Written by David Bayer
Happy Anniversary, Cat!
February 1st marks the five year anniversary of the “Testimony of Catherine Anne Reddick Before the U.S. Senate Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation.”
You may know Catherine better as Cat Whitehill, 2003 Hermann Trophy winner as college soccer’s top female player, World Cup participant, 2004 Gold Medal Olympian, two-year Washington Freedom pro, animal enthusiast, and current member of the Atlanta Beat.
Four years ago, a bill was introduced which would have drastically damaged Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972. Title IX is a federal statute which prohibits discrimination on the basis of sex in education programs. Athletics-wise, women athletes are required to get their fair share of scholarship dollars and sports programs.
Cat took to the Senate floor, opposing the bill at the urging of Nike, a huge supporter of women’s athletics. She was not alone. Women’s Sports Foundation (WSF) founder and tennis legend Billie Jean King, softball great Jennie Finch and Olympic gymnast Dominique Dawes were also part of the opposition. Cat considers the WSF the “watch dog” of women’s rights in sports.
When I asked Cat how she felt going into the event, the first word that came to mind was “scary.” She also found the setup a bit intimidating. The women were seated on the lower level of the Senate floor looking up at the committee. When it was her turn, Cat talked about growing up in Alabama loving sports, but having to play on boy’s soccer teams until her freshman year in high school. She mentioned being able to go to an “outstanding” college (North Carolina) which she wouldn’t have been able to attend without a scholarship. She discussed her National Team and Olympic experiences, but said most important of all was gaining her self-confidence, adopting a healthy lifestyle and learning what it means to be part of a team. She concluded her speech by
saying: “Somewhere in Alabama right now, there’s a young girl who has the ability to improve her own life and inspire yet another generation through sports. Please make sure she has the opportunity. ”
I titled this article “Happy Anniversary, Cat”, because Cat and the other women were successful in their endeavor. The bill was not passed! I asked Cat about the four years since that momentous day. She said that Title IX is having its intended effect, and she doesn’t expect any changes to it. Her home state of Alabama has “embraced” the concept and, in her opinion, is “at the forefront of how a state should be.” She hopes that equality makes its way into professional sports, but she doesn’t expect that to happen in her lifetime.
Cat does see room for improvement in women’s soccer. She feels that many young players have forgotten the history of what got them to their current status – the “pioneers” who paved the way for them. A sense of entitlement has crept in. This is a feeling that she experienced firsthand. She said that while in college, “If I needed a new pair of cleats, I would snap my fingers and there they were.”
As far as a solution, Cat falls back on her experiences in being part of a team. She would like to see a joining together of the veterans of the National Team and younger players. “I want the younger players to know about the history, and it would be great for the veterans to hear the ideals of the younger players,” she said. “It would make the National Team and the WPS that much stronger if we all joined forces.”
As we spoke, it was very easy to hear the genuine passion in Cat’s voice for both the league today, and the future of young girls everywhere. I’m not a Senator, but she certainly won me over.
Thank you, Cat, for all you’ve done. When we meet, the sweet tea is on me.