By Sharon Robb
FORT LAUDERDALE, June 23, 2022—Today girls and women around the nation celebrated the 50th anniversary of Title IX.
Title IX eliminated discrimination based on gender in federally-funded programs. The historic act, signed by President Richard Nixon, paved the way for equal access to sports for all girls and women in the U.S.
Even though Title IX was intended to equalize college admission, its most visible achievement was the inclusion of women in interscholastic sports, leading to an explosion in numerous youth sports for girls including swimming.
On June 23, 1972 Title IX legislation became law. Before it became law, women’s teams did not exist or had sub-standard facilities, no coaching staffs and were never recognized for their achievements.
Before Title IX, fewer than 300,000 girls competed in high school sports. Today, that number has grown to 3.3 million. In college, the number of participants rose from fewer than 32,000 to more than 220,000 today.
During the National Senior Games held recently in Fort Lauderdale, several athletes shared their personal stories how tough it was before Title IX.
One of the most unforgettable stories was that of Kathrine Switzer, a 20-year-old college student when she registered to run the 1967 Boston Marathon, her first marathon. Early in the race, race director Jock Semple charged onto the course and tried to physically rip off her bib number and remove her from the competition. Kathrine’s boyfriend pushed him out of the way and despite taunts from media to quit, Switzer finished the race.
“That’s what everybody wanted me to do, was to quit. So, I really, really had to finish,” Switzer said.
“I was only 20. I often say that when I first ran that Boston Marathon, I started it as a girl, but I finished it as a grown woman, because it gave me a real life plan. And that life plan was to somehow create opportunities for other women to run, and what a joy it was to spend the rest of my life really doing that.”
When Alice Tym went to the University of Florida in 1960 there was no women’s tennis team, so she started one, serving as coach, captain and top player from 1960–1964.
“We didn’t have any sponsorship or coaches, or help of any kind, but now they do. And thanks to Title IX, it’s a law,” Tym said. “Everyone wins when opportunities are increased.”
“It shows anything is possible and that even the most stubborn human beings can eventually change,” Switzer said. “Cheers, Happy Anniversary to all of us.”
Sharon Robb can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org