Celebrating Title IX with grateful thanks, yet hopes and visions for continued progress
MSHSL Staff Reflection by Amy Doherty
Posted: Monday, June 13, 2022 - 2:43 PM
As we celebrate the 50th year of the passing of Title IX legislation, I have been reflecting frequently. My reflections bounce between gratefulness and a reminder of some improvements we have yet to make.
I was born after the passing of Title IX. People told me about it, but I could not envision a life without ample opportunities to participate in athletics. My mother often reminded me that the only organized athletic opportunity offered to her was cheerleading, yet in my youthful mind that seemed “so long ago,” that I just could not relate. And my father was the ultimate “Girl Dad” before the term was coined: Coaching my sister’s soccer team all the way through U-19, regularly playing tennis with me (on courts and against the garage door), helping me practice for my first 5K in 4th grade (by running a 5K the night before!) and regularly taking me to the playground to run around for hours.
For organized athletics, I spent:
- One winter speed skating
- Two years figure skating and dancing
- Four summers taking diving lessons
- At least seven or more years taking swimming lessons
- Eight years competing in track and field
- Ten years playing soccer
- And about 14 years in gymnastics.
Of course, the passing of Title IX made this possible, but I recognize that I was also fortunate to grow up in a family that could afford these activities.
I added to my athletic involvement by coaching, starting as a high school student coaching parks and recreation “mini soccer,” and preschool t-ball and “beginning ball skills.” In the following years, I coached middle school and high school soccer, preschool through high school gymnastics, and high school track and field.
I cannot begin to count how many different leagues, schools, clubs, organizations and other providers were included in the above. While I always appreciated and loved the opportunities, this was just normal. I could not relate to the very real fact that had I been born just a couple decades earlier, I would not have had these opportunities. I believed it but could not relate to it. I know many female readers share this feeling. It is important to take a moment to appreciate all the work done before us to make our sports involvement seem so very normal.
However, 50 years into Title IX, there are still areas where we need growth.
In nearly every sport, females and people of other communities are vastly underrepresented in officiating. For current participants to see people like themselves officiating their events, we need to improve recruitment and retention efforts. And we need to gain more representation of females and other under-represented communities on committees, on boards, in event management, and in other leadership roles. If one were to take a snapshot of all officials, coaches, administrators and other sports leaders, it does not come close to reflecting our current participation.
We can do better.
Finally, for those who are part of the traditionally represented population within sports officiating, coaching and leadership, help. First, and easiest, do not lessen the feelings and suggestions of under-represented groups. Hearing, “it’s a lot better than it used to be,” or “they just don’t want to do it,” or “I think it is pretty good,” or “it’s easy for anyone to apply” completely diminishes feelings and only further isolates those who are trying to hold space in the sports world. Listen to the feelings and thoughts being shared, and then help, even if you do not completely understand the feelings. You are not expected to fully understand before believing those feelings.
Then actively assist in making it better by encouraging the involvement of women and others from under-represented populations. Be bold, be a leader, make it a welcoming space, introduce yourself in meetings and at events, tell someone they would be good in a particular role, mentor new officials and administrators. Go out of your way to find an individual from an under-represented population and encourage their involvement. Invite them to a meeting, training session or game.
We did better 50 years. and we can do better now.
When we celebrate the 60th or 70th year of the passing of Title IX legislation, my hope is that women working in athletics will have the same feeling that I had when my mom used to tell me that the only sport available to her was cheerleading. Hopefully, they will appreciate efforts made before them, but only know a world in which females in athletics leadership is the norm.