IX AT 50: KSHSAA’s Cheryl Gleason dedicates 45 years to sports in Kansas

Published: Dec. 30, 2021 at 9:20 PM CST
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June 23, 1972, President Nixon signed Title IX into law, prohibiting sex discrimination in educational institutions that receive federal funding. Title IX has largely been considered the springboard for high school and collegiate women’s sports to get where they are today — but the fight for equality is far from over. Every Thursday night at 10:00 p.m. leading up to the 50th anniversary of the law’s passing, 13 Sports will honor the women who changed the game for girls’ and women’s sports in Kansas.

“IX at 50: The Trailblazers of Women’s Sports in Kansas”

TOPEKA, Kan. (WIBW) - Cheryl Gleason spent 45 years in Kansas as a teacher, coach and administrator.

“I love sports, and I love the value of sports,” Gleason said. “I learned a lot through that, you know, winning isn’t everything. There’s a lot to be learned by losing. I love kids, and I wanted to teach — so it was a pretty easy decision for me to want to do that.”

She spent the first 13 year in coaching at Osawatomie and Caldwell, then moved to the Kansas State High School Activities Association in 1989 — all the while, using sports as a vessel for teaching the next generation life lessons.

“They learn to be a little more assertive, they learn to be much more confident and sure of themselves,” Gleason said. “They learn that when you make mistakes, it’s okay. You just pick yourself up and keep going again.”

Over 32 years, Gleason served as an administrator for gymnastics, volleyball, bowling, tennis, swimming & diving, and golf. She also oversaw the KSHSAA Hall of Fame and served as the state director for the Kansas Association for Youth Program, or KAY.

Gleason has been involved in KAY since her freshman year of high school. To this day, she’s the only KAY alum to have served 50 years at the KAY Leadership Camp.

“The KAY program, that was really special for me,” she said. “Still is, and always will be.”

Gleason retired from KSHSAA in July of 2021.

When she left, girls sports had made leaps and bounds since her high school days, when only tennis was offered.

“When I first started teaching and coaching and girls said, ‘I don’t wanna go out, or I don’t wanna do that,’ I looked at ‘em and I said, ‘You will work the rest of your life, but being in high school activities, when you graduate from high school, now you’re on your own. You only have this one chance.’ And I didn’t have this chance,” she said. “‘Don’t give up this wonderful opportunity to learn and to grow and to have fun with your peers. It’s not all about winning. It’s not all about being the person on the court that scores the most points. There’s more to the sport itself.’”

Gleason will soon be enshrined in the halls of the building she spent so many years serving, as a member of the 2022 KSHSAA Hall of Fame class.

“I’ve had an unbelievable career,” Gleason said. “If I had it to do all over again, I would not have changed a thing. I love sports. I love to teach. I love to try to inspire young people to be the best that they can be. And I wouldn’t have it any other way.”

Gleason has also previously been inducted into the Kansas Volleyball Association Hall of Fame and the Southwestern College Hall of Fame.

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