Tuesday, February 07, 2012

Women In Sports

I saw this piece at the Sports Law Blog about women in sports. Although I grew up with Title IX (well it was passed when I was three years old), it was not until my middle and high school years and beyond that I really saw the effect.

As a kid I played soccer for most of my youth (after two years of very unsucessful baseball). Eventually after a couple of years, I began playing for the club travel team. At that time, in the late 1970's and early 1980's, there were no dedicated girls teams after just 7 or 8 years of Title IX. My travel team had a one girl (Lara) on the team and that was it. By the time I was in 7th grade, my father began coaching the local high school girls team and most high schools in the North Florida did not have girls teams. The team my father coached was the only school in the county that had a girls team. My middle school didn't have a girls team. To say that there was a gulf in class between the girls teams and the boys team would be a minor understatement. However, my father was a pretty good coach and was able to guide the team to a respectable .500 season for the first two years of his tenure. Eventually, the freshmen he had in his first year improved enough by the time they were juniors to make a good squad.

By the time I reached high school a couple of years later in 1983, there were girls junior varsity and varsity teams and a plethora of youth teams that were feeding into the system. In the span of just two or three years, girls sports positively exploded in my hometown. There were girls leagues for soccer, bastketball and a growth in the softball leagues. Growing up in North Florida, where football was king, girls were no longer relegated to softball, swimming and cheerleading. It was positively fantastic.

Fast forward to my life now, I coached soccer last year for my daughter's team. Granted she is six and at that age, boys and girls play on the same team. I had the usual mix of gifted young athletes, super aggressive players, talent, passion, heart, determination and skill levels. The beautiful thing is that you couldn't really tell the different among the boys or girls (other than hair). My four best players included two girls. My most aggressive player was a young girl who would mow you down rather than look at you (but loves to wear dresses to school). My best goal keeper was my daughter. True, as these kids get older, their skill level will diverge a great deal, but at least on the rec leagues in my area of the country, there are coed teams well into the high school ages and that is a good thing.

High school teams in my county are terrific--boys and girls. The girls teams of today would probably absolutely destroy the best boys teams of my youth. The girls are fitter, stronger, faster, more technically skilled and understand the game on a mental level. These young ladies are more confident, assertive (and yes they can have just as bad a potty mouth as the boys and I issued two yellow cards in my last game for these young ladies dropping the f--- bomb fairly loudly) and in control of themselves that girls were when I was in high school. I graduated high school 25 years ago this year and the difference is marked.

Did Title IX do all this? Who knows. But I will say this, it certainly didn't hurt. Sports provides so many opportunities for kids of either gender, it helps them grow, physically, mentally and emotionally. It builds friendships, it builds independence and let's face it, it is fun. My hope for the girls of this generation exiting high school in a world in which Title IX has always existed that they understand the impact that Title IX had on their opportunities.

Check out my soccer blog at Nutmegs and Stepovers

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