Today’s post is part of the National Women’s Law Center blog carnival celebrating the 40th anniversary of Title IX, landmark legislation passed in 1972 that gender equity in every educational program that receives federal funding. Indeed, while Title IX is more famous for requiring gender parity in sports programs, it has several benchmarks of equity, including access to higher education (including for pregnant students), employment, studying math and science, and sexual harassment provisions.
As part of NWLC’s blog carnival, today I’m sharing a story from Mary Bristol, a life-long educator (who just so happens to be my mother-in-law):
I am so happy that Title IX has opened sports for girls. I grew up in a small town in Nebraska where there were no sports programs offered for girls once you entered high school. Now I have nieces there who can take part in several sports options.
As a girl I was very athletic and loved playing softball, basketball, and any other game. I grew up with two older brothers and I was often included in the neighborhood pick-up games. For me, the tag of “tom-boy” was a source of pride. In elementary school we played serious softball at recess and during the lunch hour. We had track meets and other opportunities involving sports. I found I had a competitive nature and loved giving the game everything I had.
When I entered high school all of that suddenly stopped. There were no girl’s sports teams. We had a physical education class requirement and the first year that meant exercise routines. Happily my sophomore year the P.E. class was taught by the boy’s basketball coach. He put us into teams and set up an intramural tournament that went on for a good deal of time. We played boys rules and I was in my element. During that year I was chosen to go to Wayne State College for what was called a “play day”. We were split up and put onto teams with girls from other schools. You gained points for your school by being on a winning team. It was great fun even though we had to play “girls rules” for basketball which meant stopping at mid-court and dribbling the ball only a certain number of times before passing it. This was very weird to me. Still, I loved the whole atmosphere of the event and the chance to compete.
After my sophomore year there was no more physical education and girls joined the “pep club” to cheer on the boys teams. I tried out for cheerleader and made it to be an alternate. I don’t think I ever got to cheer at a game. Sports in a small town are very important and the whole town supported the team at games (home and away). While I accepted what was available I was always jealous of Iowa girls who had a strong basketball program. Every year they would have the Iowa state girl’s basketball tournament on television.
My sons have been involved in sports both school-sponsored and club-sponsored. I have loved being their supporter at soccer and basketball games. Being part of teams and learning to improve through practice and perseverance have been important parts of their upbringing. I know I would have loved playing soccer as they did and I’m thrilled that my grand-daughter will have those options if she chooses to do that. It’s important that we remain vigilant and not allow Title IX support to fade.