Title IX's 30th Year


Nancy Ellis remembers when the only sport for girls in high school was tennis. Joe English hasn't forgotten when the girls were forced to play basketball in the spring. Lois Thompson harkens back to her high school days when earning a varsity track letter meant running with the guys.
Oh yeah, baby, women's sports have come a long way since the implementation of the Title IX gender equity act, which went into effect 30 years ago Sunday.
"It was much needed legislation back at the time," said English, the girls basketball coach at Chaparral High School.
It certainly was. In 1972, girls weren't supposed to involve themselves in rigorous activity, and few did. Tennis and badminton were for women. Heaven forbid they'd want to play a team sport.
"I was a freak," said Thompson, the Chaparral girls track coach who graduated from Central High School in Phoenix. "Most of my friends didn't do athletic things. They didn't train. It was due to Title IX, that women realized the value of competition in sports."
Ellis, who retired this week as softball coach at Dobson could only play competitive tennis (started in 1961) when she was attending Chandler High in the 1960's. At Arizona State, she wanted play softball but there was no program. Upon graduation from ASU in 1968 she took a teaching job in Orange, Calif. to play softball and nationally competitive badminton.
An earthquake, however, brought her back to Arizona, to Mesa High in 1971, and she began to change the attitudes toward girls sports in the state.
"It was intramural back then. Girls weren't allowed to run long distances and all that garbage," she said. "They had a lot of misbeliefs back then."
Did the ever.
Early in the 20th century, girls did play basketball. That is until it was decided that "it was unladylike for girls in skirts to play basketball," said state prep historian Barry Sollenberger. So a 10-year run of holding a state tournament at the University of Arizona ended in the mid-1920's, Sollenberger said.
The Arizona Interscholastic Association, founded in 1925, now sponsors sports for girls in basketball, tennis, soccer, softball, badminton, volleyball, golf, cross country, swimming, and track and field.
Change came according to how progressive district and school administrators were to responding to the edicts of Title IX.
"I knew it would be an avenue for us to get things done whenever we wanted to," Ellis said. "If they delayed, you just slapped them with title IX information, and they had to go along immediately."
The results have been dramatic.
In the most recent report filed with the federal government, Arizona had 54,962 boys playing high school sports and 34,392 girls for the 2000-01 academic term.
Nationally, in the year before Title IX in 1971, boys playing high school sports totaled 3,666.917, while the number of girls playing was 294,015, according to the National Federation of High Schools. For the 2000-01 term, boys numbered 3,921,069 while the girls had increased to 2,784,154.
English said having the girls play basketball in the spring in the 1980's limited participation. When he moved over from

boys junior varsity coach to run the girls team in 1976-77 there were only seven schools playing varsity basketball.
"The first couple of years we went as far as we could, to the state finals, and played 15 games," he said. "The boys were playing 25 to 30. We had to play in the spring because of the facilities. No one said, 'Let's alternate, boys in the winter one year, girls in the winter another year.'"
For four years the AIA crowned spring and fall girls champions until all the girls played along with the boys beginning in 1993-94. In a male-dominated arena, women coaches have to stand their ground and educate the male counterparts that their endeavors were just as important to them and their athletes. Turf wars ensued.
"That's my track. That's my infield," Thompson said of Chaparral's stadium. "Sometimes I think the football coaches think it's all their. Well, it's not."
She added. "We don't fight with the football team. The last five, six years it's been a much better situation."
The addition of new sports and new coaches raised the issue of compensation. Eventually, the school districts had to find a means to develop a gender-blind compensation formula.
"That was big," Ellis said. "We were paid half of what the men were for the exact same season."
Now a head coach's pay is determined by number of participants, the number of assistant coaches and the length of the season, Ellis said.
As a father, English said Title IX was responsible for him not having to pay for his daughter Christi's education. She got a basketball scholarship to the University of San Diego.
"She came along at the right time and I was very thankful for that," he said "She's a title IX proponent, and she keeps me on the straight and narrow."
But Ellis said a downside of the explosive growth at the college level is that too many parents are pressuring their daughters to get scholarships instead of allowing them to enjoy their activity.
"Today's coaching sometimes gets away from the morality and sportsmanship, all the things we were taught in the past," she said. "Now, is you're a good coach, you make sure you get your kids college scholarships. Today's athlete thinks of financial help to move up to college. It's no longer a fun thing. It's a serious thing that's drawn the brutality out of parents because of the financial aspects."
Title IX has been around for 30 years but every now and then the ugly past surfaces. A few years ago Desert Mountain High School got in trouble when it built unequal baseball and softball fields, with one of the major differences that the baseball field had covered dugouts and the softball field didn't.
"What's surprising is that somebody hadn't taken leadership and slapped them upside the head and reminded them, this is illegal," Ellis said.
"That was very narrow-minded thinking." Thompson said.
Girls nowadays can train and pursue their sport as much as the boys. Thanks to the landmark legislation they receive similar equipment, coaching and access to facilities. They can continue to pursue their passion in college, getting top notch coaching and using the same training facilities as the football team.
"We've had more girls get scholarships than boys," English said with a bit of pride, "As they saying goes, they've come a long way, baby."

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The Last update: 6.28.2002