USA – A law that was passed almost 50 years ago is hugely responsible for the offering of girls’ sports throughout our nation’s schools. The law, Title IX, which is part of the Education Amendments Act of 1972, and is a federal civil rights law that states:
“No person in the United States shall, on the basis of sex, be excluded from participation in, be denied the benefits of, or be subjected to discrimination under any education program or activity receiving Federal financial assistance.”
It was passed by the 92nd U.S. Congress and signed into law by President Richard Nixon on June 23, 1972.
As a former athlete and coach, looking back to Ohio high school girls’ sports in the 1960s in a small rural town school in central Ohio, the girls had limited opportunities to participate in various sports. Further, they had no opportunities to compete in sectional, district, regional, or state competitions in tournaments. Girl’s teams were mostly volleyball, basketball, track and field, and competed with schools in the boy’s league usually within the county or bordering counties where the high school was located. The girl’s track and field team from this small town was invited to and took part in an invitational track meet in southern Ohio. This small-town girls’ team actually outscored the girls’ high school Kentucky State Champs in this meet, yet sadly, were not afforded an opportunity in Ohio for a state meet.
Title IX was a federal civil rights law but opened the gates in Ohio and other states for organized tournaments for girls in the 1970’s. Tournaments for boy’s high school sports had been organized for many years, with the first Ohio state track and field tournament for boys held in 1908. Unfortunately, the young women of Ohio would have to wait another six decades to have their first state tournament in 1976. With the development of college girl’s sports and the high school girl’s sports and tournaments, the athletically talented females were beginning to receive both recognition for outstanding ability and college scholarships.
The most important gains for girls, by adding sports to the junior high and high school activities, were the many opportunities for skill development that sports allow girls to experience. By being a member of a team sport, players learn teamwork and cooperation – which carries forward in the work or profession they chose to pursue later in life. Along with your teammates, an athlete learns who you can depend on, and in turn, one of the best benefits is the opportunity to develop lifelong friends. Individually a player can learn to assess their physical and mental strengths and weaknesses, as well as learn that following guidance, rules, and directions from a coach could advance your playing time. However, the coach you have for a sport makes a huge difference in what you learn from the sport. With a fair and accomplished coach, a player can learn the value of sportsmanship, and a coach can definitely help a player to improve their behavior.
As a coach and teacher it was very encouraging to see young women’s sports develop in the high schools and colleges. For the first time in the 70’s teams were organized by the numerous Boards of Education, high school administrations, and teachers to include volleyball, basketball, softball, track and field, cross country, swimming, water polo, and soccer, and depending on the area, other sports the community was involved in and found interesting. The volleyball team in our school was the first to win the South Central Ohio Conference championship, and the girls received recognition by the school at a sports banquet with a trophy for the trophy case that players were proud of and would admire as they walked the halls! Parents also began to become involved in supporting girl’s sports and began to see the value of their daughters participating in a sport that improved their child’s physical development, and the ability to watch sports and enjoy the games they were watching. To go along with the success as a team there were memories of being together and practicing together – although at first girls only had the last practices in the gym! – playing together and traveling by bus together and stopping for dinner on the trip home from a game – were all fun experiences.
As the Boards of Education, school administration, and teachers develop curriculum and subjects for girls and boys to study and learn, they need to keep in mind that extracurricular sports, physical education, art, and music are all activities that bring enjoyment throughout a person’s entire life and should be offered in our public and private schools. It goes without saying English, Mathematics, Science, and History are by far the most important areas of study for students in order to have success in their life and chosen professions. In many cases students do not receive instruction or development of these areas from the home or community. Schools are especially important in providing exposure to subjects the students would not learn about except at a well-rounded and active school with teachers interested in offering students information to use for the betterment of their lives. As a former teacher/instructor/coach, it is important to offer facts, information, and knowledge to students – not to teach your opinions and views as facts – and that is just my opinion!