February is designated each year as National Women in Sports Month. This initiative period exists to acknowledge and recognize current sports achievements, the positive influence of sports participation and the continuing need for focus on equality and access to sports opportunities for girls and women. Forty-three years after the implementation of Title IX, there is still much to be done in the effort to achieve gender equity for women, not only in athletics but in our society as well. Equal pay for equal work, opportunities for women to advance into leadership positions among our nation’s businesses and the emphasis our society places on women and their appearance are just a few of the many challenges that our young girls face in looking toward their futures beyond their high school years. I not only see this happening from my position as the Commissioner of Athletics for the CIF Southern Section; I see it every day as the father of two daughters, ages 18 and 16. Our task as educational leaders and parents is to encourage, motivate, inspire and empower young women to build upon the lessons they have learned through their high school athletic experiences in an effort support them in pursuing their life goals. We need to do this every day and every month, not just in February.

An organization called the National Association for Girls and Women in Sports, a division of the American Alliance for Health, Physical Education, Recreation and Dance, encourages students, sports educators, coaches and athletic directors to attend a special event celebrating female athletes every February. I want to let you know about three examples of such events that take place within the CIF Southern Section that show commitment, initiative and leadership from our high school athletic directors in doing exactly what the NAGWS is advocating.

In 2004, the Orange County Athletic Directors Association began to hold a Women in Sports Conference to bring student-athletes from the high schools in Orange County together to hear from female athletes, past and present, who shared their personal stories with the girls that day. From those beginnings, the OCADA now hosts over 1,300 girls at their yearly event. Five years ago, the Citrus Belt Area Athletic Directors Association began to hold a Woman in Sports Conference and at their most recent one, held on Feb. 3, there were over 1,300 girls in attendance. On Feb. 17, the Foothill/Citrus Athletic Directors Association made history by holding their first Women in Sports Conference for 350 girls and they now have the template in place to build upon the success of their initial effort this year in the years ahead.

I have the opportunity each year to attend all of the Women in Sports Conferences conducted by these fine organizations, and I make sure not to miss any of them. Through the years, I have seen excellent presentations from Olympic athletes, professional athletes, Paralympic athletes, college coaches, high school teachers, coaches and athletic directors, CIF Southern Section Assistant Commissioners, superintendents of schools, police officers, attorneys, television sports announcers from ESPN and Fox Sports, and many, many, more. All of the women who cared enough to take the time to give back to our girls by telling their stories at these conferences are tremendous role models and wonderful examples for all of us to follow. They truly encourage, motivate, inspire and empower every one of us. I thank the OCADA, CBAADA and FCADA for their hard work and dedication in promoting women in sports and for truly making a difference in the lives of the young women we are so fortunate to serve. Congratulations on a job well done!

Rob Wigod is Commissioner of Athletics for the CIF Southern Section.

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