Female College Athletics

“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

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2 Responses to Female College Athletics

  1. Eryn Krivansky says:

    I will definitely be following this blog! Participating in sports has been a huge part of my life and has helped mold me into the person I am today, for better or for worse. I think that I am ridiculously more competitive than I ever would have been otherwise, but I have also learned what it means to work together, rely on someone else, and to be a leader. I’ve played multiple sports, in every season, but my passion has always been for volleyball. However, at 5’4″, playing at the collegiate level was always just a dream. Like, Kelsey, I decided that it was better to invest in my education than in the game that I love. I can’t say if this was the right decision or not, because I did think long and hard about playing for a D3 school that recruited me. But I figured that if I wasn’t good enough to play for my dream team, yes, the PSU Women’s Volleyball team, which I have been following since before their first NCAA Championship win, then I probably shouldn’t waste my time, education, or money. It still sucks to think about the fact that I wasn’t good enough to do even half of what I wished, but I guess that is just another life lesson.
    When it comes to women’s and men’s sports, though, I completely see your point. I have always watched football. Ever since I can remember. But women’s teams…not so much, that is, at least until the Penn State Women took their first trophy. Then, we were interested. It definitely isn’t fair, because it seems that if the women aren’t winning, we aren’t watching, but with guys, we will follow them regardless of the ending score. Maybe this does have to do with gender stereotypes, and is rooted even deeper in our culture than we may initially assume. Hmm…
    And I agree with Kelsey… I think that you should definitely look in to the college athlete thing, getting into these schools, taking more deserving students’ spots? I think it could be really interesting!

  2. Kelsey Wetzel says:

    Woohoo I have a feeling I’m gonna like your blog! Sports+Girl Power=awesome:) I also grew up playing all types of sports, and in high school stuck to field hockey in the fall,where two years in I switched to water polo, and lacrosse in the spring. I played indoor lacrosse over the winter, and also in the beginning of high school played rec soccer just for fun. As junior year came closer, I had to make the decision for if I wanted to play at school or not. Like you, I probably could have played for a D3 school, but I wasn’t cut out for D1. I decided that it wasn’t worth it to be able to play but receive a… less high?… education. So I came to Penn State and joined a club team. I think it’s absolutely awesome that more and more women are able to play in college, and absolutely love that more womens teams are being recognized. I mean, look at PSU, our women’s basketball team is better than our men’s. That’s actually pretty awesome. One thing I think about a lot though (and maybe you’ll touch on this later) is about athletes in college in general. Lots of times, athletes get to go to schools that academically they would never fit into. Princeton, Georgetown, and lots of other schools are known for certain sports teams. Is it fair that these particular athletes get to go to these schools just because they’re athletes? Part of me says yes, they worked their butt of on the field to get there, part of me says no, it’s not fair to students who have the grades but don’t get to go becuase an athlete without the grades is taking their spot. I don’t know. Just something that runs through my mind. And maybe it strays a little from your specific blog… sorry! Let me know if you have any thoughts.

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