You Go, Girl! Thanks to Title IX, Women's Sports Ain't What They Used to Be

By McGraw, Patricia Babcock | Daily Herald (Arlington Heights, IL), June 23, 2002 | Go to article overview

You Go, Girl! Thanks to Title IX, Women's Sports Ain't What They Used to Be


McGraw, Patricia Babcock, Daily Herald (Arlington Heights, IL)


Byline: Patricia Babcock McGraw Daily Herald Sports Writer

A pitching change for Fremd High School's softball team used to be anything but routine. It involved much more than exchanging one pitcher for another.

Clothing changed hands, too.

"We'd call all of our players over and we'd stand up on the mound in a big circle around the pitchers so that no one could see in, and the two girls would take off their shirts and trade," said Carol Plodzien, who used to coach softball at Fremd High School in Palatine and is now the girls basketball coach and girls athletic director.

"We didn't have enough uniforms for everyone on the team, so that's what we'd have to do every time we wanted to use a new pitcher.

"We also didn't have enough uniforms for every girls sports team to have its own set. We had one set of uniforms and that was it. Volleyball, basketball and softball shared the same uniforms. So when the seasons overlapped and the teams were playing on the same days, it got really tough. I remember taking sweaty volleyball uniforms to our basketball games. That was all pretty sad."

That was all more than 30 years ago - before the passage of Title IX, the federal law that prohibits sex discrimination in any educational program or activity that receives federal funds.

According to the law, "No person in the United States 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, which has been most popularly associated with the policing of high school and intercollegiate athletic programs as they strive to achieve financial and participatory gender equity, celebrates its 30th birthday today. It was approved by President Richard Nixon and enacted by Congress on June 23, 1972.

Since then, the landscape for women's sports has changed dramatically in the United States. Thousands more girls and women are participating in sports. They're treated better, they're getting more money spent on them and, in most cases, stories about uniform exchanges and other ridiculous inequities are all but extinct.

"Title IX was supposed to give us the rocket boosters we needed to get going," said Plodzien, whose pre-Title IX coaching salary was $90 per season. "It's taken a while, but we have moved forward. Today, there's a totally different mentality.

"Girls come in and they expect nice uniforms. They expect cheerleaders at their games. They expect to have equal access to facilities, and they expect nice facilities. I mean, years ago we had to use a snow fence for our backstop (in softball). We didn't have dugouts or scoreboards. The girls today wouldn't accept that at all. I guess that's a victory (for Title IX) because (the mentality) never used to be like that."

Not even close.

Before Title IX was enacted, women's sports were an afterthought at best, a despicable proposition at worst. In some states, girls were actually forbidden from playing sports.

"In the early '60s, it was against the law in Alabama for girls to participate in interscholastic sports, so I did not get to play," said former Purdue women's basketball coach Lin Dunn, who is now the coach and general manager for the WNBA's Seattle Storm. "We moved to Tennessee and I got to play the old 3-on-3 (basketball) with the court divided halfway. But they wouldn't let us run full court because they were afraid that we'd sweat. And if we sweated, of course, we'd die. Fortunately, Title IX came along."

Title IX came along at a time when civil rights were still at the forefront of the country's consciousness. And, like African- Americans, many women believed their rights were being trampled when they were denied equal access to athletic opportunities.

According to the National Federation of High Schools, only 1 in 27 high school girls in 1970 played varsity sports - compared to the 1 in 2.

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You Go, Girl! Thanks to Title IX, Women's Sports Ain't What They Used to Be
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