Melissa Isaacson

"Thinking back, I was seemingly always keeping a secret."

Thinking back, I was seemingly always keeping a secret.

When I agreed not to tell our mom every time I was roughed up playing ball with my big brothers.

When I tried on their cool Little League caps in the privacy of the bathroom.

When we snuck into the “Boys’ Gym” in the pre-dawn hours of those cold winter mornings in Chicago back in the late 70s. It was the only time my basketball teammates and I could get time on the big court, the only time we could secretly scrimmage with boys who knocked us down and toughened us up and helped make us one of the first girls’ state championship teams in Illinois high school history.

If that was being a TroubleMaker, even as we enjoyed the benefits accorded to us as the first generation of girls to benefit from the passage of Title IX, then we were more than happy to be given that label.

I cannot say for sure if that paved the way for my future career as a sportswriter. But I do know that research by Ernst and Young revealed that 94 percent of women who held C-suite level positions in 2018 were former athletes.

I know that feeling anything was possible as a teenager gave me the courage and the confidence to walk into NFL and NBA locker rooms as a young sportswriter; to become the first female principal beat writer for both the Bulls and Bears for the Chicago Tribune; to travel the world covering Olympic Games and Grand Slam tennis tournaments and virtually every major sports championship in North America for the Orlando Sentinel and the Tribune and

Forty years after winning that state title, my third book – released in 2019 and titled “State” — tells the coming-of-age story of a group of girls who could never have dreamed we would still be fighting for gender equality today. While filled with hope and inspiration, I tell young women today that it is unthinkable the ERA has yet to pass, that the U.S. Women’s Soccer team is still fighting for equal pay, that we’re still having this conversation.

But at least it’s no longer a secret.

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