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We've come a long way

A lot happened 40 years ago. Our papers, the Columbia Flier and Howard County Times, just wrote about Tropical Storm Agnes and the devastating effect it had on Howard County when it hit June 21-22, 1972.

June 23, a day later that same year, another storm of change happened.

Title IX, a part of the Education Amendments of 1972, was passed into law. The premise of Title IX was to provide equal opportunity in education. It opened the way for more women to get into medical school, to become CFOs and CEOs and engineers, but it’s greatest impact is thought to be on providing equal opportunity for girls (and women) in sports.

Saturday’s Baltimore Sun ran two articles on Title IX.

http://www.baltimoresun.com/sports/high-school/bs-sp-title-ix-story-0623-20120615,0,2762789.story

http://www.baltimoresun.com/sports/bs-sp-title-ix-0623-20120622,0,46879.story

They read like a diary from my pre-Title IX era.

I grew up in basketball crazy Indiana. My high school, one of the largest in the state, had three gyms. The big one was for boys physical education and basketball (boys, of course).

The girls had two much smaller gyms on the opposite side of the campus.

The boys had the “big” three sports — football, basketball and baseball, as well as wrestling, cross country and track and field.

The girls had “nada” unless you count the Girls Athletic Association, which occasionally  met for intramurals or to participate in playdays, which were low-key gatherings of teams for friendly competition.

Basically, the boys got the use of our two gyms after school.

It didn’t seem right, but that’s the way it was.

Even though we played baseball together in our backyards, the boy who lived on my street could play Little League baseball; I could watch.

We had to use his gloves since girls didn’t own such things. It was his bat and ball, too.

It was somewhat different in college. The girls had the West gym; the boys had the main floor of the field house.

We did have girls intramurals and we had girls sports teams, but the seasons were short.

What a thrill it was the one time we got to play a basketball game on the “big” floor instead of our gym.

Our school had a nationally famous coach, but as a female physical education major, I wouldn’t take any of the coaching courses that he taught. It never occurred to me, or my classmates, to challenge that.

It was what it was.

After graduation, I came to Baltimore County to teach physical education. Thanks to supervisor of physical education and athletics Mildred Murray  Baltimore County was ahead of its time. I was amazed at the sports offerings for girls — volleyball, field hockey, basketball, gymnastics, tennis, softball and girls lacrosse, which I’d never heard of.

The teams had uniforms and equipment that was separate from what the regular physical education classes used. They practiced every day after school. We didn’t even do that in college.

When Title IX went into effect, change came slowly, but it did happen.

More sports opportunities became available to girls, not only in high school but also at the local recreational level. Moms and dads suddenly realized that their daughters wanted to play organized sports. To fill the need HCYP, CYBA, CBA, AYRA, SAC, EYO and the Savage Boys & Girls Club, among others, awaited.

High schools began awarding athletic letters to girls — my daughter has 10. That's the neat part of Title IX. My daughter had opportunities that I did not.

More women’s sports, and athletic scholarships, were offered at the college level. Sometimes, unfortunately, at the expense of a male sport, like wrestling.

On the national level, women’s professional leagues in tennis, basketball, soccer and softball came into being.

Now there is women-specific equipment — a girls softball and basketball are smaller. Someone finally realized that our hands aren’t as big as a man’s hands.

Newspapers and television started covering girls and women’s games. There was even, briefly, a Sports Illustrated for Women.

To paraphrase the old Virginia Slims slogan: We’ve come a long way, baby.

I wonder what changes will happen in the next 10 years?

Copyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun
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