Title IX through the decades with my family
MSHSL Staff Reflection by Laura Mackenthun
Posted: Friday, April 1, 2022 - 9:30 AM
It’s been an exciting year seeing the celebrations and memories that have been brought forward as part of commemorating the 50th year of Title IX. In reflecting on what Title IX has meant to, and provided for me and those closest to me, I spent time learning from my own mom who graduated from high school in 1962, reflecting on my own experiences as a 1985 graduate, and considering my daughter’s class of 2020 experience. Blended into those three time-markers are my sister whose graduation followed mine by three years and my two sisters-in-law who graduated in 1977. As I put together the timeline of these family members' experiences with the 1972 passing of the TItle IX legislation, it provides a variety of lenses through which I can personally view how this legislation that provided equal rights to both genders to educational programs and activities has been seen and experienced on a more personal level.
My mom, a graduate of Kerkhoven High School, shared that in the early 1960’s, the only option for girls sports was Girls Recreation Association (GRA) which met once a month and focused on recreational activities that weren’t competitive in nature. Meanwhile, boys had multiple interscholastic athletic options each season. Fortunately for her, there were other non-athletic events that allowed and encouraged girls to participate. These included interscholastic speech and debate, student council, mixed chorus, yearbook, band and FHA (Future Homemakers of America). While the activities were different, less visible to the public, and generally non-competitive, there were activities for girls. She remembers recognizing the differences in what was offered for boys and girls, but instead of being frustrated about the limited opportunities, she chose to appreciate those that existed. My mom, pictured at right, was a majorette.
My two sisters-in-law who both graduated from high school in 1976 were definitely in the midst of change coming from the passage of the 1972 Title IX legislation. They both had opportunities to participate in sports, but the offerings were in their infancy and grew while they were in high school. The options were still somewhat limited in comparison to boys. Girls sports were being implemented, allowing for only a year or two of participation in a sport. They recall girls sports receiving less-than-equal coverage from the local media and struggles to find funding and resources that made the offerings as strong as those for boys. The success of the Glencoe girls basketball team winning the first MSHSL Girls Basketball State Tournament in 1974 helped to push girls sports to the forefront within the community.
The experiences my sister and I had in the 1980's were very different from those of my mom and my sisters-in-law. The options we had to take part in interscholastic sports and activities in our time at Glencoe High School were many, easily accessible, and no one thought twice about girls participating in sports. As a basketball player in a school with one gym, the boys and girls equally alternated who had the prime early practice and the less desired late practices. As volleyball and basketball players, our coaches were professional, knowledgeable, and had high expectations of players. Boys and girls experiences in sports were very similar with one difference being boys getting the “prime billing” of having Friday night games. The high school basketball team I was part of, pictured at left, experienced success and advanced twice to the MSHSL Girls Basketball State Tournament; this experience was celebrated and attended by the whole community. The fact that it was girls basketball made no difference!
By the time my daughter entered Sartell High School in 2018, there wasn’t even a question as to if girls could play sports, it was more of what would they choose to join. The options had grown and the assumption was that it was “just something that you’d do.” The competition was strong and players competed for spots on a team. When asked about girls participating in sports, my daughter commented, “Every female I knew was involved in a sport at one time or another.” And, when asked how Title IX impacted her, a short answer of, “I never really have had to think about Title IX, so I suppose it worked as intended.” While her answer might be viewed by some as a bit flippant, it also sums up the success of Title IX !
From the 1960’s to now, with Title IX providing additional opportunities beginning in 1972, each of the females in my family that shared their experiences with me spoke clearly of the positive impacts that participation had on them. They spoke of sports and activities teaching them to work hard, be team players, deal with conflict, be responsible, and be active. They learned to accept and learn from both praise and criticism. These benefits of participation in sports and activities are often stated, but hearing these from those closest to me reminds me of the tremendous impact of participation in sports and activities. Having these opportunities grow and be guaranteed through the passing of Title IX Legislation is of paramount importance.