Saskia Webber is five feet nine and a half inches and 155 pounds, an international soccer star, a former Ms. Rutgers bodybuilding champion, a former swimmer, baseball player, lacrosse player and tennis player.
To an audience of Girls Scouts, young women and UCSB community members in Corwin Pavilion on Monday night, Webber was also a star spokesperson for the importance of equality in sports.
Webber, a goalkeeper for the 1999 Women’s World Cup Championship team, spoke at UCSB to honor the 30-year anniversary of Title IX – the 1972 Educational Amendments banning sex discrimination in school athletics and academics – at the Fourth Annual Distinguished Women in Sports Lecture.
Webber, born in 1972, played sports at the high school and college levels and took full advantage of the law. She urged girls involved in sports to appreciate the equality granted by Title IX and to ensure its enforcement. Since women’s sports are now growing, Webber warned that the importance of Title IX would be downplayed.
“There are people who want to challenge [Title IX], we have to stand up and fight this,” she said. “The students need to be more educated in Title IX for it to keep working.”
Webber began playing soccer – among other sports – when she was six, but was not a full-time goalkeeper until she played for Rutgers University. She still maintains the Rutgers school records for 32 career shutouts and 413 saves and became the first female athlete inducted into Rutgers Athletics Hall of Fame. Webber went on to play internationally as starting USA goalkeeper for most of 1993 and was a member of the 1999 World Cup Championship team.
“Women in sports have come so far in 10 years, if we keep pushing, imagine how far it will go,” Webber said. “We have to keep going.”
Although sports came naturally to Webber, she said mild dyslexia made academics harder but athletic opportunity enabled her to believe in her scholastic ability.
“If I could excel in sports, then I can do these other things,” she said.
Webber attended Rutgers University on a soccer scholarship acquired through opportunities made possible by Title IX. Women’s Center Programming Director Judy Guillermo-Newton said Title IX is about more than athletics.
“The purpose of Title IX is to get more women into higher education,” she said. “It’s really not about sports.”
Women’s Center Director Dee Acker said that the celebration will help inspire female athletes and provide information about Title IX.
“Title IX is not anti-man,” she said. “It is about equal opportunity.”
Webber said that she grew up without any female athletic role models and only the all-male Dallas Cowboys to idolize.
“If we don’t go out there and be role models then we might as well take 10 steps back,” she said.
Undeclared freshman and basketball player Mia Fisher said Webber was informative and inspirational.
“She made me more appreciative,” she said. “I guess I do take [Title IX] for granted.”
Senior Business Economy major Ian Keough said he appreciated Webber’s support for women’s soccer and her promotion of Title IX.
“The more you put the word out,” he said, “the more it will catch on.”