In 1972, Title IX became a law that stated “all federally funded programs, including athletes, to provide for equal treatment and opportunity for participation of men and woman” (Knight, 2001, pg 220). This included schools, athletic programs, jobs, etc where woman were involved. For this class, I chose to interview two people, my grandmother, Mary, who graduated high school in 1964, and my high school physical education teacher and coach, Mrs. W. Both of these women were around when Title IX was not a law just yet, and then Mrs. W was around when it was starting to change the schools.
My grandmother was born and raised in Starlight, Pennsylvania and she now works at a computer company DCIS in Deposit, New York. She graduated high school in 1965 from a very small school where they only had about eighteen students in a class. Since she graduated so early, she was not affected by Title IX. When I had asked her about it Title IX, she did not really know what I was talking about considering where she is from; it is a very small area where the schools were not really affected by anything.
Mrs. W was my high school physical education teacher along with my field hockey coach throughout my high school career. She graduated high school in 1970 then went onto becoming a physical educator to make a difference for girls in the school system. After her own personal experiences in school with athletics, she wanted to be the one to make a difference. So, she began teaching in January of 1975, a short while after Title IX was passed. She made a difference in the school that she went to, as soon as she observed what was going on with the athletic programs.
When I asked both of my interviewees what their sporting experience were like when they were in high school and their answers showed that they had two different experiences. My grandmother said that, “it consisted of me and other woman playing the only two sports allowed for us, softball and basketball.” Even though there were only two sports allotted for women, it was almost the same for men (but baseball instead of softball). But the men were allowed to participate in track along with basketball and baseball, so they had a little more opportunity than the women to participate in sports.
Mrs. W had a different experience then my grandmother; she had no organized sports for girls while there were many organized sports for the boys. What the girls were offered was signing up to play basketball, softball, soccer, volleyball, field hockey, and archery “intramurals” during the free activity period three times a week. Sometimes the female physical education teacher would pick an “A” and “B” team to go to other schools along with other “intramural” sports teams they then would have round robin tournaments once a year. Even though this was a sporting opportunity, it was not a full opportunity. The boys had organized teams, uniforms, rules, and they played all year round. Unlike the girls who played the intramurals, their gym clothes as their uniform, had “easier” rules to play to, and they played one day out of the whole year for all the activities.
An example of different rules would be when Mrs. W explained how basketball was played to me: “We had a set of “girls” rules to abide by, which included 6 player teams (not 5). We were only allowed to dribble the ball 3 times, one was assigned as a “stationary guard” or a “stationary forward”, which meant that you had to stay on your own side of the court, there was NO running to both ends, unless, on occasion, you got to play the “rover” who got to play the whole court.”
As a teacher, Mrs. W was the one who created sporting opportunities for most girls. When she first began to teach there were only varsity level sports for the girls teams in basketball, volleyball, softball, and field hockey. With these teams they had one uniform for all the sports compared to the boys having a uniform for each sport they played. Mrs. W said that the funding the school allowed for sports was mostly given to the boys teams, which was why there was only a varsity level along with only one set of uniforms for the girls. Once Mrs. W began to realize this, she started making changes in the athletic program.
She first began with starting a JV level for each of the sports offered. Even though she was getting paid, very little, to coach the varsity teams, she offered to coach the JV teams with no pay. After standing up to the school system, she finally made a point and there were now coaching positions for the JV teams she had started. Another change Mrs. W told me about was the equipment situation in the athletic program, “I also began looking at our “lack of equipment” situation for the girl’s sports. Seemed the boys had all the supplies (ex: basketballs) and equipment (backstops, goals, etc.) that they needed to play. The girls had nothing, no backstop for Softball, no standards for the volleyball court, etc.” With stating some aspects of the Title IX law, Mrs. W was able to provide an equally enough athletic program for the girl athletes.
With sports, came after school activities that woman were able to participate in, along with how the general public viewed female athletes. Mary stated that “there were not many activities available outside of school since the school was so small. We only had two sports along with track for the boys, but the girls were able to participate in the same sports along with the boys.” The size of the school really had a factor on what women were able to do, since it was really small then the women were able to participate more and the general public did not see a problem with the girls being athletes. Mrs. W also had a similar experience with the public mostly when she became a teacher and coach. She said that the public was always very supportive of getting sports teams started or building something for the teams. The community would even lend a hand financially if the teams needed help with fundraising for their sport.
Based off what I have been learning in classes about teaching students along with Title IX and how before it was in effect, female students also had a difficult time in classes. If the classes were co-ed with a male teacher, then they could be treated differently by having to do different activities. Like I have said before, my grandmother’s school was very small, so 9th and 10th grade classes were put together then 11th and 12th grades classes were always together. In all of her other classes, they were also not co-ed. She told me that she did not have a hard time in physical education class or even in other classes. She had a male teacher, who was also the coach of all the sports, and it was not a co-ed class. Since the class was not co-ed, she did not get treated any differently that the other girls in her class, but also she did not have to deal with male students in her classes. My grandmother said that, “We played many different sports while in gym class, like volleyball, gymnastics, basketball, etc”.
While Mrs. W was a student her physical education classes were different. She had a female teacher, with no boys in her class also, since there were no sports for girls, the female teacher was in charge of sports day (as mentioned earlier). Since there were no boys in the class, everyone was taught and treated the same. As a teacher, Mrs. W kept the same values as her mentor. She claimed him to be a “class act gentlemen who always treated every student the same no matter the gender.” For twenty two years she stuck with the idea of every student being treated with equal respect no matter the gender.
One of my final questions that I had asked my grandmother and Mrs. W, was how they were affected by Title IX. Their answers were about how the rest of their answers had been for the whole interview, different. Since my grandmother graduated from a very small school, with no co-ed classes, she was not affected by it. She told me that maybe Honesdale High School may have been affected because it was the main school in the area along with it being one of the bigger schools. But she did not really know considering she did not go there.
Mrs. W felt that without having Title IX growing up to having it implemented has helped her become the teacher she is today. Growing up, she knew the differences with the girls and boys sports about how the boys had more opportunity and then girls had no organized sports. When she became a teacher while Title IX was being implemented in her school, she made sure to be the one to start all the female sports, she made sure to get the right equipment for the girls teams, and also to get funding for them. Not having opportunities as a student, made Mrs. W to provide equal opportunities to the girl athletes when she became a teacher. By doing all these things, she has made a difference in schools and to many girl athletes.
This interview has opened my eyes on how lucky I am to post-Title IX. Without it, I would have never really been able to play the sports that I love, or possibly even become the teacher I have always wanted to be. This has helped me see that I am very lucky and I do not know what I would have done without sports in my life. Even though my grandmother was around during Title IX, she was not affected by it because of where she was located and when she was done with school. Mrs. W was a student, a coach, and a teacher while Title IX was being developed and set in place. She made a difference because she did not want girl athletes to go through what she had gone through while she was in school, and she did.