From Casual Athletes to NCAA Champs: How Many Will Follow?

The current statistical techniques to measure collegiate athletic participation were established in 1981; that year, NCAA records show there were 74,239 varsity female athletes and 169,800 men. Those numbers climbed in 2003-2004 to 162,752 college female athletes participating in both championships and non-championship sports, and 217,309 male athletes, according to the NCAA.

It is a vast improvement, though women's participation levels have not yet equaled the men. The fear is that under the new clarification guidelines, they never will. To read more about the clarification, Click Here.

Julie Foudy, co-captain of the U.S. women's soccer team, worries about the benefits to women's character that might be lost as a result of the new clarification.

"Everyone knows the physical positives that come with sports," Foudy says. "But as a woman, you also understand the self-confidence and leadership benefits, the ability to work in a group and compete that really translates when you go out into the real world and have to get a job. You talk to businesspeople and they say the first person they hire is a female athlete."

The Koesters graduated last Friday and will make their separate ways for the first time in their lives. Courtney is off to the West Coast to work in mutual funds; Ashley is preparing to start veterinary school at Purdue. Both sisters said they will use the lessons from their lacrosse experience in the next stage of life.

"It gives us confidence," Ashley said. "I think it's just one example if you really put your mind to something and if you have a group of people around you who put their mind to that same thing, you can do whatever you set out to do."

These intangible benefits and the unpredictable future success stories like the Koesters are what Sweet, Foudy and others are fighting for when they fight against the clarification.

But advocates of the clarification point to concrete examples of men who have missed out of opportunties. will look at pro-clarification arguments next week.

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