In 1972 I was learning to play driveway basketball with the older boys across the street who had the only goal on our block. They were tall, fierce, and perfectly willing to outrun, outshoot, and outmanuver me with plenty of grins and laughter. There were two rules:
1. Take the ball out past the end of the driveway, and
2. No blood, no foul.
We didn’t shoot many free-throws since so few fouls counted, and I was left to my own devices to try and gain an advantage. Sometimes this meant bribes, sometimes a well-placed knee, sometimes shouting, head-butting, and threats. And thus this energetic and fast-paced game, which I played and lost to the boys across the street nearly every single day of my growing-up years, aroused my competitive gene and won control of my heart.
The passage of Title IX banned gender discrimination from all education programs and extracurricular activities in federally-funded school programs about the time I started playing ball across the street. So a few years later I finally got my chance to learn that I was totally wrong about the rules of basketball and give the game a run (with girls! my size!) for the first time on a real court for a real team at my elementary school. It was rather amazing to suddenly be one of the two tallest, fastest, most eager girls on the team, and the only one who had to be told not to stomp on other people’s feet or grab their shirts in order to get them out of my way.
I never knew about the work that so many people put in to making sure I had that chance to learn and grow in my sport and in my leadership. Yesterday was the 37th anniversary of the passing of Title IX, and my thanks are overdue but heartfelt. In the following video, a few other women who have reason to be thankful share the words of this law that changed so many lives:
Before the law passed in 1972, girls made up only 7 percent of high school sports participants. Now, more than 40 percent of high school athletes are female, according to data from the National Federation of State High School Associations.
Happy birthday, Title IX.