Thanks to Title IX: How Sports Made Me Who I Am

This post is part of the National Women’s Law Center’s 40 Years of Title IX Blog Carnival. 

I stayed up later than I should have the other night watching TV.  A League of Their Own was on, and I just could not get up and walk away.  Sometimes I forget how funny it is.  But one part really hit me – how time, laws and acceptance have changed the lives from those women who really did play in the All-American Girls Baseball league, to me, in elementary and middle school.

During one of their many bus rides the ladies are talking about the men in their lives, and Doris (played by Rosie O’Donnell) talks about how she dated her boyfriend because he was the only that didn’t see her as different or weird because she played baseball.  I remember coming home upset for being made fun of, for being a tomboy.  The occasional time it came from one of the boys, I usually shut him up pretty quick at recess during a kickball or basketball game.  It was the comments from the girls that stung the most.  I couldn’t prove them wrong in their mocking by showing them up in a game because they wouldn’t play.  And according to them I shouldn’t play either.

The confusing part was that I had played soccer, softball, and basketball on with other girls.  I hadn’t stuck with ballet and gymnastics, decisions which were made more by my parents really.  I wasn’t interested in the usual pink and ruffling things being marketed to me each Saturday morning.  The good news is that at some point a transition happens – where you go from being a tomboy (apparently seen as bad to some), to an athlete (much respectable somehow).

The lessons I learned as an athlete and teammate as well as being a student athlete in school have served me in many settings ever since.  Beyond just team work but learning to get along with people, set goals as a team and as an individual and achieve them, and the ability to prioritize workloads and manage a schedule have proved valuable skills I used in school, as well as my career.  I believe it is one of the reasons I try to keep so busy now.  The more on my plate the more I push through and get things done.  I have learned my limits, and learned to say “No” to some things.

Starting so early in sports lessons of healthy eating and stretching before workouts or games was instilled in me young – before I could really even understand it.  What I also didn’t understand at the time, what that my generation was right on that cusp.  Someone else had already made it possible for there to be a girl’s volleyball team or a girl’s track team.  Someone had already made it possible for me to play soccer with the park district.  These options weren’t options when my mom was growing up – and idea of that was difficult for me to take in and fully understand, to grasp that it hadn’t always been this way.  Between my mom’s generation and mine, a lot happened and a lot was made possible.

I know I would be a very different person today had I not been exposed to such sports or allowed to play.  Title IX opened the door, and for many in my generation we have to thank those who came before us, who left us an easy trail, and little to fight for. From the 5 year old at her first Cubs game, to the student athlete, to the 30 year old at the Nationals game the other night, sports have been a part of who I am, and I cannot imagine having gone through school without that opportunity to participate and play, or the prospect of playing on a college team.  My dreams then, and life today would have been very different without Title IX.

*Photo Credit: nooccar via Creative Commons License

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