Terri Lakowski felt cheated, so she decided to do something about it.
Growing up as a three-sport standout in soccer, basketball and softball, Lakowski never felt her girls’ teams were treated equally as the boys’ teams.
“I always felt we were getting the short end of the stick,’’ Lakowski said. “Whether it was the gyms or fields where we played, or our uniforms, I never felt it was never equal.’’
So she set out to fix it, or at least try.
“When I looked into what Title IX was all about, it made me angry,’’ Lakowski said.
While at Washington University in St. Louis where she earned her bachelor’s degree and graduated Summa Cum Laude with a degree in Social Thought and Analysis with a concentration in Women’s Studies, she wrote her honor thesis “Title IX and High School Athletics: An Introspective Look into Compliance Practices.’’
Lakowski went on to earn her Juris Doctorate from American University-Washington College of Law, where she also graduated Summa Cum Laude. She went on to teach as an Adjunct Professor in the School of Continuing Studies: Sport Management Program at Georgetown University, Diversity & Social Responsibility in Sport and in the Department of Exercise Science at George Washington where she taught Sports Law.
Her sports career didn’t end, however. She played varsity basketball for three years in college and played football in the women’s pro league for the New York Dazzlers.
“That was real football, too,’’ she says with a laugh. “It wasn’t the lingerie league.’’
Now, Lakowski is the CEO of Active Policy Solutions and an expert on youth sports policy in the United States. In her role at Active Policy Solutions, she has created and implemented strategic policy planning, lobbying, coalition building and education and outreach to renown organizations working on issues relating to sport, youth development, health and fitness, Title IX and gender equity, and civil rights.
Prior to starting Active Policy Solutions, Terri served as the Public Policy Director for the Women’s Sports Foundation, where she was responsible for the operation of the Foundation’s Public Policy Department, which provides education and advocacy to combat discrimination in sport. In this capacity she oversaw the execution of all of the Foundation’s advocacy and public policy projects.
Terri orchestrated passage of the Fitness and Athletic Equity Act for Students with Disabilities in Maryland, groundbreaking legislation that for the first time clarified the obligation of schools to provide sports and physical activity opportunities for students with disabilities.
“What we’ve tried to do is level the field for underserved kids,’’ Lakowski said. “Kids in low-income areas, kids with disabilities, they deserve the same opportunities. Schools just didn’t know how to include kids with disabilities, do they include them in existing programs, create new programs.’’
Lakowski not one to just talk, but to do, played wheelchair basketball with a group in an American Association of Adapted Sports Programs. That made here even more determined.
“I began to see parallels between the history and advocacy movement for women and girls in sports and the need for a more rigorous national movement to advance the cause of athletes with disabilities.’’
So did U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan, who through the Office of Civil Rights sent out a letter that clarified the responsibility of schools for providing extracurricular athletic programs for students with disabilities.
To put it simply, schools must give students with disabilities access to sports programming that is “equal to that of students without disabilities.”
“We’ve come a long way,’’ Lakowski said. “But there’s always more to do.’’