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Remembering a time before Title IX
Justin column: Writer was a competitive swimmer without a team early in high school
Nancy Justis - correspondent
May. 27, 2022 1:06 pm
The 50th anniversary of the enactment of Title IX will be celebrated on June 23.
Title IX is a broad-based statute prohibiting gender discrimination in all aspects of educational programs and activities, including athletics.
Title IX was not enacted until my competitive days were over. Yes, I am old(er). I remember well the inequities during my 10 years of competing. Not so much at the youth level, but when I reached high school and college.
My high school district offered boys’ competitive swimming but not for girls until my senior year. I did participate in synchronized swimming, but since I already had been competing in competitive swimming since the age of 10, it was disappointing. It was nice I was able to participate in AAU and YMCA swimming during those early years.
My final year competing was as a freshman in college. Women’s sports were in the early stages at the college level and my university started a competitive swim team. However, we struggled to get access to the primary pool on campus before 9 p.m. because of classes and the established men’s team.
We had to pay for our own team suits. We traveled to away meets in private cars.
When I got my public relations job at another university about five years later, the sports information office was not covering the few women’s sports offered by the separate women’s athletics department. There was one full-time staff member assisted by two student assistants. In my capacity as a news writer, I became the first full-time assistant sports information director covering women’s athletics about two years later.
Local and national coverage of girls’ and women’s sports has improved greatly, but it still has room to improve. Without coverage, interest will not grow.
We’ve come a long way, but there’s still a ways to go. The NCAA recently was condemned for the equivalent of exercise/weight equipment provided for the women’s basketball tournament as the men’s tournament. Budgets still are lower for women’s athletics, women’s coaches can still be paid lower than their male counterparts. And so on.
However, women’s Olympic presence has steadily grown since the first modern Games in 1896, the last time women were excluded from competing.
Women comprised just 2.2 percent of athletes in their first Summer Games (1900) and 4.3 percent in their first Winter Games (1924). They didn’t reach 10 percent until 1936, 20 percent until 1960 and 30 percent until 1994.
The Olympics are nearly gender equal now. A Winter Games-record 45 percent of athletes in Beijing were women and 49 percent of athletes in Tokyo were women, a Summer Games record.
In reviewing male and female activities, The Office of Civil Rights considers whether the activity is structured and administered in a manner consistent with established intercollegiate or interscholastic varsity sports in the athletics program, including whether the operating budget, support services (academic, sports medicine and strength and conditioning) and coaching staff are administered by the athletics department or another entity, and are provided in a manner consistent with established sports; whether participants are eligible to receive scholarships and awards in established sports; and whether participants are recruited in a manner consistent with established sports.
Also, whether practice opportunities are available consistently, whether the regular season competition differ quantitatively and/or qualitatively; whether the number of competitions and length of play are predetermined by governing athletics organizations, a conference or a consortium of institutions; whether the schedule reflects the abilities of the team; and whether there is a defined season and who it’s governed by.
These are just a few of the guidelines educational institutions need to be concerned with when looking at their athletics programs.
I was aware of discrepancies when I was growing up in the sports world but I am thankful for the opportunities I did have. I am thankful I have in some small way been a part of making things better for the girls rising to greater competitive heights.
Nancy Justis is a former competitive swimmer and college sports information director. She is a partner with Outlier Creative Communications. Let her know what you think at firstname.lastname@example.org