INTERNATIONAL WOMEN’S DAY – Sports Matter for Girls: 50 Years After Title IX

For this year’s Women’s History Month, basketball alumna and Fenwick Broadcasting Club founder shares how Frair teachers guided her along a career path to sports journalism.

By Karli Bell ’12

Two years ago, an icon in the basketball world passed away unexpectedly. Kobe Bryant’s death was something that shook the sports world and shook me to my core. I lost an icon, a coach and a hero. Then, I had to go on air and talk about this in my sportscast.

I broke down. I tried to hold in the tears and emotions. But to me, I had a hole.

I spent upwards of 10 years on the hardwood. It was the one sport that I loved to my core (and still do) for a few reasons. I loved the constant flow of the game, having constant action, the selflessness, the mental challenges.

But it’s also the only sport that is gender equal when it comes to the core of the game. The only differences in women’s and men’s basketball are the size of the ball and the number of steps allowed to travel. It was a game that I could play with anyone, anytime and, really, anywhere. Growing up as the only girl on a Northwest-side Chicago block, it was a classic staple in my alleyway.

My time as an athlete is a time that forever shaped me. It taught me discipline, teamwork, selflessness, confidence and to put in 110 percent in everything you do. Work ethic is everything. If you put your mind to it, you truly can accomplish anything you want to do. 

Sports Matter.

Karli as a young Friar hooper.

When I ended my time as a basketball player, the world of sports had such an impact on me that I couldn’t just leave. Basketball and sports saved my life, in all honesty. It brought me so much confidence, empowerment and boosted my self-esteem. I couldn’t leave this space; that’s when I found sports journalism and media. 

Sitting in Mr. Arellano’s speech class is when I wanted to start working on my craft. I would ask him for advice on how to fix my delivery, my presence, if I had any nervous ticks. I wanted any and all feedback. He answered every bothersome, annoying question I had. He was the first teacher I went to when I ‘pitched’ what is now the Fenwick Broadcasting Club. 

Fenwick was training camp. I spent hours in Mr. Paulett’s basement English classroom, editing videos with makeshift software. I was in the tech office, reading a Microsoft Word script off a laptop to a small little camcorder or interviewing classmates about school events. I would post countless Facebook posts to promote viewership, as I’m now learning was maybe a bit too much. (Sorry, guys!)

I put all my effort into it, just how I used to put all my effort into basketball. Work ethic, confidence, selflessness, teamwork, discipline, communication, creativity. I learned all that on the basketball court. It all translates. Those times on the court are memories that stick.

Sports Matter.

Bell on the set.

Flash forward to now 10 years later: That work ethic translated to being in a top-three sports market before age 30. Communication transferred into networking and building a list of professional contacts. Creativity shows in countless stories, videos and photos. Discipline, teamwork and selflessness is used every day in the workplace.

CLICK OR TAP HERE TO CHECK OUT ONE OF KARLI’S VIDEO FEATURES.

Life lessons are learned on a court, field, diamond, track and mat. Sports are impactful. They have a profound influence on youth, but particularly little girls. Basketball showed I’m equal. The only thing that mattered was how you play the game. Let the work and practice speak for itself, which would be the best way for me to enter a male-dominated field.

Sports showed me a rigor and fire in myself that I couldn’t find anywhere else. They gave me a social circle and group of friends that every tomboy girl needs. They challenged me constantly, both mentally and physically. You learn respect for authority, to listen, to analyze; all of these being valuable lessons that were first learned on the court. 

READ ABOUT FENWICK’S TITLE IX-PIONEERING
GIRLS’ BASKETBALL COACH, DAVE POWER.

Now, as I’ve done my time covering countless high school and college athletes, there’s a new flame that sports ignited: it’s seeing people’s stories play out in a game. All those life lessons I learned, I see at every practice and game I’ve covered. I see the constant challenges a player faces in the week when they make a mistake. I see their love and selflessness when they cheer on a teammate. I see their pride and confidence grow a bit more when they score.

Sports are more than entertainment. They change lives. They inspire. They represent everyone. They’re therapy. They’re an escape. They’re a moment of hope.

And to some little girls, sports are a safe haven. Sports are where friendships are made. Sports are a mental escape; the moment you pick up a ball or lace up the shoes and hit the hardwood, all other problems leave. It’s where we first experience support that isn’t from a family member. These are invaluable, intangible values that have more impact on life than learning the Pythagorean Theorem or anything you could learn in a classroom.

Sports Matter.

About the Author

Karli Bell, Fenwick Class of 2012, is a digital content producer and editor for Marquee Sports Network, the two-year-old regional sports media outlet operated by Sinclair Broadcast Group and the Chicago Cubs. Ms. Bell is a 2015 alumna of Ohio University.

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