This year marks the 50th anniversary of the passing of Title IX by the United States Congress. In 1972, Congress passed Title IX as part of that year’s education amendments. Written by Representative Patsy Mink, Representative Edith Green and Senator Birch Bayh, the law prohibits sex-based discrimination in all schools receiving federal financial assistance. Although the text of the law makes no reference to athletics, it was later determined to encompass all aspects of a school’s operations, including intercollegiate sports programs. One study found that, between the implementation of Title IX and 2006, there had been an almost 500% increase in the number of female collegiate athletes.
Shanele Stires was named the new head coach of the Cal Poly women’s basketball team in April. “While being challenged in my coaching career, I get to live in one of the most beautiful places on earth and work for one of the best universities in the world,” she said. “I think that is the perfect combination if you want to coach college athletics. I get to make a profound impact on these young ladies’ lives while getting to work with some of my best friends on the coaching staff. I also get to work under the amazing leadership of President Jeffrey Armstrong and Athletic Director Don Oberhelman. All of those things made it a dream role for me.”
Coach Steres grew up watching men’s basketball because women’s was not televised. Her favorite team, the University of Kansas, won the NCAA Tournament in 1988. “Watching the Jayhawks is what sparked my interest in basketball and then I just fell in love with it.”
Once college basketball season ended, she would watch NBA games. She became inspired by Magic Johnson. “He played with such passion and made his team better.”
“Basketball allowed me to challenge myself- the dribbling with the footwork, shooting, passing, rebounding,” Stires says as to why she chose to continue with basketball over sports such as volleyball and softball.
After attending Kansas State from 1992-95, she began playing professional basketball in the American Basketball League in 1996 following the Atlanta Olympics. “That was a huge boom for women’s basketball in the US The ’96 team was our dream team.”
After the ABL folded in 1998, Steres went overseas to play for a year. Then in 2000, she was drafted to the Minnesota Lynx of the WNBA. She comments on being a part of the second wave of women to join the WNBA, with its inaugural season being in 1997. “You feel like a pioneer. There is a strong sense of responsibility of carrying that banner through.”
“The fact that the WNBA has been around for twenty-six seasons is amazing. It’s a real positive sign considering Title IX was only fifty years ago.”
“I am very thankful for Title IX. I was born the year it was passed so I’ve grown up with it. I look up to those players that came before us that didn’t have the same opportunities that I had. so proud to be able to be a part of the first generation that brought professional women’s basketball to this country.”
As for advice Stires would give to those looking to make a career in coaching or playing basketball: “Success leaves clues. I attribute my success to my mother and father for instilling great work ethic in me. What I have learned in my journey is that You need to focus and eliminate distractions. You must make choices everyday prioritizing actions that will move you closer to your goals. I think anybody can end up where I am, but I think it takes a lot of vision, focus, and discipline.”
Coach Steres emphasize how rewarding coaching is. “The coolest part of my job is getting to see the impact you make on the young ladies you’ve coached. You get to be a part of their lives for the rest of yours.”