Sum It Up Sunday - Why Title IX Matters to Me
I started playing baseball when I was five years old on a Pee Wee team in my small town. My brothers were on the team, which is why I wanted to play. I wanted to be anywhere they were. This was 1973 and Title IX was a year old. The ink was barely dry on this federal civil rights law and I was the only girl on the team.
I don’t know if I was allowed to play with the boys because of Title IX. The law stated that I should be allowed, as there was no girls team. Maybe it was that law, maybe my mother made sure the coaches knew about it, or maybe the coach, who lived a few houses down from us, saw me out playing “pops and grounders” and catch in the yard with my brothers and thought “sure, why not.”
I went on to play Little League as well, still the only girl on the team for two years. I wasn’t the worst player on the team and almost always started, though relegated to right field. I had a strong arm, no fear of the ball hitting me in the face when heading after a grounder, and I could hit. What was amazing was that the boys on the team thought nothing of it. I was Chris. I played baseball. Other teams thought it was weird. But other teams didn’t live in our small town of 375 people. My teammates and I played pickup games over at the school field until it was too dark to see the ball and our parents were yelling for us to come home.
Maybe if Title IX hadn’t existed I would still have been able to play. I don’t know. I was privileged by the fact that I played with the boys that accepted me because we knew one another so well, and perhaps without me they wouldn’t have had enough players to field two teams for those impromptu games.
When I was 13 I was ready to play Pony League. I had played baseball for seven years. I was strong and taller than most of the boys my age. The first day of practice I was yet again the only girl there. I had my ball cap with my hair well tucked back out of my face, my well-oiled glove, and my sneakers laced tight so I wouldn’t trip. The coach gathered us around and said we would have batting practice. He sent half of us out into the field and the other half he sat in the dugout as he called us to the box to see what we could do.
As I sat there on the bench he ran through everyone on the team and was starting back through, and I still hadn’t batted. He kept me sitting there, never once calling me up to bat. I was mortified. I didn’t want to cry in front of my friends, my now former teammates, and I ran home.
I cried my eyes out because something in my world had changed. I’m not sure that the coach even understood the cruelty he inflicted on me that day. He didn’t see, because he had never known it, that a girl, a woman can play sports as well and sometimes better than a boy or man. An innocent part of me was gone. All I wanted to do was play and I was denied on the basis of my sex.
I went on to play other sports; soccer had already taken up my non-baseball moments, and I would eventually learn how to play basketball. Both sports I learned, as was my way, from boys and men. Though there are many talented and supportive female coaches out there, there weren’t that many around me at the time.
I don’ t know that Title IX benefited me then. I do know that without sports I would not be the strong, independent woman I am. I know that to the very core of my being.
Everyone’s journey through life is different. I believe that when all avenues are open to us we can grow and become better people. For women, the chance to play sports at whatever level they can is a chance to do just that. That is why Title IX matters to me.