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Commentary: Title IX helps women compete in sports, life

June 29, 2012|By Carrie Luger Slayback

Crossing the finish after a local 5K race, I walked beside a crowd of breathless runners.

Flushed and happy, we grabbed water and moved toward the stage for award announcements. Post-race endorphins forge friendships fast. Age doesn't matter. At 67, I'm a peer to women of all ages, due to sweat, spandex and simple joy of pushing past the finish line.

As we waited for the times and awards, a fellow runner introduced me to Kathy, a local running legend. Kathy was an Olympic qualifier for the marathon, college track coach and now, a race organizer. Full of enthusiasm at 52, she's celebrating the anniversary of Title IX, a 1972 federal mandate stating that, regardless of sex, no person shall be denied the benefits of any federally funded educational program.

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I was a teacher at the time Tile IX passed mandating no more "boy's line" and "girl's line." "What a ridiculous law!" I thought when I learned that schools with boys' teams had to provide equal equipment and coaching for girls. Didn't schools have enough funding problems without adding girls' team sports?

Male legislators agreed with me and mounted legal challenges, which were defeated. So, according to an AAUW study, the next three decades saw women's involvement in high school sports rise 940% and college, 456%.

Bringing the statistics to life, Kathy told the group of runners gathered around her, "I would have been pregnant and dropped out of school if it weren't for Title IX. I was boy-crazy but my high school P.E. teacher saw me chase a soccer ball and made me show up for track and field try-outs. My life changed.

"I got into running like crazy. Running's my life. I wasn't even thinking of college but my track scholarship put me through UC Santa Barbara, and now I have a master's degree. Without Title IX I'd have 10 kids and three husbands instead of two degrees and my own business."

She laughed, loudly, and we all joined in.

Marti, a square-framed blond, with a gap between her front teeth chimed in.

"I tried to join boys' football as a freshman in high school. Coach Miller wouldn't let me play football, but in my sophomore year, girl's sports came in. Coach got me to throw the discus.

"Friendships I made on the track and field team got me through high school. After graduation, I started competitive weight lifting and today I hold a national title for 50 and over. I'm not the type to hang out and giggle. Never was. Women's sports were the only way for me."

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