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Kathleen Sebelius: A college athlete who wentpro in something other than sports…

Newly confirmed Health and Human Services secretary Kathleen Sebelius is yet another of those female athlete role models that President Barack Obama referred to in his comments about the University of Connecticut basketball team on Monday.

This may be an old story to some, but I didn’t realize she played college basketball and I think her own thoughts on sports exemplify the importance of encouraging girls to play sports.

Although she graduated from Trinity Washington University in Washington, D.C. in 1970 -- two years before Title IX was signed -- Sebelius has cited the opportunity to play sports as an important part of her personal development.

Ms. Sebelius, then senior Kathleen Gilligan, was the self-described "jock" who shined on the basketball court, where she was team captain, and in field hockey.

"There's a lot, I think, about sports overall, that can be used as an important life lesson," she says. "There's competition, it teaches a lot about endurance, not giving up, sportsmanship, basic overcoming adversity."
Sebelius’ dedication to public service manifested during her college years as she parlayed her athletic ability into an ongoing service project.
"I had several internships while at Trinity. I worked at a school on North Capitol Street and we used to do basketball clinics with the kids; I played basketball at Trinity, and that was an ongoing project. I think there was a sense at Trinity, living in northeast Washington, that you were very much a part of that community and to open your eyes and get involved was a message that a lot of people gave us."
Trinity Washington University is a small Division III Catholic school in Northeast Washington, so Sebelius was likely not a scholarship athlete. However, once again, I think the story is yet another plug for the value of sports for leadership development…and the importance of making sure we continue to encourage girls to play sports and provide them with more female athlete role models.

Related Links:

12 Facts About Kathleen Sebelius - Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen
http://womensissues.about.com/od/profilesofpoliticians/qt/12FactsSebelius.htm