In 1964, coach Jinny Parker’s 440 relay team– Joy Wassell, Mary Gail Horelick, Susan Tefft and Donna Jackson — set a national record: 53.7 seconds.
They were all Staples High School students. But they were a club team, not a varsity sport. Back then, the only official track team was for boys.
Girls had just 3 interscholastic options: field hockey in fall, basketball in winter (6-vs.-6; 3 players on each side of the court, to minimize running and sweating), softball in the spring.
That’s ancient history, it seems. Today, Staples fields more girls teams than boys. Many — including soccer and field hockey — are perennial state title contenders. They draw large crowds, including proud fathers and young girls who aspire to one day be Wreckers themselves.
But the growth of girls sports is relatively new. It was kick-started exactly 50 years ago — on June 23, 1972 — when President Nixon signed into law Title IX.*
The federal civil rights statute — really, just 37 words tucked inside much broader education legislation — prohibits sex-based discrimination in any school or other education program that receives funding from the federal government.
(Interestingly, the words “sports,” “athletics” and “physical education” appear nowhere in the text.)
Girls sports have evolved enormously over 5 decades. Staples now offers 19 interscholastic sports for girls, 18 for boys. Sailing is co-ed.
(Wrestling is listed as a boys sport, and competitive and sideline cheerleading for girls. Both genders are eligible to try out for those teams, though the number is small.)
There are nearly 2,000 students at Staples, in grades 9 through 12. More than half — 1,018 — played at least one interscholastic sport this year, at the varsity, junior varsity or reserve level.
There are more male athletes (573) than female (445). But that’s a lot more than the few dozen girls who competed when Title IX was enacted.
So, “06880” wants to know: How has Title IX impacted your sports life?
Women: What opportunities has it offered you — or what did you miss?
Girls: Are there any differences between your sports experiences today, and those of your brothers and male friends?
Men: Are your daughters’ athletic careers any different from your sisters’, female friends — or mothers’?
Tell us your stories! Click “Comments” below.
And then raise a stein to Title IX.
You’ve come a long way, baby.
*The Watergate break-in took place on June 17, 1972 — just 6 days earlier. Less than a week separated one of the highs of President Nixon’s administration, and one of its lows.
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