Madi Sundling, Staff Writer
As the midterm elections quickly approach in November, it is a time for many voters to reflect on their values and government. The laws we have put in place as a country continue to become the foundation for today’s generation. Moving forward, the responsibility shifts to a new generation to carry the torch. While it may be easy to glance over lofty federal laws and ignore politics altogether, legislation affects the everyday life of students and athletes.
Title IX falls under this category of legislation, stating, “No person in the United States shall, on the basis of sex, be excluded from participation in, be denied the benefits of, or be subjected to discrimination under any education program or activity receiving Federal financial assistance.” This law was a game changer for women not only in education, but also in athletics.
Collegiate sports have either a fall season or spring season. At the University of Missouri–St. Louis for example, softball and baseball say goodbye to their fall preseason, awaiting the real deal in the spring. However, for volleyball, as well as men’s and women’s soccer and basketball, these teams compete in the fall, fighting for a conference win and a postseason berth. There was a time though, when women were not taken seriously enough to compete in intercollegiate competitions.
The first legitimate female intercollegiate competition was between the basketball teams of Berkeley and Stanford, and Washington and Ellensberg in 1896. From there, women’s participation in competitive collegiate play slowly grew. History itself had a role to play as the Great Depression, World War I and World War II shifted new responsibilities upon women, changing the traditional roles of women from the home to the workplace. Furthermore, World War II affected women outside the working world and even within the athletics world. As professional baseball players went overseas, women stepped up to the plate and temporarily took over for men by playing in the All-American Girls Baseball League in 1943. Changing economic and social demographics overflowed into a changing athletic demographic as well.
It wasn’t until the Civil Rights Restoration Act of 1987 that Title IX applied to athletics as well and established that schools receiving federal funding must not only be fair within their educational opportunities, but also in their athletic opportunities for students. If elementary schools, high schools or colleges fail to meet compliance, then their federal funding will be eliminated.
Under Title IX, men’s and women’s teams in a program must both present equal opportunity to their athletes from athletic scholarships to equipment, uniforms and shared spaces. Such opportunities have only encouraged girls and women to participate and enjoy sports. Between 1971 to 2003 there has been an 840% increase in girls’ high school athletic participation.
The Women’s Sports Foundation says it best; “Title IX is an important federal civil rights act that guarantees that our daughters and sons are treated in a like manner with regard to all educational programs and activities, including sports.”
This federal law ensures athletic accountability. Without it, there might only be men’s sports that rotate throughout the year, or maybe there wouldn’t be nearly as many females competing against each other and challenging themselves athletically. Government and sports don’t always go hand-in-hand, but in this case, they enhanced sports for the better. This is undoubtedly one law that changed history, as well as the world of female sports forever.