Forty-eight years ago on June 23, Title IX of the Educational Amendments of 1972 was passed, stating 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.
Almost five decades later, women and girls continue to benefit from this law that was intended to provide equal opportunities for men and women seeking to participate in activities and educational institutions receiving funding from the U.S. government.
As a former college athlete, I admit I did not give much thought to Title IX. It seemed obvious that women and men should have the same opportunities and funding. We had access to locker rooms, training staff, transportation, and scholarships. Many of my teammates were able to attend college because of the athletic scholarships they received. But a glance back at women’s opportunities just a few decades prior to my experience reveals a different picture.
Teresa (Lucas) Kamm competed in women’s gymnastics at West Virginia University in 1973, the first year Title IX went into full effect. The law enabled WVU to hire a qualified coaching staff, upgrade the gymnastics apparatus, provide an athletic trainer to travel with the team for meets, allow use of the men’s football athletic training room, provide academic tutors if needed, and provide a bus and driver for the team to travel to away meets. In previous years, the school had a “gymnastics club,” but gymnasts had to choreograph their own routines, bake cookies to raise money for uniforms, and drive their own cars to schools to compete against other women’s gymnastics “clubs.”
Kamm credits Title IX with giving young women many educational and experiential opportunities:
I benefited tremendously from Title IX. I believe the training and experience I received enabled me to compete on a national level post college. As a result, I performed my gymnastics routines in six countries in the Far East. This never would have happened if Title IX had not been implemented.
Many young girls now have the hope of competing at a collegiate level with all the benefits Title IX provides. The ability to earn a scholarship and compete at this level can be life changing. Women are more likely to attend college and graduate when offered an athletic scholarship.
In her senior year in 1975, Kamm was offered the first athletic scholarship given to a female athlete in West Virginia University’s history. As the oldest of six children, this was a tremendous encouragement to her family, and to the many female athletes who have followed in her footsteps at WVU.
As we watch our daughters and sons train and compete, we should rejoice at the beauty of God’s design for creation and seek to teach our children that they are intended, loved, and created to point to the One whose image they bear.
From learning to be a team player, to overcoming adversity, to gaining confidence and a positive body image, to higher academic achievement, the benefits to girls who participate in sports goes beyond scholarship opportunities. As a parent of a middle school runner, it’s a joy to watch her push herself and to be a witness as she cheers on teammates and learns sportsmanship. I’m grateful she has the same opportunities as her male counterparts in school, and I’m thankful she is able to compete as a girl.
Challenges after the Bostock ruling
However, there may be challenges ahead for many women seeking the opportunities afforded them under Title IX. Last week’s landmark Supreme Court ruling in Bostock v. Clayton County, Georgia extended protections against employment discrimination to LGBTQ people under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and saw the court redefine its interpretation of “sex” to encompass sexual orientation and gender identity. In practice, this could mean more transgender athletes arguing for the right to compete against students of a different biological sex, as was recently challenged by three female high school track athletes in Connecticut.
The far-reaching consequences of this recent ruling could threaten the progress made by female athletes over the past 48 years. As Christians, we uphold the design of our Creator, who chose to endow men and women with equal value, yet distinct physical attributes. This physical make-up has implications for the way we perform in athletic competition, and those differences should be acknowledged and valued.
As we look back and celebrate the countless opportunities afforded women since Title IX came into effect, we should pray that the same opportunities will be given to future generations. And as we watch our daughters and sons train and compete, we should rejoice at the beauty of God’s design for creation and seek to teach our children that they are intended, loved, and created to point to the One whose image they bear.