I wish I were good at sports. I throw like a toddler, running hurts my back and my reflexes are incredibly slow. And because of that, I love watching female athletes excel in sports.
This article was originally written for a game day program for the Chicago Force, the all women's Football team in Chicago. Different than other female football leagues, this one had not an ounce of silk, lace or bikinis. These women wore helmets and pads and left the game wrapped in ice. It was an honor to meet and speak with them about their experiences playing such a rough and predominantly male sport. And I very much enjoyed watching their commanding presence on the field.
A twelve-year old girl walked through the practice facility of a high school and noticed the placards and accolades awarded to the many sports teams. Soon the girl became aware of how many more honors there are for the boy’s teams than for the girl’s. She innocently asked why. Observing the dates, I was fully aware, that the boys started playing in the 1940's, while the girl’s teams were only given the right to exist starting in the 1970’s. Knowing what that meant, I smiled lightly. Because there was no reason for my youngest child to know anything other than anyone could participate in sports. Explaining Title IX opened her eyes to the lives of girls here age, those that came before her and their real struggles to achieve allowed the young girl, to participate the way she needed.
Title IX states that 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. June 23, 1972.
In the decades since the passing of Title IX, women have made great strides in sports. In 2012, for the first time in Olympic history, all participating nations had a female athlete compete. In the same Olympic Games, the US team had more female athletes than male. In 2013, a woman started the Daytona 500 on the pole and finished 8th, the highest finish for a woman ever.
My personal guilty pleasure, American Ninja Warrior, saw for the first time, women, completing the same course as the men; the same obstacle course and winning. In 2014, Kaci Catanzaro was the first woman to complete the qualifying course, not once, but twice. While it might not be a professional sport, the event moved me, and inspired me. We are no longer limited by a smaller, petite body. We are strong, and in that knowledge we can accomplish what we set out to do when we are given the opportunity.
In a time when it’s not only acceptable to play regardless of gender, it’s becoming the rule, not the exception. Women have only begun to take on the challenges associated with sports and now forty years after breakthrough legislation, it’s exciting to see what’s possible and what they can achieve.