I rarely find myself getting verklempt when reading Sports Illustrated. Truth be told, I rarely read Sports Illustrated. I’m not a fan of a particular annual issue that is a tad, um, tawdry.
But the magazine’s recent issue covering the 40th anniversary of Title IX, which was passed June 23, 1972, prohibiting descrimination in “any education program or activity receiving Federal financial assistance,” was extremely well done.
The changes wrought by this legislation (which has been challenged numerous times and always upheld) go beyond sports. The article notes, “the number of law and medical degrees going to women has jumped from 7% and 9%, respectively, in 1972, to 47% and 48% in 2010.” But the article points out the connection: when girls play sports, they don’t just get physically fit. They learn to compete and accomplish. By giving women a fair shot at both education and organized sports, women have discovered that the skills they gain help them compete off the field as well.
My daughter grew up playing soccer, which she loved. She lives in a world where it is normal to hear about classmates who are going to college on an athletic scholarship. But until 1973, athletic scholarships were given only to men.
When my daughter was a young soccer player, several moms and I took our daughters to watch the Mia Hamm, Brandi Chastain and the USA Women’s team play an exhibition match at Chicago’s Soldiers Field. I wanted my daughter to see what was possible. That she could have role models and heroes who looked like her. That girls could accomplish amazing things.
I was 9 years old when Title IX passed. I got to play an organized sport for the first time that year: I was a part of a spectacularly mediocre t-ball team called the Robins. I didn’t really care that much for t-ball, although I had grown up playing backyard baseball with friends. At the time, organized sports for young kids were not nearly as ubiquitous as they are now. I grew up playing tag, kickball and hide and go seek, just running through the neighborhood with my friends, both boys and girls.
In college, I got to play soccer, on a “club” team since women’s soccer didn’t have varsity status (read that: no funding, even in the mid 1980s, so we paid for our own uniforms and drove ourselves to games). But I grew up in a world that was changing–where equality for women was something that at least we were talking about.
We still have far to go–men still have more opportunities to participate in collegiate athletics than women. And some men still oppose Title IX, arguing that it takes away from men’s athletics. Really? REALLY?
But my daughter is growing up in a world where it is “normal” not only for girls to excel in sports, but also in business, politics and other arenas previously closed to them. But just because it’s normal doesn’t mean we can take it for granted.
Did you play organized sports as a kid, in high school or college? What life lessons did doing so teach you? What did Title IX give you?