Title IX became effective on June 23, 1972. In effect it declared that no person in the United States shall, on the basis of sex, be excluded from participation in any education program or activity. The law said that all women have the same rights to athletic programs as men did. The law came in to effect the same year that I graduated from High School and I wish it had come earlier. Prior to that women’s sports were frowned upon. The stereotype of women as pretty things who go to college to find a husband and eventually marry, have children, and never work again just wasn’t cutting it. Women would watch their male counterparts from the stands and I’m sure many would wonder to themselves, ” Hey, I would like to try that”, or ” I could do that just as good as them”. At the time there was a big backlash against the law. Giving women equal access to athletics as the men meant having to spend money on women’s athletic facilities such as fields, locker rooms, uniforms, coaches, etc. Since most schools operated on a fixed athletic budget it meant spreading that budget out which also meant less money for the boys programs. This didn’t make a lot of people happy and many schools just said screw it, we’re not going to conform. That pretty much ended after girls sued the schools and won and schools were found liable for punitive damages. It was also found illegal to claim financial hardship for the school…just make it work was the answer.
I have seen both sides as a father and a brother. My sister graduated before me and was not privy to the new law and activities it provided. The girls were basically limited to cheerleading, drill team, and PE classes. Then they were to go to the games and root for the boys…that sucked. I’m positive there were a number of talented athletic girls before 1972 and to have no access to sports was wrong. A lot of girls just didn’t want to be a cheerleader, they wanted to shoot baskets, hit volleyballs, run in track and enjoy the competitive spirit of being on a sports team. Before 1972 I would guess that instead of playing sports the girls had a lot of dead time to pass which often meant just hanging out and getting in to trouble. After the law sports gave them an avenue to do something fun and be part of a team which is a great way to feel like you belong. Just being on a team and having camaraderie will help anyone’s self esteem. As a father I was able to see my daughter take full advantage of participating in sports. She played softball and soccer in high school and both played an integral part of her growing up. She had some sort of practice or game after almost every day of school, there wasn’t any dead time for her to head in the wrong direction. It also turns out that she excelled at both sports. Her junior year her softball team consisted of a great group of girls who had been playing together since their freshman year and they went on to win a CIF Championship in 2003. It was an extremely exciting time and the whole school rallied around them. She was also named “Female Athlete of the Year” her senior year…well enough about my daughter, the point is athletics was a positive in her life and to this day she still puts on her cleats and plays on recreational soccer teams. I am convinced that Title IX has been good for a lot of girls and anyone who is a father of a female athlete would likely agree. From my perspective girls are also better teammates than their counterparts. I had the chance to coach both my sons in baseball and my daughter in softball and I can tell you firsthand that girls are easier to coach. First of all they listen. Young boys by the age of 12 seem to be convinced that they know everything already, which I’m sure is from their dad’s input. Girl’s embrace their teammates, boys try to one-up their fellow players…again dad telling them who they need to beat out to be able to play short-stop and bat clean-up. After writing this down it seems that dads are the real culprit. Coaching the girls was a pleasure and while the great majority stopped sports at the high school level, it helped them through those year’s with a sense of purpose, not to mention the health benefits of staying active. Women’s sports have thrived since the inception of Title IX particularly in college sports. There are now athletic scholarships available to both men and women, which is a far cry from the ” go to college to get married” stereotype. Women can go on to make a professional living in sports like golf, tennis, basketball ( this is one sport that women have a way to go to catch up to the men), and coaching of women’s sports on all levels. 1972 may seem like ancient times to many but Title IX has had an amazing impact on women’s sports and fairness as witnessed by the number of women participating in sports today. It is a positive example of fairness finding the light and becoming law, a win-win for all.