Remembering Title IX
This Saturday, June 23rd 2012, marks the 40th anniversary of the passing of Title IX, which states that “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.” Title IX has helped pave the way towards more equal opportunities in educational institutions for girls and women, however it has most notably been known for equalizing the playing field between girls and boys in sports. Despite the significant growth of women’s sports— and the personal development of leadership and teamwork skills that accompany sports participation -- many young women and girls don’t realize how much they have benefited from Title IX.
Title IX was met with much resistance and little enforcement in its early years. It took until 1990 for it to get a push from Congress and thoroughly start to be promoted and enforced. Support and encouragement for Title IX undoubtedly helped create opportunities for female athletes to succeed in the nineties and today.
The 1990s and early 2000’s were a time when women’s success in athletics could be found almost everywhere. “The Fab Five” of the US Women’s Soccer Team was invincible, Venus and Serena Williams were just beginning their dominance in tennis, the “Magnificent Seven” members of the US Women’s Gymnastics team beat out Russia and Romania to clinch the team gold medal at the 1996 Olympics, and Picabo Street became the first US skier (male or female) to win a World Cup season speed title.
Girls finally had female athletes to look up to that were not only successful but getting the recognition they deserved.
The success of high-level female athletes in the US started to legitimize girls’ participation in sports at all ages and levels. As it has become more acceptable for girls and women to compete in athletics it has also become clear just how important participation in sports for girls is in the long run. Sports are vital for a girl’s development and can help her succeed later in life.
A longtime coach of both young athletes and Olympians, Jack Griffin, stated that “any girl or woman who is very much involved in athletics tends to have an extraordinary amount of desire, not only to excel in her sport but to excel as a person.”
The positive impact that Title IX has had for girls and women since its installment is clear when you take the time to look.
Here’s the issue: girls who were born in and after the nineties often don’t realize how lucky they are to live in a well-established Title IX era. Although it shocks me when I hear that some girls don’t even know what Title IX is, I must admit that I myself often forget about Title IX and the benefits that it has provided me and other female athletes my age. Girls growing up today need to become more fully aware of the challenges faced by those before them and appreciate that they themselves often don’t have to think about their gender mattering when it comes to playing sports.
Tomorrow, on the fortieth anniversary of Title IX, I challenge all readers to think about any female athletes in their lives and the opportunities that they have had playing sports. On this historic occasion I would like girls, women, and everyone everywhere to take a second and appreciate how much has changed in the athletic realm during the past forty years, to realize how much current generations of girls and women are reaping the benefits of the crusaders before us, and to envision how much more we have to look forward to in the next forty years.