Sarah Ryan had a rather different experience when she played sports in high school.
Known as Sarah Marshall when she played at McAuley High, an girls-only private school in Portland, she never had to worry about any possible Title IX inequities – there were no boys’ teams. But Ryan, 26, knows how fortunate she was to have grown up when she did.
“I was lucky, because when I was growing up, I never had to deal with the thoughts of girls not being able to play sports,’’ she said in a recent phone interview from Atlanta, where she lives with her husband, Matt Ryan, the quarterback of the Atlanta Falcons.
“That was not on our radar back then,’’ she continued. “I feel very fortunate for all the people before me who paved the way for the future of girls who played. I really reaped the benefits of the people who came before me.’’
Marshall had an outstanding career at McAuley. She was an all-state selection as a soccer player, but it was basketball where she excelled.
That shouldn’t be surprising, since her idol was Cindy Blodgett, the Lawrence High phenom credited with many for increasing interest in girls’ basketball.
“I followed her career from high school to Maine,’’ said Ryan. “I was a huge, huge Cindy Blodgett fan. And then I would watch basketball with my dad (John) all the time. Celtics. Georgetown Hoyas. Whatever he had on, I was watching it with him.’’
She finished her career with 1,519 points. After transferring to McAuley from Falmouth before her sophomore year, she led the Lions to back-to-back Class A state championships in her junior and senior seasons.
She then went on to play at Boston College, where she started as a point guard and finished her career by playing 92 consecutive games. At BC, she said the female athletes were treated the same as the males.
“I just feel women’s sports have taken such big strides that they receive so much respect, among men and women,’’ she said. “Girls are lucky that they have the opportunity to make the choice for whatever sport they want to play. If they’re fortunate enough to go on to college, a lot of doors are opened.’’
And those doors open to things other than sports.
“I think the world, and everyone, is looking at women in a different light,’’ said Ryan. “Women can do anything now, no matter what. If you’re given an opportunity, no doors are shut in your face.’’
Looking back, Ryan said she feels very fortunate to have grown up in such a supportive environment.
“I wouldn’t trade my high school experiences for anything,’’ she said, of both McAuley and Falmouth. “I’m fortunate to have grown up not thinking about (Title IX) because I didn’t have to. The fact that things weren’t always that way just blows your mind.’’