For the first time, the U.S. Olympic team features more women athletes than men. Oh yeah. 269 women – 261 men. Both the oldest (a 54 y/o equestrian) and the youngest (15 y/o swimmer) are female. Is this news a big whoop for you, or are you wondering how this turned into a sports blog?
That news ought to be a big whoop for you, right up there with the 40th anniversary of Title IX . That’s the law that made it OK, and fair, for girls and women wanting to play sports. And it wasn’t all that long ago.
Think Mad Men (late 1960s). Now keep sliding the dial forward…more…1972! Watergate. THAT President Nixon! The whole idea of girls playing field hockey, soccer, or a professional women’s basketball team, was as crazy a thought as…equality for same sex partners or a black President.
As President Obama commemorated the anniversary, he reflected on the legislation’s impact on daughter Sasha’s soccer team. Without it, there’d be no team.
Basically, Title IX required schools to spend equal amounts on sports, regardless of the players’ gender. The ripple offered options after college, too, where suddenly a student basketball player might find a paying gig other than coaching..
Title IX wasn’t a perfect law, of course. Unexpected consequences abound.
- For a school with few girls interested in sports, what’s to be done when every boy-dollar MUST be matched?
- Professional athletes push their bodies to such limits that doctors may advise professional athletes in their early 20s to consider freezing their eggs in their early 20s.
- Depending on location, it’s the sports themselves that are mismatched. Soccer teams are not comprised of inner-city girls as often as suburban ones. ESPN reports that in college sports,
“Minority females are underrepresented in NCAA women’s lacrosse, volleyball, ice hockey, field hockey, golf, tennis, cross country, rowing, gymnastics, riflery, fencing, rugby, sailing, skiing, softball, squash, swimming, synchronized swimming, equestrian, water polo — even track and field.”
Sports build character, confidence and chutzpah. As my BFF Momfriend often pointed out to me, the differences between a girl who plays sports and one who doesn’t can be striking. The opportunities of Title IX were hard won. Please don’t take them for granted.