Christine Brennan grew up during a time when girls weren’t encouraged or allowed to play sports. Yet, her father taught her how to throw a baseball and gave her a mitt for her eighth birthday. Soon, the boys began picking her first to be on their teams, and she grew up to become a national sports columnist.
“I decided to be the role model I never had,” she said. Brennan has covered 16 Olympic Games, written a best-selling book and serves as a television and radio sports commentator.
During the luncheon on Tuesday in the Maddox Grand Atrium, she shared advice with 57 female high school students who completed the Music City Girls Lead! leadership academy as part of the activities leading up to the NCAA Women’s Final Four Tournament in Nashville, Tenn. this weekend.
“Whatever she is going to do, she will have the opportunity to be better at it because she played sports,” Brennan said, adding that through Title IX, women have developed team work, sportsmanship and health benefits, all of which translate well into essential knowledge and necessary life skills.
“Stand up straight. Shoulders back. It’s OK to be taller than boys,” Brennan said. She also encouraged the students to work hard, be dedicated and write thank you notes. “Find something you love and go for it with all your heart.”
Belmont University hosted the luncheon, a celebration of women’s empowerment through education, communities, sports, arts and business. The Champions4Women Committee of the Nashville Local Organizing Committee created the Music City Girls Lead! leadership academy in partnership with Lipscomb University’s Nelson and Sue Andrews Institute for Civic Leadership as a way to promote women as leaders. The students hailed from 37 public and private schools from around Tennessee and as far as Jackson and Chattanooga, and their mentors included a former Federal Communications Commission commissioner, corporate chief executive officers, University administrators and other professional women.
Tennessee First Lady Crissy Haslam called the mentoring program and luncheon “another opportunity to develop young ladies in our community and leave a lasting legacy” as well to develop “strong character and leadership skills important to success.”
State Sen. Thelma Harper and dozens of Girl Scouts from the Girls Advisory Committee also were among special guests.
“A strong female leadership community already exists here, and this luncheon was an opportunity to talk to young people about following their dream and passions,” said Ohio Valley Conference Commissioner Beth DeBauchen. “Belmont and Lipscomb played such as wonderful role in getting together this legacy program and giving back to young people.”
The impact of the 2014 NCAA Women’s Final Four on the Middle Tennessee community will last for years after the final game is played, thanks to the many Legacy Programs created to bring women’s sports into focus, to address issues of disparity between men’s and women’s sports funding and coverage and to empower young female athletes by enabling them to become leaders within their own teams and communities.