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Tuesday, June 26th, 2012

Title IX turns 40

Women of a certain age
Much like middle aged women in general, Title IX celebrates its 40th birthday today with perhaps a few more wrinkles and more lines, but a time tested outlook and a firm place in history.
Title IX, a federal civic rights law, states: No person in the U.S. shall, on the basis of sex be excluded from participation in, or denied the benefits of, or be subjected to discrimination under any educational program or activity receiving federal aid.
The legislation, which was signed into law June 23, 1972, is most noted for its impact on high school and college women’s athletics. It forced schools to examine their athletic programs and work to keep a balance between the male sports and the female sports in terms of money and facilities. Numbers show huge differences between then and now in the number of female participants, and that the influence of the legislation extends beyond the fields and courts all the way into the every day lives of women.
In the summer of 1971 approximately 294,000 girls participated in high school sports compared to 3.6 million boys. Now, more than 3 million girls participate in sports.
Before Title IX less than 10 percent of law and medical degrees and 13 percent of doctoral degrees were held by women. Today, 50 percent of all law and medical degrees and more than 50 percent of doctoral degrees are held by women.
Girls who play sports have a greater chance of employment and receive salaries 14-19 percent higher than those who do not.
What’s my story?: A former sports writer at the American News recently asked me how Title IX influenced me. The answer is not at all in high school, but big in college and huge in my life.
The only high school athletic endeavour that was available when I was growing up was cheerleading. I played in a power puff football game during Homecoming week, 4-H coed softball and back yard catch with my brother.
During my sophomore year of college, women’s volleyball and basketball programs were started at the school. One of the women on my residence hall floor had played basketball in parochial school and went out for the team. In Minnesota girls’ sports started in the private high schools before the public schools got rolling. A bunch of us would go to our friend’s college games and I got hooked.
Despite never playing any organized games ever, I played collegiate volleyball and basketball for three years. Loved it. Changed my major from English to physical education and changed my life.
Professional career: My first year of teaching in high school I was the volleyball, basketball and track coach for girls. It was the first season of interscholastic athletics for girls at that school and huge numbers of girls elected to go out.
Thanks to the work of two influential men at the school, uniforms and equipment were purchased, schedules set and my salary was made equal to that of the men’s coaches in very short order. The athletic director married a woman who participated in athletics in Iowa and the principal’s daughter and I played on the same college basketball team.
I have been very fortunate to have worked with many men who were open to seeing me as an equal. After teaching and coaching, I went into sports information and sports writing, both predominately male occupations.
With or without Title IX my life would have turned out fine. Without it I would be working quietly as a librarian rather in noisy arenas on strict deadlines.
Grandmothers in athletics: Several years ago I attended the Elite 15 banquet, which honors girls and women in athletics in South Dakota and is sponsored by the activities association.
One of the speakers was Yankton athletic director and successful girls’ high school basketball coach Bob Winter, who has since retired. He asked the audience how many mothers had been involved in athletics growing up. A small number of women raised their hands. He next asked how many grandmothers had the experience of athletics and only a couple raised their hands.
The numbers of participants are on the rise as Title IX has been absorbed into the main stream and become the norm. Hopefully, athletics will continue to touch the lives of girls who grow up to be mothers, grandmothers and even great-grandmothers.

Posted by Deb Smith

Category: Deb Smith
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