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16 Star Athletes, Seven Families Represented In ESPN.com’s “Sports Legacies Title IX Created”

Generations of female athletes tell their stories in a 5500-word multimedia project written by ESPN.com's Elaine Teng and produced by ESPN Creative Studio

As an Indiana high school distance runner, Cheryl Treworgy initially was prohibited from running with her male classmates. However, when she was allowed to compete, she was depicted in local media wearing a majorette’s uniform during cross country practice.

When Marsha Lake was a star of North Carolina’s first women’s basketball team 50 years ago, players got 50 cents for meals for away games. “You could buy a hamburger, but you couldn’t [also] buy a drink,” she said.

Even as a Michigan softball star in the late 1980s and early ’90s, Heather Lyke and her teammates were responsible for covering their home field with a tarp the night before games. The Wolverines baseball team, on the other hand, had a grounds crew.

Treworgy, Lake, and Lyke are a few of the 16 star, pioneering female athletes representing seven families ESPN.com profiles in the long read feature “Sports Legacies Title IX Created.” The families – some featuring three generations of athletes – discuss the maternal lineages built across 50 years since the passage of Title IX, part of ESPN’s Fifty/50 storytelling initiative.

The feature explores some of the inequities facing female athletes predating Title IX’s passage and existing even years afterward. It also celebrates their triumphs.

ESPN.com senior editor Elaine Teng, working with her colleagues across ESPN Creative Studio and ESPN Talent departments, wrote the 5500-word feature. She discusses the storytelling with Front Row.

How did your team determine which families to profile?
We wanted to show generational change over the 50 years of Title IX. We realized that there must be women in the same family who played college sports in extremely different circumstances. From there, we reached out to our colleagues across different sports groups to help us find possible subjects.

What timeline were you working under to publish the piece in time for ESPN’s Fifty/50 initiative?
The first email I received about this idea was back in May 2020. Most of our shoots and interviews took place in February and March, while the wonderful Visual Storytelling unit of Creative Studio worked tirelessly on the design and development side.

Growing up, I completely took my opportunity to play sports for granted. But I realized how much has changed in just five decades – within living memory – and how so many people fought for that progress. And there’s still so much to be done.
ESPN.com senior editor Elaine Teng

What challenges did you face as the writer?
We photographed and interviewed 16 women in seven families scattered all over the country, which took a lot of coordinating and wrangling. Luckily our Talent team, led by Stacey Pressman, Director of Talent Production, helped us with securing the athletes, and our Photo team, led by Senior Creative Director Heather Donahue, rolled with the punches.

What story did not make the final cut that you wish you could have included?
WNBA rookie and former Michigan star Naz Hillmon’s mother, NaSheema Anderson, told me that Naz initially refused to learn to drive. When she asked Naz why, Naz said she didn’t want to lose the “very sacred” time they spent in the car together. It’s a lovely anecdote about their relationship and indicative of how Naz relies on her mother on and off the court.

What do you hope readers take away from the piece?
Growing up, I completely took my opportunity to play sports for granted. But I realized how much has changed in just five decades – within living memory – and how so many people fought for that progress. And there’s still so much to be done.

(L-R) Panel 1: Maureen and Maya Brady (Hana Asano for ESPN); Panel 2: Gail Hillmon-Williams, NaSheema Anderson and Naz Hillmon (Sarah Rice for ESPN);
Panel 3: Katie and Azzi Fudd (Tyler Twins for ESPN)
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