NGWSD: Grete Eliassen's trip to Capitol Hill

Athlete lobbyists who hit Capitol Hill this week: Nancy Hogshead-Makar, Lillian Greene-Chamberlain, Dominique Dawes, Grete Eliassen, Esther Lofgren, Emily Hughes and Sarah Hughes. Grete Eliassen

Hi everyone,

I just got back from Washington, D.C., where I attended the 27th annual National Girls and Women in Sports Day (NGWSD) on Capitol Hill with the Women’s Sports Foundation (WSF), Girls Inc., National Association for Girls and Women in Sport and the National Women’s Law Center (NWLC), alongside athletes Nancy Hogshead-Makar, Esther Lofgren, Lillian Greene-Chamberlain and sisters Sarah and Emily Hughes.

NGWSD is marked annually with events around the country and on Capitol Hill to commemorate the achievements of girls and women in athletics. This was my fourth trip to D.C. with Women’s Sports Foundation and I have more fun every year. It’s also a great excuse to put on a power skirt and fight for what I believe in.

The day started at 7 a.m. when we left the hotel for a breakfast meeting at the NWLC. We split into groups, each given talking points and a schedule for the day. Immediately, I was excited because our first visit would be with Senator Orrin Hatch from my home state of Utah. When you are lobbying, it is always a nice ice-breaker to be a resident of the same state as the official whom you are meeting. London Olympic champion rower Esther Lofgren was in my group, so I knew it was going to be a great day.

This year, the WSF and Coalition partners were meeting with congressional leaders to discuss the High School Data Transparency Act of 2013. If passed, the bill would require high schools to make publicly available basic data on the numbers of female and male students and athletes, as well as expenditures made for each sports team on travel, equipment, facilities and publicity, among other things.

This bill is important for students and parents who have an interest in athletic opportunities. For example, if a parent or student were to talk to an athletic director and ask if their school is in compliance with equal spending for boys’ and girls’ sports, the AD might say, “Yes, we are in Title IX compliance.” However, if this bill were to be passed, the data would become public and free for any citizen to use to help support themselves or their children in getting involved with sport. This legislation is so important because, while some parents can afford for their daughters and sons to play on club teams, the majority of children in the U.S. will have their only sports experience while attending high school. Making the data publicly available is also estimated to take only two to eight hours of extra work a year depending on the size of the school.

Traveling through the halls of the Dirksen, Hart and Russell Senate Office Buildings was exhilarating and my group gained a lot of support throughout the day at our meetings. We visited the offices of Senator Hatch, Senator Tammy Baldwin (D-Wisconsin) and Senator Heidi Heitkamp (D-North Dakota) and left feeling satisfied we would see support for the bill. It is easy for everyone to agree with us because supporting girls to play sports and celebrating their accomplishments is the right thing to do and it benefits everyone.

We ended the day at a briefing in the Capitol, where athletes Dominique Dawes, Sarah Hughes, Hogshead-Makar and other experts on girls, women and sports spoke on a panel about the importance of the High School Transparency Act. In addition, a young athlete from Girls Inc. named Sydney gave a powerful speech on how sports have changed her life and empowered her to become better in school and life. That is when you know the power of sports and every girl should have the chance to participate.

I am so thankful to have experienced such an exciting day on the Hill with all the other girls and thrilled to see the difference it makes.

Happy National Girls and Women in Sports Day!