Shelley Patterson grew up in San Jose. Calif., with five cousins, all boys.
She was still young when Title IX was passed in 1972.
"By that time as a youngster, I wasn't in [Silver Creek] high school yet," said Patterson, a Lynx assistant coach. "Obviously,. there had been pioneers way before me that fought even before '72."
It was a fight worth battling, Patterson said, as she thought about the 40th anniversary of Title IX today (Saturday). The Lynx and the Chicago Sky will both wear special jerseys -- with a big IX on the front -- for their 11:30 a.m. game at Target Center.
"I didn't see much of a difference of anything that I couldn't do as a junior high player, as a high school kid," Patterson said.
Patterson said she started realizing the significance of Title IX when she graduated from college at Washington State. "We actually got a check, a small check because of the inequality when I was in college," said Patterson, who said it may have been $139.
"We had to buy our own tennis shoes. We had sports bras and I just thought that was part of it," Patterson said. "We were provided practice shorts and games shorts, but there were certain things that we weren't provided. And I didn't know at the time that was a major issue. That there was such a discrepancy between the men's and women's sports because I didn't really feel that."
Now looking back she sees it.
"We had to take vans everywhere when we went to games when the guys were in buses," she said. "Sometimes we would take longer road trips [by van] when the guys would fly. And now it means something to me.
:At the time I didn't feel I was missing anything. I got to play [basketball]. I was happy. ...The anniversary of this has brought back memories. It has made me want to go back."
Patterson played soccer, basketball and volleyball in high school. She was also a drummer in the marching band.
"The difference in my experience is, I grew up with five boys [cousins]," Patterson said. "I didn't have a choice [about playing sports]. We had to make the teams even. We needed players. ... The only time I can say it did, is when I wanted to play football.
"I was at 11, 12 years old, probably a pretty good football player. True story: I had a big afro and all my cousins did, so playing with them I looked like a boy. And I threw a football one day and a guy came off the street -- that's when we first started Pop Warner [football] -- and he wanted me as the quarterback. But because I was a girl, I couldn't play.
"That was the only time I really felt discriminated [against]. And that was because my cousins all got to play. They got their football gear. And they all got their uniforms and I was the only one left out and I was probably better than them at that time."
These days Patterson, the Lynx's manager of player development and advance scouting, hears different things from men about the WNBA.
"i definitely hear it is just girls basketball or it is just girls playing. They can't dunk," Patterson said. "But I also hear a lot of guys who love the women's game.
"My brother [Kiki of Chandler, Ariz.], who is in his late 30s, during our championship and playoff games, instead of group of guys coming over to watch the guys play, they were having barbecues and cookouts and watching our games.
"We have come a long way, obviously. I go to certain cities, especially cities that are attuned to their WNBA team, I will hear men in the street say, 'We are going to see the Storm play. Or are you going to see the Sparks play?' Some people are into it. One way or another, either [men] are in or they are not. There are not a lot of in-betweens.
Her brother has a baby girl now, so Patterson is an aunt. "We are in between her playing with barbie dolls and catching baseballs. It just depends on what she decides to do. She is able to do [it] now."
EX-LYNX: TEAM HAS TALENT, CHEMISTRY
Seattle has played the Lynx and Los Angeles three times apiece. The Storm are 1-2 against the Lynx and 0-3 against L.A.
So Katie Smith, Storm guard and ex-Lynx, how do those teams compare?
"They are both doing very well right now and L.A. is staying right behind them in the hunt," Smith said. "But, honestly, they kind of have two different teams. L.A. does not have a lot of guards and they have a lot of [No.] 4 players. But they are both just playing really well right now."
The Lynx have great individual players, Smith said, adding, "and on top of that they move the basketball. They set good picks. They really play well together. And it make [them] hard to beat when you have talent on top of them executing well and playing really well as a team. ... They just have a good chemistry right now."