Make a list of all the great female athletes you know.
I see Nastia Liukin landing a double layout dismount off bars. Serena Williams pulls back for a swing at a neon yellow tennis ball. Allyson Felix and Lolo Jones lace up their track spikes before the 2012 Olympics. Dara Torres, the oldest swimmer to win an Olympic medal, adjusts her swim cap on the starting block. The dynamic duo of Misty May-Treanor and Kerri Walsh fight for each other on the beach volleyball court. These women, and so many more, have inspired hundreds of thousands of girls today to race, play, swim, jump or climb in their footsteps.
Title IX was just one milestone that helped give these women the opportunity to reach their fullest sporting potential. A part of the educational amendments of 1972, this law requires gender equity in every educational program receiving funding, which includes sports. This means schools can no longer discriminate costs or number of players based solely on gender.
In other words, female athletes must have as many sport options as male athletes.
Because of Title IX and the female role models we have in the arena today, many girls now have the opportunity to chase their dreams in competing collegiately and professionally in the sport of their choosing.
But imagine growing up in the early- to mid-20th century when women were actually discouraged from sport competition. They were banned from sports teams, and for the few programs that did allow women, girls were often ridiculed for their bravery in striving for something outside of the typical housewife stereotype of that time.
My mother, who grew up in the 60s and 70s, can remember walking into her town’s gymnastics gym for the first time. She remembers coaches were limited in both numbers and knowledge - the P.E. coach was there to supervise. She and the handful of other girls at the gym had to learn and train on their own. The same was said for her high school track team; she recalls training and competing in the hurdles without any coaching or instruction. Today, when I ask her what she would pursue professionally if she were a young woman today, her answer is always the same: sports.
Many women like my mom who were brave enough to make a dent in, and eventually catapult through, the wall barricading women from sports, paved the way for today’s female professionals. And you don’t have to be an Olympian to feel the effects of Title IX. All-women sporting events across the globe are empowering women of any athletic ability - running being perhaps the most popular.
From the Disney Princess Half Marathon in Orlando, Fla., to Nike’s Women Marathon in San Francisco, races dedicated solely to women and women empowerment are popping up all over the country, and likewise, all over the world. And if you have ever run competitively - even if that running career started and ended with your high school gym class - you know too well the difficulties of this sport as well as the discipline and self-drive it takes to progress and improve. But with such discipline, drive and will also comes extreme satisfaction and accomplishment after crossing the finish line no matter what the distance.
The very first all-women’s race was held the same year Title IX was enacted: The New York Mini 10K. Kathrine Switzer, the first Boston Marathon female runner, was its race organizer. This race, along with many others hoping to make a similar impact on our female population, tell women lacing up your shoes and wiping sweat off your brow isn’t just a “guy thing.” In fact, it’s not a gender thing at all. It’s proof that hard work and dedication is something anyone is capable of.
January’s Featured All-Women Competition: Inaugural Phoenix Women’s Half Marathon
With the start of the New Year comes newfound inspiration. This inaugural race will take place on Jan. 31 in the heart of Phoenix, Ariz., at Rose Mofford Park, and will consist of a Half Marathon, a 10K and a 5K for women only. The location of this race is key - Rose Mofford was Arizona’s first female secretary of state and governor. Additionally, she was an avid athlete, reaching All-American status as a softball player, being inducted into the Arizona Softball Hall of Fame and receiving offers to play professional basketball. This event sports a beautiful pink and yellow Phoenix logo and offers its competitors a medal, a dri-FIT long-sleeve jacket, a runner’s brunch and awards for the top three places in each age group.