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American Women in Sports

Lesson Plan

Using Inaugural Ballers: The True Story of the First U.S. Women's Olympic Basketball Team by Andrew Maraniss (Viking Children's Books 2022) as a mentor text and working with social studies teachers, the librarian can help craft and teach a research unit that examines the role of women in sports. Students can then expand their research to examine other notable women in American society and the societal obstacles they have faced and the gains they've made in their fields.


Social Studies


High School

Middle School


Students will read Inaugural Ballers to gain background knowledge on the history of American women in sports and society.

Students will practice critical thinking in researching and crafting a final project that reflects their learning on this topic.

Students will practice informational writing skills and styles in their final project.


Inaugural Ballers by Andrew Maraniss

Reading Log, Sports Illustrated Article Log, and Rubric worksheets

Sports Illustrated June 11, 1973 "Programmed to be Losers" article

CBC Sports TikTok clip in "NCAA's Weight-Room Fiasco, Clumsy Attempts to Explain it are the Real March Madness"

Timeline template

"Title IX of the Higher Education Act"

"What Should Be Done About the Gender Pay Gap in Sports?"

Chasing Equity Quick Fact Sheet

"The Queen of Basketball" video

"Pat Summitt Dead at 64" video

The Institute for Diversity and Ethics in Sports (TIDES) "2021 Complete Racial and Gender Report Card" or

Sample Trading Card


Nine class periods

Instructional Note: This lesson can be done as a whole unit or you can curate your own lesson from the daily activities below to fit your class schedule.


Day 1

Warm Up: Give students two minutes to write down every female athlete they can think of. Then give them another two minutes to write down every male athlete they can think of. Have them compare both lists and note four to five similarities and differences.

Mini Lesson: As a class, create a list of the top three female and male athletes that were on student lists. Discuss the similarities and differences between the lists (number of each listed, sports represented, etc.). Generate some hypotheses about what the list says about the current state of females and males in sports.

Reading: Read Chapters 1–2 aloud. Discuss motivational speeches and the power of role models. Do students agree that the 1976 game would change women's sports for the next 25 years? Students fill out reading log.

Homework: Read the Sports Illustrated article from 1973 and complete the article log.

Day 2

Warm up: Watch CBC Sports TikTok clip on the March Madness weightroom issue. Write a one to two paragraph response to NCAA about the issue.

Mini Lesson: Define "intersectionality" and discuss as a class the issues that athletes who are women of color have faced in the past and continue to face.

Reading: Read Chapters 3–6. Begin filling in a timeline of American women in sports using the timeline template. Use only half of each box (the other half will be for other events at that time. If that's not enough space, a new box can be drawn in above or below). Fill out the reading log.

Homework: Brainstorm ideas for a research project on American women's roles in society.

Day 3

Warm Up: Have students read "Title IX of the Higher Education Act," then write four to five sentences about how they see Title IX relating to their school experience or/and that of their peers.

Mini Lesson: Introduce research project. Students will research an issue related to women's roles in American sports or in American society at large. Using Inaugural Ballers as an anchor text, students will use at least three other resources (including interviews) to explore how women's roles in American society have changed, been limited, or expanded. Students can use friends, family, community leaders, and other reputable sources. The research project should include the timeline from Day 2, with dates relating to their specific topic added in, a bibliography, and a two- to three-paragraph introduction that will pull the reader in (as Maraniss does). The rest of the project can be a one-to two-page paper (continuing from the introduction), or a page-sized trading card that represents a historical or contemporary American woman in sports or in another professional role, which includes information on their impact in their professional field.

Exit Ticket: Students should turn in an exit ticket of at least five bullet points with their project ideas.

Homework: Chapters 7–10. Fill in reading log.

Day 4

Warm Up: Students read "What Should Be Done About the Gender Pay Gap in Sports?" and write four to five sentences about their reactions.

Mini Lesson: Discuss how much has changed since 1976 and that many local leaders may have been a part of the change. Brainstorm local sources for information about their research topic. Encourage students to reach out to interview these sources. Have students flip to page 307 of Inaugural Ballers to see the list of people Maraniss interviewed.

In-Class Work: Research. While students are researching, teacher and librarian circulate and discuss the research plans and sources.

Homework: Chapters 11–12. Fill out reading log.

Day 5

Warm Up: Students review the Chasing Equity Quick Fact Sheet and write four to five sentences in response.

In-Class Work: Research.

Homework: Chapters 13–14. Fill out reading log.

Day 6

Warm Up: Students watch first three minutes of "The Queen of Basketball," and write four to five sentences about how they think it might feel to realize childhood dreams.

In-Class Work: Research.

Homework: Chapters 15–16. Fill out reading log.

Day 7

Warm Up: Students watch the first three minutes of the "Pat Summitt Dead at 64" video and write four to five sentences about how athletes live after their playing days.

In-Class Work: Begin writing an introduction and creating paper or poster "trading card."

Homework: Read Chapters 17–19. Fill out reading log.

Day 8

Warm Up: Display the chart on page two of the "2021 Complete Racial and Gender Report Card." Students should write four to five sentences about which sports got the better grades and why they think it's that way.

In-Class Work: Continue working on final project.

Homework: Chapters 20–22. Fill out reading log.

Day 9

Warm Up: Display the front page of the USA Basketball website (, and ask students to write a paragraph about whether or not they think equity is on display there.

In-Class Work: Complete work on project.

Homework: Chapters 23–26. Fill out reading log.

Exit Ticket: Write three facts you have learned and two new ideas you have developed about women's roles in sports.


For more ideas on Inaugural Ballers, see Suzanne Libra's curriculum ideas and book pairings. For more from Andrew Maraniss, see our Educator Guides for Games of Deception and Singled Out.

About the Author

Suzanne Libra is is a retired teacher-librarian, formerly of Silver Hills Middle School in Westminster, Colorado.

MLA Citation

Libra, Suzanne. "American Women in Sports." School Library Connection, January 2023,

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Entry ID: 2295496