Title IX and what it means to be a female athlete

Raegan Stokes ‘19
Sports Editor

On June 23, 1972, the American public took a big step towards educational and recreational equality. Title IX, was created to ensure that all students in schools receiving federal aid are offered equal treatment and opportunities. Title IX states that “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 created equality for students not only in educational programs but also in athletic programs. Because of this law, female participation in high school sports has increased by more than 900% since 1972.

But just because Title IX exists, does not mean that equality exists in all school systems. This law only applies to schools “receiving federal financial assistance,” so not all schools are technically held by these standards. This is why, according to Women’s Sports Foundation, “female athletes receive 63,000 fewer opportunities at NCAA Institutions (193,000 female vs. 256,000 male).”

On the other hand, Title IX has helped many public institutions fight for equality in treatment and opportunity. In a recent case at Lake Oswego High School in Oregon, the softball team was told that they couldn’t get new facilities unless they won a state championship, even though the baseball team had all new facilities and has never won a championship. So, the team filed a Title IX lawsuit against the school district. The school district has just released a statement that they are now in the process of improving the facilities for the softball team.

Women’s athletics all over the United States is starting to come into the limelight. For example, this winter was the first season of the National Women’s Hockey League. But the women’s athletics world is still growing. There is still unequal pay between female and male athletes, which the US women’s soccer team is in the process of fighting against right now. In fact, there is a gap even on the collegiate level, according to Women’s Sports Foundation, “Female college athletes receive $183 million less in NCAA athletic scholarships ($965 million female v. $1.15 billion male).”  

With that being said, for me, coming to Smith was more than just being able to play field hockey. Coming to Smith was about never being stuck with the small bus because the men’s team got the fancy bus or having no fans in the stands because a men’s game was going on. Being an athlete at an all-women’s college is the ultimate dream because there is no competition between the sexes, females are the stars of the athletic program. This is not to say that female athletes are never the stars of athletic programs, because obviously the UConn women’s basketball team is seriously killing it. But being at Smith, there is no pressure of competition. We all cheer each other on through our losses and our successes. And I think we can all agree that watching female athletics is just as interesting and exciting as watching men’s athletics.

Sophomore Caroline Labriola, says being an athlete at Smith is an experience that lasts a lifetime. She loves the “… amazing support system of lifelong teammates and friends who share a common passion and truly just love to play.” Most students will agree that the community of female athletes at Smith is indescribable.

Casey Rau, perfectly sums up what it means to be an athlete at Smith, saying that “being an athlete at Smith is all about empowerment and not letting anyone stand in our way of success. When Smithies unite on a team, we are unstoppable. At Smith, we have a platform to succeed on and off the field. My experience as a female athlete has taught me how to lead and be fearless.”

Students acknowledge that being an athlete at Smith is a special experience. It is an opportunity to play in the limelight and to be role models for young female athletes who wish to pursue their dreams and play at the collegiate level. Female athletics is still growing, but it is only headed up and Smith athletics is on the crest of the wave of female athletic recognition and opportunity.

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