Girls still reap benefits of Title IX

Published 12:05am Wednesday, April 18, 2012

 

T his year marks the 40-year anniversary of the legislation that leveled the playing field for female athletes.

Title IX is the 1972 civil rights law requiring that boys and girls receive equal educational opportunities, including sports, in schools that receive federal funds.

Statistics show nationwide that before Title IX, one in 27 girls participated in high school varsity sports. Today, two in five play. In college, the number of women athletes has increased by more than 500 percent since the federal law was enacted, and sports scholarships, once rare, are more common today.

At Lurleen B. Wallace Community College, there are women’s basketball and softball teams, on which a number of student athletes play while attending college on scholarship.

To meet Title IV requirements at the high school level, Pleasant Home added a volleyball team in 2008. Florala followed suit in 2010 – both measures done to match the number of boys’ sports at each school.

“It’s caused equality, by giving girls the opportunity to participate and get the same type of funding all the way through,” said PHS coach Jerry Davis said of the law.

Davis, who’s coached for 41 years, said he’s been involved in four Title IX investigations at schools over his tenure in Florida and Alabama to “even the playing field” in the area of athletics.

“I have daughters, and (the law has) given them the opportunity to participate, and now, there are just as many scholarships for girls as boys in athletics,” he said.

At Pleasant Home, Davis said he works with other coaches, such as Kelley Garner, who is the girls’ basketball coach, in ordering whatever the team needs that season such as equipment and uniforms. He added that he divides what the girls and boys teams need on an equal level.

Opp assistant principal and Lady Bobcats softball coach Jimmy Reeves said he’s seen a big change in his 14 years as a softball coach. Reeves coached at PHS, too.

“When we first started, we were playing slow-pitch softball, and there wasn’t a lot of emphasis on girls sports at all,” Reeves said. “I’ve seen a tremendous increase in both interest and participation.”

Reeves said his daughters have each benefited from Title IX, and each went on to play ball on scholarships at the college level.

He said in recent years, the move from slow-pitch softball to fast-pitch softball is a prime example of how the landscape of female sports has changed. In his experience, Reeves said it took “two to three years for girls to be interested in playing” after the transition.

“Eight or nine years ago, when fast pitch started to catch on, (opportunities for scholarships) really started kicking off,” he said.

When it comes down to it, Davis said that Title IX is a “good thing.”

“Years ago, they didn’t even want the girls to sweat,” Davis said. “They deserve the same opportunities as boys.

“It’s done what it’s supposed to do,” he said of the law. “I’ve watched it for 40 years. I guess there’s something to be said for longevity.

“It really helped our family out,” he said, speaking of his daughters’ ability to earn college scholarships. “You’re seeing a lot more of that as far as girls’ athletics and college.”

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