Researching a project on Title IX, the gender-equity law of 1972, was fascinating. Title IX, in part, increased the participation of girls and women in athletics.
Back in 1965, only 7% of girls played high school sports. Now 3.5 million girls nationwide compete.
The project has been like an archaeological dig, allowing me to peer at girls athletics in the early 20th century when basketball and tennis players competed in long dresses that touched the ankles and teams sometimes were governed by wacky rules.
“Girls even until the 1960s played in the Girls Athletic Association which was a sort of intramural organization,” retired Redlands High School teacher and historian Tom Atchley said. “And when they played basketball, they were only allowed to dribble three times before passing. They didn’t think girls were physically capable of doing more than that.”
Growing up in the Bay Area in the 1960s, my introduction to girls sports was through my older sisters. They played GAA ball. They regaled me with tales of playdays involving neighboring schools.
These were day-long events that might include a volleyball match, followed by punch and cookies, then maybe a softball game or track and field meet.
There were no uniforms, no officials, and nobody got college scholarships. Delving farther into the history of girls’ sports, suffice it to say the play was primitive.
Because there were no feeder programs for girls, skill was lacking. Atchley said final basketball scores at Redlands High in the 1920s like 13-10 and 12-11 were common.
Redlands High even lost a game in the early 1900s to Kingsbury Elementary. Equal coverage By the early 1980s I was a young sports editor in Watsonville.
Competitive girls sports were in their infancy. Our newspaper and our competitor, the Santa Cruz Sentinel, barely acknowledged girls and women’s sports.
In our paper their games were relegated to the “At a Glance” column. Then a funny thing happened. The Watsonville High girls basketball team had a slick point guard named Annette Yamashita and a 6-foot-3 center, Lisa Martin. The team started piling up the wins and filling the gym. At the paper we were slow to react, prompting Martin to write a letter to the editor saying the girls “won’t be glanced at anymore.”
So we covered them – and all girls and women’s sports – after that. It was overdue.
Game changer Former tennis champion Billie Jean King said Title IX was the most important legislation for women since they were granted the right to vote.
According to a 2022 survey by Pew Research, 63% of people say Title IX has had a positive impact on gender equality. But 37% also think not enough has been done to increase athletic opportunities for women and girls. But overall, Title IX was a game-changer.
Just ask former Citrus Valley High girls soccer and track and field star Lindsey Chau who will play soccer this year on scholarship at the University of San Francisco.
“I grew up in a pretty broken home which was very draining on my character,” Chau said. “Soccer allowed me to have an outlet for my emotions. Without Title IX, I would’ve remained stuck in my own head without a way to escape my own personal struggles. In a way, it saved my life. I know in the coming years, women in sports will begin to be represented in the way we deserve to be.”
They won’t be “glanced at” anymore. John Murphy may be reached at email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter @PrepDawg2.