This month is the 50th anniversary of Title IX, the Education Amendments Act of 1972. Growing up, I remember the first time I heard about Title IX was from my mom. She was one of the first generations to see the benefits of the groundbreaking gender equity law. She was a collegiate nordic ski athlete, was invited to try out for the 1988 Olympic ski team, ran ultramarathons after two pregnancies, and continued to compete as an athlete throughout my childhood and adult years. At the time, I did not recognize the privilege I had of experiencing a parent compete at the level my mom did. I now credit her and the strong female mentors I’ve worked with for influencing my career path as an athletic administrator, teacher, and coach.
Earlier this spring, I visited Boston College to hear Mia Hamm, Olympic Soccer Gold Medalist and Women's World Cup Winner (just to name a few of her prestigious accomplishments), speak on the 50th anniversary of Title IX. When I was leaving practice, I was excited and told my team who I was seeing, to which they replied “Who’s Mia Hamm?” Flabbergasted, it took all of my might to not be offended for Mia and the ‘99ers. On the drive to Chestnut Hill, I reflected on all the female athletes my students do know — Serena and Venus Williams, Abby Wambach, Simone Biles, Ibtihaj Muhammad, Eileen Gu, and the many others who benefitted from Title IX and the impact the ‘99ers had on women’s athletics. Title IX created 3 million additional high school sport opportunities for girls now versus before 1972, according to the Women’s Sports Foundation (WSF).
I went to see Mia with one of my graduate school friends, who is now a collegiate senior women’s athletic administrator, and we eventually ran into my first professional mentor and her young daughter. Being in the presence and listening to Mia, one of the most important and recognizable female figures in the history of sport, with two of the strongest, independent, and inspiring women I personally know, gave me the jolt of energy I needed to finish out this arduous school year.
I grew up playing sports all year round, and it wasn’t until college that I was coached by my first female only coaching staff at a co-ed institution overseen by a female athletic director. Since Title IX, women’s participation in college athletics has increased. Today, women make up 44% of all NCAA athletes compared to 15% pre-Title IX, when fewer than 30,000 women played college sports. It is important to note that men have 60,000 additional collegiate sport opportunities compared to women despite women making up a larger share of the college student population. Additionally, BIPOC women still lag behind white women in college sports participation—30% compared to 14%—due to barriers in participation and have historically been excluded in sport leadership (WFS). I do wonder how different my youth athletic experience would have been if I had more courageous, diverse, female coaches, teachers, and administrators earlier and throughout my life.
At Dana, we have a microcosm of the future generations. Our students get to experience female identifying administrators, athletic directors, coaches, vice presidents, the first majority owned women’s professional soccer franchise (Angel City), and the US Women’s National Soccer team winning an equal pay settlement. At the same time, we are not done yet. The next generations need to understand the full power of Title IX will not be realized without recognizing individuals whose gender identity does not conform to the Title IX’s implicit and explicit gender binary and athletes with disabilities. As Abby Wambach reiterated in her Loyola Marymount University Commencement speech, for future generations, this is the only world they’ll ever know. I am so excited to be a part of that world.
From the 1972 yearbook, Dana Hall field hockey players in the year that Title IX was passed