The 23rd day of June has always been a special day for me because it was the day I was born. Little did I know throughout the majority of my childhood that it was this day five years before my existence that would change a thing that I love as much as I do sports in such a significant way. June 23, 1972 was the day Title IX became a law that would forever change the face of sports.
For the readers unaware of this law, Title IX is simply defined on Wikipedia as follows:
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…
This originally just gave females the right to play and eventually led to a far more even playing field in terms of facilities, uniforms, and instruction. Several decades later, names like Pat Summit, Billie Jean King, Lisa Leslie, Mia Hamm, and Jennie Finch have all given us a different outlook in terms of how we view girls playing sports. Volleyball, basketball, softball, or whatever sport you choose to follow, the athletes are becoming bigger, faster, stronger and are becoming more and more skilled all the time.
I realize many sports fans will say that guys are more athletic and more entertaining to watch. In terms of athleticism there is no question this is true; however, the excitement of girls’ sports is continuing to grow at a rapid pace. Competition is contagious, and athletes – regardless of the gender – competing hard to be a part of something bigger than themselves is always entertaining to watch as far as I am concerned. I know some of my earliest memories of dreaming of winning championships someday came watching the silky smooth Lori McClellan, the extremely athletic Natalie Hill, and the other Unioto Lady Shermans take to the court on Ohio’s biggest stage at the state tournament in both basketball and volleyball.
Forty years later, I still believe we are just scratching the surface. I think the future will continue to show progress. Due to the fact this law was not put into place until 1972, I think it is only logical to give certain sports a chance to catch up to sports that have been around much longer. Take basketball for example. When I study the history of college basketball for men, I see a dynasty like UCLA in the late 1960s and early 1970s. In the 1980s, I still saw a fairly small list of schools capable of consistently competing on a national level. Now, you see great parity in college basketball which includes many mid-majors with a chance to win.
Why? I believe the growth of media coverage played a huge role in this. All the great players no longer have to flock to the major schools to play in the best facilities, to play on television, or to play for a national title. I see a mirror growth in the women’s game. Tennessee and UCONN have had great dynasty-like runs over the past few decades; however, as media coverage continues to grow; we are starting to see a little more parity in the game. In fact, I believe within the next decade or so that we will see the same type of parity in the women’s game that we see in today’s game on the men’s side.
I have always believed that media tells the sports fan what is important. If something is promoted it allows fans to know more about it, and in many cases, they become more interested in it. I believe that what kids see increases the chance of them falling in love with it. Just like the Dream Team (that is the real one in 1992 and not what Kobe and Lebron are calling this version) has done worldwide for basketball or Tiger has done for the game of golf the same has happened in the past decade for girls following Brandi Chastain’s goal in 1999 helping increase the popularity of girls’ soccer.
If you are a true fan of sports, I urge you not to cheat yourself by not giving some sports a chance. I know over the past decade I have learned a great deal about volleyball. Growing up I watched some volleyball, but I never really did get it. Now, I consider it one of my favorite sports to watch. If you get two good teams that play good volleyball, it is a great sport to watch. I know some people will say that bad volleyball is hard to watch, but that is true about any sport be it guys or girls. I don’t want to watch bad baseball teams not throw strikes or make an error an inning. I don’t want to watch two basketball teams not be able to dribble, pass, and catch.
A wise man once told me “Boys have to win to be happy. Girls have to be happy to win.” This great young coach, who I am privileged to call a great friend, has coached multiple sports – boys and girls – at a variety of levels, and I think there is some genius to his motto. Coaching is coaching, and if you are going to be a good one, you better be capable of motivating and relating to a variety of personalities. I think this variety and versatility also applies to fans. The problem often comes with the stereotyping of our athletes. As a teacher and coach for more than a decade now, I can assure you that I have dealt with plenty of boys who do not have nearly the fortitude of several young ladies who I have worked with in the classroom or in an athletic setting.
As another high school sports season is upon us, let’s remember what makes high school sports so important to the growth of student-athletes and let’s also embrace what makes high school sports so different from the higher levels. One of my goals in starting SVCsportszone.com in 2008 was to not only cover the main sports on the boys’ side but to cover all sports including girls. With Title IX recently celebrating its 40th birthday, it is exciting to think about all the amazing history in the Scioto Valley Conference in girls’ sports. This history as well as the sure-to-be incredible present and future is going to give us all some thrills, and be it on the website or via our podcast, I look forward to covering all of it.
Be a part of our podcast show this year. Let me know your thoughts on this article or any topic in today’s SVC or high school sports by emailing me at firstname.lastname@example.org. You can also be heard on our podcast show by calling 740-569-3254 to leave a voice message.