“No person in the U.S. shall, on the basis of sex be excluded from participation in, or denied the benefits of, or be subjected to discrimination under any educational program or activity receiving federal aid.” – Title IX
It is rare that I meet a girl who has not participated in at least one team sport during her lifetime. Growing up, I made a lot of my close friends through CYO and township sports. I bonded with my classmates over eight years of basketball, enjoyed warm spring days for six years of softball, spent six autumns playing defense for my field hockey teams, and learned to perfect my golf skills with my siblings and fellow junior golfers. In high school, I witnessed true athletic talent. For example, the star of my high school field hockey team, of which I was a member for two years, was recruited as a junior by the University of Maryland and currently plays for the United States’ national field hockey team. One of my classmates runs a sub-five minute mile and currently competes in cross country and track and field for Princeton University. About a dozen other classmates of mine also compete for their current universities in their respective sports.
Getting to the collegiate level of athletics is a feat. I found that out the hard way, after I quit field hockey to focus on my golf game in the hopes of receiving a scholarship to play the game I love. All I had ever heard growing up was that it was simple to get a golf scholarship – as long as I didn’t score in the triple digits, I was a shoo-in. After competing in tournaments that fielded a larger and more competitive group of girls, I discovered that I was not as great a golfer as I originally thought. Only the Division-Three colleges I looked at offered me a starting spot on their teams; the D-1 schools suggested I try again later. I learned how competitive collegiate athletic programs actually are and what an honor it is to actually be recruited by a school. It was not until recently, however, that I thought about how far women have come in athletics and how much opportunity has been provided to young girls by college sports teams.
Female collegiate athletic programs have become very competitive. In 1972, Title IX was passed, preventing colleges from discriminating between men and women both academically and athletically. The introduction of female athletic significantly altered the academic performance of women. It provided girls who otherwise would not have attended a university to do so. Athletic scholarships were incentives for girls to work hard and apply to college. Several notable landmarks were reached in 1994, twenty-two years after Title IX was introduced: “in 1994, women received 38% of medical degrees, compared with 9% in 1972; in 1994, women earned 43% of law degrees, compared with 7% in 1972; and in 1994, 44% of all doctoral degrees to U.S. citizens went to women, up from 25% in 1977” (About Title IX).
However, women’s sports still have a long way to go. They do not draw nearly as large an audience as men’s sports, and opportunities for women to compete professionally are limited. Just focusing on the college level, specifically at Penn State, it is obvious that women’s sports are not nearly as popular as men’s. Beaver Stadium frequently sells out for football games. Women’s volleyball, arguably the most popular female sport on campus, is not followed as loyally by the students and alumni as football. I think that the reason for this difference, aside from the difference in popularity between football and volleyball, is gender stereotypes. We have come a long way, but for Title IX to really be effective, we have to rid our minds of the stereotypes we did not even realize we acknowledged.
“About Title IX.” About Title IX. N.p., n.d. Web. 14 Jan. 2013. http://bailiwick.lib.uiowa.edu/ge/aboutRE.html