 2013.

They formalized their collective work with the launch of national organizations Know Your IX (Bolger & Brodsky) and End Rape on Campus (Clark & Pino). In the years since, they have contributed to new legislation and authored books We Believe You (Clark & Pino) and Sexual Justice (Brodsky). Bolger, Brodsky, Clark, and Pino’s collective voices, persistence, and impressively self-taught legal acumen led to policy changes and advanced the understanding that campus sexual assault is a Title IX issue.

“If you have a campus that has rampant sexual assault, there is no equal access, mainly because female students do not feel safe going to libraries, they do not take night classes, they do not feel safe walking home at night. And because of that the campus itself is not equal,” explained Pino.

V. The Influencer: Sedona Prince

Equity in women’s sport sometimes comes in small packages, like a 37-word statute (Title IX) or a 38-second TikTok video. Sedona Prince, then a redshirt sophomore forward for the University of Oregon’s women’s basketball team, noticed disparities between the weight rooms for the men’s and women’s “March Madness” tournaments (fun fact: the women’s tournament in 2021 was not even officially branded March Madness because that was against the rules). They sent a TikTok and tweet that amassed more than 13 million views, ignited outrage, and eventually resulted in the NCAA undertaking an equity audit.

The results of that investigation were damning.

Visible changes were made ahead of the 2022 NCAA men’s and women’s basketball tournaments, including equalizing the number of teams in the two tournaments, providing identical swag bags, equalizing pay for referees, and finally giving the women the right to use March Madness branding – something Prince celebrated by – how else? – posting a video to TikTok.

Of course, other systemic issues remain, like “the unit.” For every game a men’s basketball team won at the 2022 NCAA tournament, their conference received over $338,000. That money will be paid out in six years with a true value of $2.03 million. Women’s basketball teams, however, received nothing – not for making the tournament, not for winning a game, and not even for winning the NCAA title.

But thanks to Prince, disparities like these have become more visible. And her contributions are only more impressive because she managed to indict an organization that technically doesn’t even have to adhere to Title IX (the NCAA is not federally funded, while its member organizations are).

“My video was the first domino to fall and the wave it produced is still rolling,” Prince reflected to USA Today in a March 2022 essay. “What it also helped me realize is if we want change for women in sports, we have to demand it. Change is not going to come from the top. It has to start with us.”

VI. The Momentum-Maker: Justine Siegal

Justine Siegal is witnessing a watershed moment. While girls’ participation in sport has increased by nearly 1000% (thanks to sports like basketball, soccer, volleyball, track and field, swimming, tennis, golf and others with widespread support), many still consider a sport like baseball to be a “boys’ sport.”

That’s now how Siegal sees it, though.

Siegal grew up playing baseball. The most important advice she did not listen to came at 13 years old when her coach told to switch to softball because she was a girl. As she recalled, “It didn’t matter that I was one of the best players on the team, that I loved baseball, or that I practiced a lot more than any of my male friends. It only mattered that I was a girl.”

It’s a conversation too many girls still have, even though baseball and softball are different sports, requiring different skills, and Title IX requires schools offer girls the chance to try out in some circumstances.

“The day my youth baseball coach told me to quit was that day I decided to play baseball forever,” she told ESPN. She has made good on that promise to herself, making history many times over as the first woman to coach a professional men’s baseball team, to throw batting practice for an MLB team, and to coach for an MLB affiliated team.

It’s not just about her, though. As she is known to ask any chance she gets, “If you tell a girl she can’t play baseball, what else will she think she can’t do?”

Girls having access – and encouragement – to play baseball is a social justice issue that her nonprofit Baseball for All (BFA) has been tackling since 2010.

BFA started with a single all-girls team and now boasts players from 48 states and five countries that represent the organization in tournaments across the United States and compete against one another in the annual national tournament. Some of those players go on to play at the college varsity level on men’s teams, as a record six women did last year.

Others go on to take the field for their colleges in the newly launched Women’s College Club Baseball Championship. University of Washington took home the inaugural trophy in March 2022, but the proliferation of opportunity for girls and women to play baseball is the true victory.

Wherever they’re playing, Siegal and colleagues remind anyone who will listen, “When people ask, “Is that a girl?” Tell them it’s a baseball player.”

Sharp with the questions, Siegal wants to know: “More than 100,000 girls play youth baseball, but only 1,700 girls go on to play high school baseball. Their love of baseball – and their talent – didn’t just go away. So what happened to those other 99,000 players?”

VII. The Educator: Venkayla Haynes 

Venkayla Haynes is determined to stamp out gender-based violence, especially within marginalized communities. A survivor of abuse and assault, Haynes has spoken openly about how those experiences have shaped her work.

“I just felt like a lot of me was taken away,” she told The Nation. “What I wanted was for when I reported my freshman year was for me to be relieved, for me to be taken care of, and for my Title IX rights not to be violated.”

As an alumna of Spelman, a historically black women’s college, she personally confronted the added complexities Black survivors of sexual assault face, “We always come to these situations where we can’t come forward because we want to protect Black men or protect our Black brothers because they’re already fighting against a system that further criminalizes them.”

The importance of centering and supporting Black women, LGBTQ+ survivors, undocumented immigrants, and those with disabilities shines through in her work to teach college students their rights under Title IX. “Our understanding of sexual violence and survivorship needs to be intersectional, expansive, and continue to evolve,” she wrote for Forbes.

Specifically, she emphasizes connecting marginalized survivors with organizations that intentionally focus on their community. In addition to partnering with universities – including HBCUs— Haynes has collaborated with the Biden Foundation, ItsOnUs, and Know Your IX.

VIII. The Full Circle Legacies: Ginny Gilder and Ann Meyers Drysdale

While women’s pro sports don’t fall under the protection of Title IX, some of the law’s first beneficiaries – including Ginny Gilder and Ann Meyers Drysdale – have ensured that the intentionality of the legislation continues when athletes graduate from college.

Just two years after Title IX was signed into law, Meyers was among the first women to receive an athletic scholarship. At UCLA, the California native was a four-time All-American basketball player. She also knows the legislation still hasn’t lived up to its full potential.

“Fifty years later after Title IX, we know that a lot of schools – the majority of schools – are not in compliance with Title IX,” Meyers Drysdale said on the new NBC Sports podcast Hardwood Herstory. “But it’s become the calling card of women’s sports.”

A year after graduating from UCLA, she became the first (and still only) woman to sign an NBA contract. She didn’t make the team – but her time in professional basketball was just getting started. She was the first woman to work an NBA broadcast for one of the three major networks and when the WNBA launched in 1997, NBC approached Meyers Drysdale to serve as their main analyst. She worked as a broadcaster for a decade, before joining the Phoenix Mercury as a General Manager and leading the franchise two its first two WNBA championships. Today Meyers Drysdale serves as a VP for the Mercury and their NBA counterpart the Suns.

Four years after Title IX’s passage, Ginny Gilder and her Yale rowing teammates were still afterthoughts. Most glaring: while the men took hot showers after practice, the women’s boathouse didn’t accommodate showers, so they sat on the bus waiting for the men.

Yes, even in the dead of winter.

When enough was enough, 19 team members marched into the athletic director’s office, stripped out of their sweats to reveal their bodies naked except for “TITLE IX” handwritten in marker across their backs and chests, and read a statement with a now-memorialized first line: “These are the bodies that Yale is exploiting.”

The demonstration paid near-immediate dividends – and set a template of teamwork for Gilder to follow years later. In 2008, Gilder and business partners Dawn Trudeau and Lisa Brummel bought the Seattle Storm in order to keep the team in Seattle.

New Seattle Storm Owners Attend Press Conference
The Seattle Storm ownership group of Anne Levinson, Dawn Trudeau, Lisa Brummel, and Ginny Gilder is introduced on January 8, 2008 (Photo by Terrence Vaccaro/NBAE via Getty Images)

The Seattle Storm has won three WNBA championships under their leadership and revolutionized what community impact could mean when they became the first sports team to partner with Planned Parenthood.

“It’s probably not a tremendous coincidence that I’m now part of the ownership group of the Seattle Storm of the WNBA,” said Gilder in 2012. “After the [Title IX] protest I learned an important lesson: Don’t take no for an answer. Don’t let people tell you your dreams can’t come true.”

IX. The Young Activist: Rebekah Bruesehoff

As a 10-year-old in 2017, Rebekah Bruesehoff took to the New Jersey streets. With purple hair pulled back, slim jeans, a pink coat and matching shoes, she carried a sign: “I’m the SCARY TRANSGENDER person the MEDIA WARNED you about.”

In the years since, the legislation attacking trans kids – and trans girls in particular – has only become more vicious. In fact, in a hate-fueled turn of events, fifty years post-Title IX, nearly all legislation around girls’ and women’s sports focuses on exclusion – rather than inclusion.

Now 15 years old, Bruesehoff’s voice has only grown louder. She’s passionate about field hockey and knows that the laws banning trans girls from sport hurt trans girls and cis girls alike. That’s not a future she’s willing to accept, leading her to share her story as part of the Human Rights Campaign’s efforts to protect trans girls’ right to sport. She’s also testified in support of laws that require schools to include the accomplishments of LGBTQ+ people in the curriculum.

If Title IX’s greatest legacy has been its evolution to protect gender equity in all its forms, Bruesehoff, her family and friends are well poised for the fight.

It’s simple for Rebekah: “This is so important to me because I would believe that everyone deserves access to be part of their school community. And that means being in sports.”

There is much to celebrate as Title IX turns fifty – and many more than nine (or so) to thank for the progress made thus far.

There’s also more to fight for. There are still fewer girls playing sports today (50 years after Title IX) than there were boys playing sports when Title IX was passed. And though Title IX has changed the game for countless girls across the country, the progress has been unequal: girls of color still have just one-third the number of sports opportunities as white boys.

The gift of this anniversary then is to simultaneously celebrate and commit to a brighter future. To advocate and act. To chart a path forward by looking back.

Risa Isard is a writer, consultant, and expert in the intersection of sports, gender, LBGTQ+ and social issues. She is a Research Fellow with the Laboratory for Inclusion and Diversity in Sport at the University of Massachusetts, where she is pursuing a Ph.D. in the McCormack Department of Sport Management in the Isenberg School of Business. She has also written for espnW, Quartz, AdWeek, and Global Sport Matters. Follow her on Twitter @RisaLovesSports.

On Her Turf editor Alex Azzi contributed to this report. 

Li Li Leung talks USA Gymnastics’ cultural transformation, challenges still to come and embracing her AAPI heritage

Head of USA Gymnastics Li Li Leung.
Getty Images

Li Li Leung joined USA Gymnastics as president and CEO in March 2019, when the organization was reeling from the fallout of Larry Nassar’s widespread sexual abuse and the subsequent revelations of larger cultural issues within the sport. Since then, Leung has seen USAG through an ongoing transformation, one that hinges on the work of the survivors and staff around her, whom she is quick to credit. That evolution, as she calls it, has included instituting new norms and standards at all levels of the sport, particularly in matters related to athlete safety.

Among the notable USAG initiatives that Leung has brought to fruition is the Athlete Bill of Rights, established in December 2020 as a tool “to unite the full gymnastics community around a shared vision of behavioral expectations.” At the same time, USAG instituted a protest policy for national team members aimed at supporting athletes who choose to use their voice on public platforms. Both initiatives were among the first of their kind in sport.

Prior to joining USAG, Leung served as a vice president at the National Basketball Association (NBA), where she was responsible for building and managing key partner relationships around the world. She continues to use that experience in her roles as vice chair of the National Governing Bodies Council of the U.S. Olympic & Paralympic Committee and a member of the International Gymnastics Federation’s Executive Committee.

Leung, who began competing in gymnastics at age 7, was a member of the U.S. junior national training team and represented the U.S. at the 1988 Junior Pan American Games. She was a four-year member of the four-time Big 10 champion University of Michigan gymnastics team and was an NCAA Championships participant.

In honor of Asian American Pacific Islander (AAPI) Heritage Month, On Her Turf sat down with Leung to talk about her journey with USAG, the challenges still to come and how being a member of the AAPI community has shaped the person she is today.

ALSO FROM ON HER TURF: Sloane Stephens gets candid about turning 30, favorite self-care practices and freezing her eggs ahead of 12th French Open

This Q+A has been condensed and lightly edited for clarity.

On Her Turf: Let’s start by talking about your journey since joining USA Gymnastics in 2019. What have the last four years been like for you?

Li Li Leung: This was just an incredible opportunity to give back to the sport that has given so much to me. And I really mean that because I started in the sport when I was 7 years old and did it for 15 years. It’s taught me all of these different skills that I apply to my daily life, both professional and personal. It feels a little bit like I’ve come full circle, and honestly, never in a million years did I think I would find myself in this role. … I joined at a time when it was a tumultuous time for the organization. It’s been just a little a little over four years now, and it has been an incredible journey — and believe it or not, I have enjoyed it. While it hasn’t been easy, I actually have enjoyed it, because I’ve been able to make it not just me. One thing that’s important to note is that — I had even said on my first interview with the board — it will take a village to accomplish what we need to accomplish. This is not a one-person job. And I was lucky enough to be able to bring on a leadership team that has been incredible, and also retain the staff that we have retained, as well as hire other new staff members. And it’s because of them and some really key volunteers that we’ve been able to accomplish what we’ve been able to do.

OHT: Can you talk a little more about this cultural transformation that the organization has experienced and your approach to tackling this all-encompassing change?

Leung: When I was interviewing for the position, I actually met every single board member. It was really critical to both sides that they felt that I matched the role and their needs and also I had to be confident in the board believing in the ultimate mission of the organization and what we wanted to achieve. So that the culture really does stem from the well – from the top down and everything in between as well. And when I was looking for leadership team, … one of the characteristics I was really looking for was they couldn’t have an ego. The job couldn’t be about themselves or about what they would personally get out of the role. It had to be about them believing in the bigger picture and believing in what we collectively wanted to achieve. I knew that we would only be able to accomplish what we need to accomplish if people were willing to roll up their sleeves and just do whatever needed to be done, so that was one of the key things in terms of having no ego.

Since 2018, we’ve turned over more than 70 percent of our staff. We’ve been able to retain the really key members of our staff, who have been critical to our success, but also have been able to really bring in new thinking, new blood, new perspectives. Because the other thing I was looking for when I was hiring for the leadership team was diversity in perspectives. That was critical because I did not want to be surrounded by “yes people.” I wanted to be surrounded by people who would be willing to have really robust conversations and engage in difficult conversations, because ultimately, you end up in a better place because of that.

In 2020, we reset our mission to be about building a community and culture of health, safety and excellence, with athletes who thrive in sport and in life. So we were no longer about developing technically superior gymnasts who perform well in gym. We reset our focus to be about helping set our athletes up for success with the skill sets that you learn in gymnastics, and when we come to the office each day, that’s what we’re thinking about. …

The other piece is we also know from a community standpoint that our national team coaches are the most visible representation (of USAG), and a lot of coaches model them. So we’ve been working really hard in terms of working on educating our national team coaches. We work with Positive Coaching Alliance to do educational training with them as well. And we also have introduced training specifically for young coaches coming in, because we know when they come in and they’re new, that they’re eager to learn, and that’s when you can start training and moving them in a way. So our thinking is with this top-down and bottom-up strategy, eventually the middle will meet.

OHT: You noted how the coaches can be some of the most visible representatives of USAG. Regarding the addition of 2008 Olympic silver medalists Chellsie Memmel (USAG technical lead) and Alicia Sacramone Quinn (USAG strategic lead), how have those women impacted the program?

Leung: The addition of Chellsie and Alicia has been fantastic. They have been phenomenal to work with, and the fact that they have firsthand experience of having gone through it themselves – that also gives them a very good idea of what they would change and what they wouldn’t change, at the same time. It has been a phenomenal addition to be able to have this perspective of firsthand, high-level, high-performing athletes to be able to lead our high-performance team. And the athletes are saying it as well. They’re saying, “We trust them; we feel confident in their decisions; we can relate to them” — all of those things that historically haven’t really happened before.

Then in terms of the athletes who are going to college and coming back to compete with USA Gymnastics – there are so many aspects that I think are great about this. One: It’s showing a lengthened career in a sport that historically has not been very long because it’s so demanding on the body. So that means that our athletes are physically healthier, as well, that they can train and compete at a high level for a longer period of time. It also means that they’re enjoying it more because they’re staying in the sport. From an emotional standpoint, they’re finding a lot more joy in the sport, and they’re talking about it, too. And we love the fact that they’re talking about it. We want them to talk about it, and we want them to have voices and feel open and free about sharing what they’re thinking about. I have to say I’ve been really enjoying seeing almost like — I’m not sure if I can go as far as a new era in the sport maybe — but just this evolution of the sport and the athletes changing in front of my eyes.

OHT: What do you consider now to still be the biggest challenge or obstacle for USAG?

Leung: There are a couple of big initiatives on the list. One is we want to build a training and wellness center where all of our disciplines will train under one roof. This is a long-term project, obviously, but my vision around it is that it will be the heart and hub of gymnastics in America. And while this is where national team athletes will ultimately train to some extent, it is going to be a welcoming place for athletes of all different disciplines and all different levels. We want it to be a place where young athletes can come through and see their role models training. We want this to be a place of education for our community and judges. We want to be able to run clinics there for all different levels. We just want this to be a gathering place of gymnastics and to be able to celebrate the sport there at the same time.

We’re also going to reset our foundation. There’s been the National Gymnastics Foundation, but we are going to reset it and basically be much more proactive on fundraising and development to grow the sport and also to raise more money for athletes in their training.

OHT: Turning to AAPI Heritage Month and being named to the 2023 Gold House A100 List (the A100 is named each May honoring 100 Asian Pacific leaders who made the greatest impact on culture and society over the past year). What did that honor mean to you?

Leung: It was such an incredible honor to be recognized by them, and my fellow honorees — when I read the list, I thought to myself, “I don’t belong.” There are some incredible names on that list. But again, I go back to what I said earlier: I owe this honor to a lot of the other people who work [at USAG]. I think the really important thing to recognize is that this was not done by just me. It was done by a lot of other people who are on staff and who aren’t getting the accolades or the recognition. But it was an incredible experience to be, and I’m very, very touched and honored to be on that list.

OHT: How do you identify within the Asian American Pacific Islander community? Did you embrace your heritage growing up and how has that shaped who you are today?

Leung: So I’ll tell you a story that I’ve mentioned to other people recently. I grew up in a town called Ridgewood in Bergen County, New Jersey, and most of my friends had blond hair and blue eyes. When I was growing up, I wanted the name “Nancy Smith,” and I wanted blue eyes. I wanted to fit in. As a kid, you always want to fit in. Then when you get older and wizen up a little bit, you realize that it’s okay and it’s good to be different, that you can use that to your advantage. And so upon growing up, I realized that it’s pretty special to be Asian American and there are benefits to being Asian American, and you should embrace the fact that you are different. In fact, I recently lectured to a women-in-sports-business class, and one of the questions they asked me was about impostor syndrome. I said the same thing that I’m saying to you now, which is absolutely embrace who you are. Absolutely embrace your differences, because those ultimately are embedded advantages to who you are and make you stand out from the rest of the crowd. So that’s my philosophy now.

OHT: Do you or your family have any traditions that are especially important to you?

Leung: I wouldn’t necessarily say it’s a tradition, but in the Chinese culture, food is really important. Food is what brings people together. It’s a sign of respect, and that is the ultimate unifying language in a way. So when we do get together as a family, it’s really important for us to get together around a meal, because that’s when we share our stories. That’s when we connect with one another.

OHT: You might have just answered my next question, but I want to ask: What brings you joy about your heritage and culture?

Leung: It’s funny, I was actually at a conference last week and you were supposed to find someone you didn’t know in the conference and share a secret talent that you have. I shared that I can eat a lot more than most people think. Food is a really important part of our culture and in my upbringing and family.

OHT: Lastly, I wanted to ask, as we’ve seen an increase in hate-filled actions toward the AAPI community, what does supporting the AAPI community look like for you?

Leung: Well, I think kind of going back to my other answer, it’s just about embracing who you are and embracing your differences. I think part of it is being unafraid of it at the same time, which I know is really difficult. But if you’re going to truly embrace it, and then you can’t be afraid about embracing it at the same time.

MORE FROM ON HER TURF: Laureus award winner and three-time Olympic medalist Eileen Gu on Stanford, elevating women and changing the game

2023 Mizuho Americas Open: How to watch, who’s playing in inaugural LPGA event at Liberty National GC

Pajaree Anannarukarn of Thailand tees off on the eleventh hole during Day One of the HSBC Women's World Championship.
Getty Images

The Statue of Liberty is the backdrop for this week’s inaugural Mizuho Americas Open at Liberty National Golf Club in Jersey City, New Jersey. The tournament boasts a theme of mentorship and education, and includes a girls’ 72-hole, modified Stableford tournament featuring 24 juniors to go along with the 72-hole stroke-play event for 120 LPGA professionals.

The field is led by seven of the top 10 players on the Rolex Rankings including world No. 1 Jin Young Ko, No. 3 Lydia Ko, No. 4 Lilia Vu and No. 5 Minjee Lee. Also teeing it up this week are the finalists from Sunday’s Bank of Hope LPGA Match-Play, where Thailand’s Pajaree Anannarukarn captured her second LPGA title with a 3-and-1 victory over Japan’s Ayaka Furue.

Michelle Wie West is serving as the tournament host, and she’ll be on hand to welcome fellow Stanford alum Rose Zhang, who’s fresh off her second straight NCAA individual title and turned professional just last week. Zhang will have her first go at an LPGA prize purse, which tops out at $2.75 million this week with the winner taking home $412,500.

How to watch the 2023 Mizuho Americas Open

You can watch the 2023 Mizuho Americas Open on Golf Channel, Peacock, NBCSports.com and the NBC Sports app. Check out the complete TV and streaming schedule:

  • Thursday, June 1: 11 a.m.-2 p.m. ET, Golf Channel and Peacock
  • Friday, June 2: 11 a.m.-2 p.m. ET, Golf Channel and Peacock
  • Saturday, June 3: 5-8 p.m. ET, Golf Channel and Peacock
  • Sunday, June 4: 4:30-5 p.m. ET (streaming only on Peacock); 5-7:30 p.m. ET, Golf Channel and Peacock

ALSO FROM ON HER TURF: Wake Forest captures team title at 2023 NCAA DI women’s golf championships, Stanford’s Rose Zhang wins individual crown

Who’s playing in the 2023 Mizuho Americas Open?

The 120-player field features seven of the top 10 players (and 16 of the top 25 player) on the Rolex Rankings:

  • No. 1 Jin Young Ko
  • No. 3 Lydia Ko
  • No. 4 Lilia Vu
  • No. 5 Minjee Lee
  • No. 6 Atthaya Thitikul
  • No. 8 Brooke Henderson
  • No. 9 Georgia Hall

Also in the field are 2023 winners Celine Boutier (LPGA Drive On Championship), Ruoning Yin (DIO Implant LA Open) and Grace Kim (LOTTE Championship), plus several sponsor exemptions including reigning NCAA individual champion Rose Zhang and her Stanford teammate Megha Ganne. Ganne, a native of Holmdel, N.J., finished T-21 at the recent NCAAs and is playing as an amateur. Joining them as an exemption is fellow Cardinal Mariah Stackhouse, who has conditional status on tour in 2023. Monday qualifiers include tour rookie Alexa Pano and Australia’s Sarah Jane Smith.

Among the notable juniors expected to play are 2022 Augusta National Women’s Amateur winner Anna Davis, 2022 U.S. Girls’ Junior winner Yana Wilson and 2022 U.S. Junior Girls’ runnerup Gianna Clemente. The 24 junior players were invited through their standings in the Rolex AJGA Rankings.

What’s the format for the Mizuho Americas Open?

The professionals will play a 72-hole stroke-play competition, with a cut to the top 50 and ties after 36 holes. The 24 juniors will play a 72-hole, no-cut competition using the modified Stableford scoring format and a different yardage than the pros.

During the first two rounds, the AJGA players will all be paired together. During the final two rounds, one junior player will play with two LPGA pros with groupings based on scores. This unique format marks the first time the AJGA and LPGA have partnered to showcase junior and professional competitors playing together.

Stableford scoring refresher: “Stableford” is a scoring system that awards points for the number of strokes taken on each hole in relation to par, rather than simply counting strokes like in stroke play. Unlike in stroke play, where players want the lowest score, the goal in Stableford scoring is to have the highest score. Standard Stableford points values are:

  • 0 Points – Double bogey or worse (two strokes or more over par)
  • 1 Point – Bogey (one stroke over par)
  • 2 Points – Par
  • 3 Points – Birdie (one stroke under par)
  • 4 Points – Eagle (two strokes under par)
  • 5 Points – Albatross or double eagle (three strokes under par)
  • 6 Points – Condor (four strokes under par)

More about Liberty National Golf Club

Located on the shore of the Upper Bay of New York Harbor, Liberty National Golf Club was designed by Bob Cupp and Tom Kite and officially opened on July 4, 2006. After the course received mixed reviews following the PGA Tour’s Northern Trust in 2009, the course underwent a renovation led by Steve Wenzloff of PGA Tour Design Services. Of note, the course hosted an event during the PGA Tour Playoffs four times (2009, 2013, 2019 and 2021) as well as the 2017 Presidents Cup, where the U.S. defeated the Internationals 19-11 for the Americans’ seventh consecutive victory in the competition and its 10th straight win overall. For this week’s event, the course will play to a par of 72 with an unofficial scorecard yardage of 6,671 yards.

MORE FROM ON HER TURF: Laureus award winner and three-time Olympic medalist Eileen Gu on Stanford, elevating women and changing the game