The changes wrought by Title IX
By Ken De Laat
On occasion I come across a post from one of my high school classmates that triggers a memory of those long ago days. A recent one came on the heels of doing the N3 articles on the all conference teams for the fall high school season.
Usually, putting together the names of our local scholar athletes is merely the tri-annual compilation to honor their efforts but, combined with the post, it gave me a bit of pause.
The original was a post about a female member of the vaunted Caledonia Class of ‘69 engaged in a biking competition and resulted in a thread with references to girls athletics at our school back in the day.
Pre Title IX.
Yeah, there were none.
While difficult to imagine if one has attended a sporting event featuring high school girls in recent years, les filles of Caledonia High School in that era could either sideline cheer for the boys or take part in something called the Girls Athletic Association. From my knowledge of the group (limited to a failed attempt to be in their photo for the yearbook) there were no competitions with other schools and games were limited to intramural type activity.
I think they played basketball, but nowhere near the basketball one sees these days. The speed and gritty defense of the Newaygo Lions as they marched to the state finals last year would not have found a place in the roundball rules I recall for girls in those days with stationary guards and forwards limited to one half of the court and a limit on the number of dribbles one could take. It was speculated that the rules were formed to protect the fragility of the fairer sex.
Then came 1972 and Title IX, the landmark gender equity law passed as part of the Education Amendments of 1972, banning sex discrimination in federally funded education programs.
And while women’s sports were merely a part of this far reaching law and it took years to get traction toward the needed changes, today there are 16 sports for Caledonia girls.
Granted there are at least triple the number of kids in the newer hallways of CHS these days so the opportunities have expanded along with the resources.
But to my count there are also 16 sports for the boys.
Just like the girls, thanks to Title IX.
Cross, football, basketball, wrestling, baseball, tennis, golf and track were available to the boys.
The girls got to cheer.
6 of them.
And a male classmate of mine joined them one year so even cheerleading apparently wasn’t exclusively for girls
And while taking nothing away from those who support the teams on the sidelines?
It’s awfully nice to see them on the court receiving some of the cheers as well.
Next year when Title IX reaches the half century mark there is certainly raison de célébre (One year of French from Mr. Goodyke at CHS, circa 1967) given the hard fought progress that has been made.
My earlier reference to the Lions tournament run last winter is a testament to how far sports for women have come after seeing an entire town taken hold by the team. Much as they were a couple decades earlier when those state title banners were hoisted 2 years in a row.
It’s the kind of community excitement that spurs interest in the sport and eventually leads to more participation in more sports by younger girls.
I only wish the athletes among my classmates who plied their skills solely in gym class could have experienced the excitement and crowd support of interscholastic competition available to girls today.
Because if those early rules about competition were created at the time to protect the so-called ‘fragility’ of the girls, I am here to testify that most I knew back then were anything but fragile.
Determined, strong willed, wickedly smart and resilient, yes.
Not so much.
And given the chance they would have no doubt excelled on the playing fields of old ‘Donie.
Note: Thank you to Dr. Patricia Magle Jones for her assistance in securing the GAA photo.
Letter to the Editor Policy
Near North Now welcomes original letters from readers on current topics of general interest. Simply fill out the form below. Letters submissions are limited to 300 words.