Hoop dreams for 12-year-old

THE BALTIMORE SUN

She's only 12, but Courtney Dozier is already a top-level athlete.

The Ellicott City resident plays basketball for the Baltimore Cougars, ranked fourth in the nation in her age group.

As she enters eighth grade at Bonnie Branch Middle School, Courtney has her sights set on playing for a highly rated college team and going on to the WNBA.

But she realizes those dreams could become harder to achieve.

In February, a U.S. Department of Education report recommended changes in enforcing Title IX, the 1972 civil rights law that says that no educational program receiving federal funds - including athletics - can discriminate against people because of their sex.

One of the ways the federal government has enforced Title IX is by insisting that schools provide sports opportunities for women and men in proportion to their enrollments, a policy some say forces colleges to cut men's teams to accommodate programs for women.

The Department of Education decided in July to retain that policy, but a coalition of coaching organizations is suing to challenge that decision. And the issue is still alive.

Changing the proportionality clause may mean reductions in scholarships for female athletes.

"Since I worked hard in trying to get where I am and trying to go to the WNBA, it wouldn't be fair," Courtney said. "Just because of a law I wouldn't be able to get to where I was trying to go."

Courtney was featured commenting on the subject in a February issue of Scholastic News, Senior Edition, a nationally distributed newsweekly for fifth- and sixth-graders.

In the cover article, "Going for the Goal - Are girls in danger of losing their place on the playing field?" author Laura D. Egodigive discusses proposed revisions to Title IX and how they would affect girls like Courtney.

"We knew that kids would be interested in this topic because it has a direct impact on their lives," said Rebecca Bondor, editor in chief of Scholastic Classroom Magazines. Courtney's comments enabled readers to "hear the story from the perspective of their peers," she said.

Courtney's father, Richard Dozier, said he agreed to let Courtney do the interview because "there are a lot of women who did a lot to get Title IX going. I want her to realize what people have done in the past" to benefit today's female athletes.

Courtney has been playing basketball since attending a camp at the age of 3. She said, "You learn like a lot of fundamentals that will help you not only in your career but in life, too, like how to work together - to learn that you don't always have to win, you try your best. You can't have an attitude and let it get in your way."

By about fourth grade, Courtney began playing competitively, seeking out teams that traveled beyond Howard County. She has been with the Baltimore Cougars AAU team for a year. In July, the team traveled to the Amateur Athletic Union national basketball tournament at Walt Disney World and took fourth place.

"Courtney has what's called court vision," said Cougars coach Bob Ullman. "She can see things happen before they happen."

Ullman said he thinks that Courtney's talent makes her WNBA dreams realistic. But most serious female players aspire to play for a college team and college scouts begin looking at athletes as early as seventh grade.

Cuts in funding "will affect a lot of kids' opportunity, because some of the kids can't get to college without that money," Ullman said.

Courtney learned more about those possible cuts when her classmates read the story in Scholastic News. "When they saw the article they asked me about it and what it was all about because they all play sports, too," she said.

Bondor said that the issue piqued a great deal of interest. "We received the most letters from kids that we've ever received on an article. Many girls wrote to us to tell us that they wanted Title IX to stay as it is," she said. "Obviously, girls are very passionate about sports."

Courtney's parents say they plan to send her to college even if she doesn't earn an athletic scholarship.

"Women [athletes] have come such a long way," said Richard Dozier, her father. Playing sports "builds character, leadership, things of that nature," he said. "To cut programs [for women] is taking drastic steps into a past we don't want to relive."

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