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Tales Of Title IX: First Coast Author Shares Hoop Dreams Realized In Memoir

Courtesy of Perry Knotts

Growing up in basketball-crazed Indiana in the 1950's, Debbie Millbern Powers mastered the game of hoops on driveway courts against neighborhood boys. Despite being a gifted athlete with an unrelenting passion for competition, she was relegated to the bleachers while the boys played on school teams.

"It really hurt my feelings," she said. "I absolutely wanted to play sports with every molecule of my being, and they wouldn't let me."

In spite of the unrelenting sexism of her day, she continued to play, and when the landmark federal law Title IX passed in 1972, Powers went into coaching.

She shares her stories of life as a gifted athlete, before and after Title IX, in the fascinating new memoir Meeting Her Match: The Story of a Female Athlete-Coach, Before and After Title IX.

"There were horrible inequities before Title IX," she said. "We had no money for travel, uniforms or lodging for games.  Our coach paid out of her own pocket for everything. We even had to have tea and cookies with the opposing team after the game!"

As Powers went on to become a high school and college coach herself, she faced a monumental and unprecedented challenge when her high school girls’ volleyball team was forced to play against boys in a dramatic 1975 state championship final. 

"It was due to the confusion over how Title IX was to be implemented," she said. "It will never happen in that way again."

The dramatic outcome of that game has Hollywood interested in her story.

"It's being pitched as A League Of Their Own meets Hoosiers," she said.

"But here's the thing. Title IX was about education. The word 'sports' was never used in the legislation," she said. "Today though, in most people's minds, it's about sports equality."

"But when I share my story, women over and over confide to me tales of wanting to be an architect, business owner, or doctor, but society told them 'no.' This story transcends the world of sports."

You can follow Melissa Ross on Twitter @MelissainJax.

Melissa Ross joined WJCT in 2009 with 20 years of experience in broadcasting, including stints in Cincinnati, Chicago, Orlando and Jacksonville. During her career as a television and radio news anchor and reporter, Melissa has won four regional Emmys for news and feature reporting.