Did you know that until 1993, high school level girls’ athletes were only allowed to play half-court basketball? At the time, the half-court version of the game was widely considered more ‘appropriate for the delicate nature of girls’. These days biases against female athletes occur less often and questions about strength and whether they look ‘too masculine’ happen less frequently. We owe this progress to the social and gender justice movements over the last century, which have ALWAYS included equity in sports for women and girls as a main goal. Today, we haven’t reached that goal. However, due to the last 50 years of advocacy lifting many barriers to equality in sports, the win is in sight!
Today, we observe National Girls and Women in Sports Day (NGWSD) which is extra special this year since it will kick off our celebration of the 50th Anniversary of Title IX. Title IX was a part of the educational amendments of 1972 which prohibited federally funded educational institutions from discriminating against students or employees based on sex and ultimately gave girls and women equal opportunity in sports. This amendment affected every level of education and applies to girls and women from elementary schools to college and universities. However, it is especially crucial within higher education, since almost all colleges and universities both private and public receive federal funding.
Although the passage of this amendment was a major victory for women and girls in sports and the penalty for non-compliance is withdrawal of funds, it is estimated that between “80 to 90 percent of all educational institutions are not in compliance with Title IX as it applies to athletics,” and no withdrawal of federal funds have ever been initiated. That is why on National Girls and Women in Sports Day it is important to uplift the long legacy of our participation in sports AND continue calling out disparities in athletics. As a nation, we must hold the United States Department of Education Office for Civil Rights accountable and demand they keep their promise of equality to women and girls.
At YWCA, we will continue to empower women and girls to participate in sports and advocate to ensure they are treated equally; as we have done since our inception over 160 years ago. However, on this day of celebration it is also critical for us to center the work YWCAs across the country are doing to support and uplift the legacy of women and girls in athletics.
At YWCA Glendale & Pasadena, CEO Tara Peterson is a former Division I softball player who currently serves on the board of the Natasha Watley Foundation, a nonprofit that specifically works with girls from historically marginalized communities to expose them to softball. This foundation was founded by two-time Olympian medalist, philanthropist, entrepreneur, and woman of color Natasha Watley after she realized that more could be done to introduce girls to the sport she loved. This organization goes beyond teaching young women how to play the sport by providing an alternative to the daily struggles faced by many girls in low-income households and has served more than 3000 girls in Southern California. Similarly, former Executive Director Tania Del Rio from YWCA Cambridge was also a collegiate athlete who participated in the varsity swim team at New York University and helped build a relationship between her YWCA and the only women’s professional sports team in the area, The Boston Pride from the National Women’s Hockey League. These types of partnerships are not only highly necessary but ensures that women and girls are supporting each other’s work across the spectrum.
These YWCA leaders are living examples of how experience in sports helps to empower women later in life and we are proud that they have chosen to carry forth this legacy by continuing to build partnerships that support women and girls in athletics across the country. We hope you will participate in our celebration of women like them during National Girls and Women in Sports Day by following us on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram and by joining the conversation using #NGWSD to ensure that women and girls continue to have the opportunity to thrive in athletics!
For more information on what YWCAs across the country are doing to empower women and girls in athletics, find a YWCA near you!