Title IX, the landmark legislation that bans sex discrimination in schools, whether it be in academics or athletics, turns 40 on Saturday. What effect do you see Title IX having on women's sports in the next 40 years?
Lessons learned will be hallmark of future
By Graham Hays
Title IX reshaped women's sports by opening wide a door to participation through which barely a sliver of opportunity slipped before. That part of the story will continue to be written in the years to come. Pardon the parochialism from someone who covers the sport, but that much was clear in this year's NCAA softball tournament, in which a Hofstra team composed largely of athletes from the Northeast beat softball dynasty UCLA in Los Angeles, and an Alabama program still younger than any of its players won the first national championship for an SEC program. More girls playing softball in more parts of the country fill more and more college rosters with talent capable of competing in the postseason, just as the talent pool continues to deepen in basketball, soccer, volleyball and every other sport.
But if the next 40 years of Title IX remain about opportunities to participate, in both the expansion and safeguarding of those opportunities, the coming decades will also be about the effects Title IX has on the infrastructure that supports participation. No part of that is more visible than coaching. The next 40 years will be at least in part about the role played by women who benefited from Title IX in its first 40 years. That's true at the most visible levels of women's sports, where young head coaches like LSU softball's Beth Torina or future head coaches like George Washington basketball assistant Megan Duffy are the vanguard of a generation that grew up entirely within the lifespan of Title IX. It's equally true, and no less consequential, on the sideline beyond college and professional sports. It's the women who call on their own experiences to coach a high school soccer team or a weekend volleyball team for kids just learning the sport. Title IX let loose a flood of participation that necessarily swamped what little infrastructure existed to support it. But in that flood were also the resources, be they coaches, administrators or executives, to help women's sports grow, mature and strengthen.
It is not a future without its share of peril. Better compensation and more competition should mean a better standard of coaching, but those things will also mean more pressure to succeed and more cases in which that success is measured by wins and losses. Increased corruption, questionable ethics and general sleaziness will almost certainly persist and grow as side effects of the success of Title IX. But opportunity always comes with some cost. And if the first 40 years brought the opportunity to participate, the next 40 will bring the opportunity to teach the lessons learned.
World without need for Title IX may be possible
By Jane McManus
Title IX has changed the course of my life, and it will continue to give girls and women opportunities in sports that their grandmothers never dreamed of. But I cannot imagine it will be without a fight. There is no happy ending with this legislation, which focuses opposition like a lightning rod.
But what gives me hope is the ranks of women who have benefited from Title IX continue to grow. Olympians such as Jackie Joyner-Kersee offer their own testimony that the law allowed them to reach their dreams. Perhaps girls do not see as they kick a soccer ball what it means, but those girls grow into women who become aware.
And those women will grow into CEOs and legislators.
Perhaps a time will come when Title IX is no longer needed. When girls who want to play aren't relegated to the rocky softball field farther from school than the baseball diamond. As a sports writer covering high schools, I saw that firsthand. I saw the cheerleaders at the boys' games and not always at the girls' games. I saw boys' teams with new uniforms each season while the girls wore hand-me-downs. So that day is not here yet.
But you can imagine what it would look like, which is an infinity from where we were 40 years ago.
Title IX needs champions to remain pertinent
By Kate Fagan
I think women's sports will continue growing. Realistically, women's sports are in their infancy. Because Title IX took a few years to take root in our schools, we're just now welcoming the second generation of females who have benefited from the law. Yes, young girls now expect teams will exist on which they can play, but not enough time has yet passed for our culture to fully embrace women's athletics and for women themselves to fully permeate the sports landscape. As we go forward, I think you'll see the evolution of all of our games: More and more young girls will play sports, and each generation will raise the level of play.
Of course, all of this is contingent upon continuing to have champions of Title IX. It wasn't that long ago that soccer star Julie Foudy and swimmer Donna de Varona had to testify before Congress to ensure the strength of the law. We must be vigilant in protecting Title IX so that this question -- where will women's sports be in the next 40 years? -- remains pertinent.
Title IX progress depends on leadership
By Mechelle Voepel
What effects will Title IX have on women's sports in the next 40 years? More women who play sports should continue to move into leadership positions in athletics, which gives them the opportunity to problem-solve from a different point of view.
The financial challenges of running athletic departments at the college and high school levels are vast, and there's a need for new ideas and creative solutions that don't just involve cutting costs. Women must not let go of the more utopian ideas of what athletics is supposed to be accomplishing -- both for the student-athletes themselves and for the general work force most of them will enter.
Also, more women as leaders in sports may result -- eventually -- in a coaching population that is more similar to the gender makeup of other professions. That is: women as a routine part of the coaching staffs of men's teams, just as men now are for women's teams.
We're so far away from that in 2012 that it may seem far-fetched that it will be "routine" in 2052. But a lot can change in 40 years. Players should benefit in learning from coaches of both genders, just as they do from teachers of both. And female coaches will learn from working with both genders, as well.
Another aspect of more women in athletic leadership involves the International Olympic Committee and other global and national sports governing bodies. These are organizations that have power to help change women's lives across the world, but most still overwhelmingly lack female representation, especially at the top levels.
Title IX has benefited not just American women, but those of all nationalities. As it continues to do so, those women are in position to improve female athletic opportunities in their native countries. For all the progress there's been in the United States, there's still a contrast as vividly stark in Saudi Arabia, where women don't have even the most basic freedoms we've long taken for granted here, let alone any chance to participate in sports.
Another aspect of women in leadership involves, of course, professional leagues and organizations. The WNBA is now in its 16th season; how much will it have expanded and changed by the time it's in its 56th? And what of other team sports' having successful American-based pro leagues? Softball and soccer, which both have had difficulties establishing themselves in that regard, still seem the best bets to do it over the course of the next four decades.
It all still comes back to leadership: The need for all those who benefit from the educational opportunities provided by Title IX to then give back to those who follow them by providing even greater opportunities.
Hoping for increased awareness, acceptance
By Sarah Spain
The speed at which sports evolve can be staggering. Back in the 1970s few could have imagined how much money and coverage would be afforded to men's college football and basketball these days. The global impact of today's NBA and NFL might have seemed an impossibility back then, and women's professional basketball, soccer and softball leagues were just a dream for female athletes. The idea that more than three million high school girls would be playing on school sports teams was just a dream decades ago. Today, as I consider the future of Title IX, it's hard to guess how the sports landscape will look 20 to 30 years from now.
No matter how things change, or how much they stay the same, the two things I hope for most are increased awareness and increased acceptance. I hope more people are aware of the benefits and truths of Title IX and denounce the fallacies that plague it. There are still far too many who believe Title IX is to blame for the elimination of men's sports like wrestling, when, in fact, excessive spending on sports like football and men's basketball is the real culprit.
I also hope more and more people will accept and embrace women and girls who love sports. Young girls who love to play shouldn't ever feel as though being tough, strong and competitive is "unfeminine." Female college and professional athletes shouldn't be ignored or slighted as "less than" in comparison to their male counterparts. As a society we need to continue to promote the benefits of athletics for all, putting an end to antiquated ideas of what's "proper" for girls and women. We've come a long way, baby, but we've still got miles to go.
Another 40 years will alter women's presence in sports
By Adena Andrews
We have come so far in 40 years that I imagine the next 40 years to be a period of exponential growth. Not only will women excel in the field of sport, but the thoughts on what a woman in sport is capable of will also expand.
In 40 years there will be a woman majority owner in all four major professional leagues and a female head coach on each sideline. Women making up 50 percent of the staff on a professional team will not be an oddity, but the norm, 40 years from now. Sexual harassment toward women in sports won't be a part of the game, but an issue to be taken seriously and one that occurs only sporadically.
On the field, Title IX will eventually give way to a superhuman female athlete who has evolved beyond her predecessors. We are already seeing it with the dunking of Brittney Griner, speed of Maya Moore and brawn of Holley Mangold. These women are just prototypes for the female athlete that Title IX will breed in four more decades.
In 40 years, I hope Title IX is just a lesson in my daughter's history book that doesn't have to be evoked due to inequality in athletics or education.
Can the few trailblazers become many?
By Michelle Smith
The next 40 years are about expanding the opportunities for women beyond participation.
We know girls and women want to play sports. They have shown up to fields and basketball courts and school tryouts in remarkable numbers. But how do those girls who started out in soccer or basketball use this experience at the next level? Do they want to become a coach? Will there be a good job for them? Will they get to play professionally? Is there a market for them? Will they get hired as a general manager or a broadcaster or own their own teams? Will the few who have taken these paths in the past 40 years become the many? These are my questions for the next 40 years.
It's not merely about the opportunity to participate, but the opportunities that that opportunity has provided.
Next 40 years marked by empowerment, opportunity
By Melissa Jacobs
I recently interviewed a 17-year-old female athlete and asked her how she thought Title IX impacted her life. Her response: "What's that?" One of Title IX's biggest successes is females of this athlete's generation and those who follow may never have heard of it. (I told her to Google it.)
In the next 40 years, women's sports will continue to grow organically. Some leagues will be bigger hits than others; some may need to hit the reset button. But the number of female athletes will continue to grow on all levels, especially recreationally. And more and more women will find success competing in the men's game. I would be shocked if a female didn't put on an NFL jersey in the next 40 years (likely as a kicker, but an accomplishment nonetheless), or if the next version of Michelle Wie wasn't able to infiltrate the men's tour. This is the kind of empowerment and opportunity Title IX has given our gender.