Fort Worth Convention and visitors Bureau Blog

Kris Canfield: Woman Worth Meeting

As we celebrate the 50th anniversary of the landmark legislation that opened collegiate sporting doors to women, we remember that one of the reasons it was needed was that many felt female athletes couldn’t handle the rigors of competitive sport. “Title IX has not only allowed women to have similar opportunities as men, in sports, but it also highlighted the disparity in women having ability to perform and push their bodies to high level of achievement and competition,” Kris Canfield told us via email. “Highlighting the disparity was the first step. Offering equal opportunities for both genders is the second step, and the final step is equality across the board, which I believe we are still striving towards, but we aren't there yet. It takes all of us now to stand up and help break down those barriers for the younger generation.” Canfield herself has shown that women not only can handle a demanding athletic workload, such pursuits can help them thrive. “Growing up I played basketball, softball, and track. I started learning more about soccer, but my school did not have the sport, so my parents sent me to a summer camp to learn the basics and I would practice fundamentals and technique at home, in between other sports,” she said of a youth spent developing the skills that allowed her to play two sports at Mid-America Christian University. “My dual collegiate sports, it was crazy. Soccer was in the fall and softball was in the spring, so my only downtime was December, but it helped pay for my college; taught me time management; and how to organize my schedule and tasks to get schoolwork done, meet the physical demands and fitness tests, and have a social life.” Sports also provided a model for Kris to become one of the people who helps break down barriers for female competitors. “My inspiration growing up was Reggie White with the Green Bay Packers. He was a quiet beast on the field, but was kind and served others. He was the first athlete I watched on TV where I realized you could be competitive during your sport, but gentle and kind off the field.”  …

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Katie Douglass: Woman Worth Meeting

Katie Douglass Gilligan: Woman Worth Meeting Fort Worth Sports has created a series of blog posts in conjunction with the 50th year of Title IX. Each article will profile a woman who has made substantial contributions to the vibrant Fort Worth sports scene. As the Executive Vice President of…

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Linsay Rosser-Sumpter: Woman Worth Meeting

“With the 50th anniversary of title IX approaching, I am reminded of its positive impact in my life as a female athlete. My hope is to continue the fight for equal opportunities for women and empower what makes us unique,” said Linsay Rosser-Sumpter via email. She benefitted from the legislation as a standout student-athlete at California Polytechnic University-San Luis Obispo and now guides collegiate competitors as the head rodeo coach at Otero College in Colorado. “As someone who seeks to inspire the upcoming generation of women in rodeo by showing that anything is possible regardless of your gender, having a system that implements policies to support such goals of equality is incredibly meaningful.” She brings that same sentiment to her newest endeavor as Commissioner of the Women’s Rodeo World Championship. In the statement she issued immediately after the organization announced her hire, she wrote, “THIS EVENT STANDS TO SHATTER THE CEILING FOR COWGIRLS ALL OVER THIS GREAT NATION.” And yes, she did put it in ALL CAPS. She’ll preside over the WRWC May 16-18 at Fort Worth’s Cowtown Coliseum, as 179 female rodeo athletes vie for shares of a women’s rodeo record $750,000 purse. This year marks the first time they’ll charge admission for the final round, which CBS Sports Network will also broadcast nationally. The 43-year-old still competes professionally as a breakaway roper who has (more than one) day job. She wants all women to do the same if they want to. “I am deeply motivated by the desire to ensure women in rodeo and the western industry have endless opportunities to remain involved for their entire lives, never having to ‘hang it up’ because the opportunities are not there as women,” she declared.…

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Leslie Bedford: Woman Worth Meeting

Title IX has benefitted female competitors not only in terms of the number of athletes participating, but also in the quantity of sports from which they can choose. Women have made significant inroads in pastimes once unavailable to their gender, including combat sports. “Women's wrestling is the number one growing sport in college right now,” explained Fort Worth wrestling force Leslie Bedford. “Every year there's more and more opportunity for these girls to get scholarships.” The first U.S. collegiate women’s wrestling program didn’t begin until 1993, but athletic departments have accelerated their engagement with the sport in recent years. NAIA schools have led the way, with the organization recently approving women’s wrestling as the association’s 28th national championship, elevating it from invitational status. Men’s wrestling powerhouse Iowa last year became the first Power 5 institution to start a team, with the Hawkeyes set to begin competing in the 2023-24 season. Bedford herself helped launch the program at Fort Worth’s Texas Wesleyan University. “Texas Wesleyan decided to establish a boys and girls wrestling team. And I thought my husband would be absolutely perfect for it and between him and I doing it together, I'd be his support,” Leslie said of the circumstances by which her husband Ray became the Rams’ first head coach. “He was hired three years ago.” Under the Bedfords, the Wesleyan grapplers have progressed quickly. The women’s team finished fifth at last month’s NAIA Women's National Invitational. Lexie Basham became the program’s first national champion when she took first place in the 130-pound weight class. In addition to helping the collegiate wrestlers however they need, Leslie works with the sport at every level. She and Ray own the Spartan Mat Club in North Fort Worth, providing a competition hub for all ages. They try to create a welcoming climate there. “Wrestling is definitely a community. And our kids can come from all over the place. We have kids from Prosper, Rockwall, Burleson, Azle, driving daily, just for the partners and just for the family (atmosphere),” she said. “Tons of Fort Worth kids, too.” In the spirit of Title IX, they try remove as many barriers to participation as possible, while also ensuring their young beneficiaries embrace that same community spirit.  …

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