If you are old enough to remember growing up in the 1960s and being in school during that decade (or before), it’s likely your school had a boys’ basketball team, football team, track team, hockey team, wrestling team and other sports. But it was also possible there were no girls’ basketball team, track team or the rest.
Some schools had women’s sports, such as volleyball, tennis, maybe basketball and perhaps a couple of others. The bottom line was, however, that sports for young female students were not required and sometimes not even offered.
It’s difficult to imagine that situation today. It was before landmark legislation called Title IX was passed by the U.S. Congress in 1972. It’s actually a wide-ranging and complex piece of legislation, but the primary thrust of Title IX is that it required “sports equivalent” opportunities for females.
Title IX was passed as an offshoot or natural extension of the historic Civil Rights Act of 1964. The idea that young women should be offered equal opportunity to engage in sports in grade school, high school and college was championed by feminists and a broad coalition of supporters.
The man most associated with introducing and passing Title IX is former Indiana Senator Birch Bayh. He had been championing the Equal Rights Amendment (ERA) (for women) to the U.S. Constitution for several years. When that bogged down, Bayh was able to salvage a component of the ERA that became Title IX.
Title IX has three basic areas:
- The ability for women to participate in sports.
- The opportunity to earn athletic scholarships according to their athletic ability.
- Equal treatment regarding provisions.
“Provisions” refers to equipment, gymnasium space and/or playing field time for practice, uniforms, transportation to and from games and more.
Again, before Title IX, schools were not required to provide a women’s team with anything, such as uniforms or equipment, in addition to not requiring that there be any sports for women. Considering the enormous roles that athletic plays in school and education on all levels, it seems unimaginable today that women’s sports were either ignored or considered an “extra benefit” if even offered at all.
When considering the huge area of our global society that is women’s sports on a high school level, college level, Olympic level and professional level, it would be difficult to overstate how monumental, historic and transformative has been the effect of Title IX.