40 Years After Title IX

Carla Hanson

4 years before the passage of Title IX, I was 10 year old tomboy playing hoops on one of the 2 asphalt courts of Frank C. Havens Elementary School. Part of the 5th grade contingent of regular ballers, I was the lone girl on the court, but the guys and I never paid the difference much mind when the ball was in motion. We all talked smack and held our own. Among the young hoopsters I was no star, but I was a regular, and was usually in the mid-range of picks when we chose up sides. (Randy was ALWAYS first with his sweet outside shot.)

The school year wore on, and in the temperate climate of the Bay Area, we had few rain-outs. Our skills improved; all of us grew, and by the time we returned for 6th grade, we maintained tradition and took over the 6th grade court. But something changed. Our old court, where we'd spent just about every recess and lunch wearing out our big mouths and basketballs, was no longer the claim of the new class of 5th grade boys. The 6th grade girls – my classmates – took it over, and it remained with the girls the entire year.

Looking back, that steadfast desire to play ball and acting on it was not only my first, but possibly my purist feminist act. Nothing about playing was contrived or planned. I just loved the game – still do – and I wanted to play.

My family moved from the Bay Area just weeks after I'd shot my last hoop on those courts, and although Title IX was passed just 2 years later, the road for women and educational equality would still be long and fraught with off the field battles. Universities and athletic directors complained bitterly, and less in the spotlight, but perhaps more significantly, the academic world was forced to take on generations of gender discrimination.

Reflective of the slow slog toward equality was my collegiate experience – a full ten years after striding on to the court with my 5th grade basketball buddies, our KU field hockey team had to raise money for travel by cleaning up Memorial Stadium after football games. That year women athletes at KU participated in a relay from Lawrence to Topeka to lobby the Kansas legislature for funding equity. From the Gallery, I was appalled that the legislators were so disinterested in the testimony that many openly and pointedly read newspapers on the House Floor.

10 years after the passage of Title IX, my own Phys. Ed. Dept. was actually demanding different requirements for men and women. Only one professor - a fellow, BTW - and I seemed to think that this was a problem.

But like any progressive change, the reactionary grumbling and blockades largely fell away, and now, 40 years after Title IX, the progress is well described in real numbers: In 1971, just 295k women participated in any form of intercollegiate athletics. By the 2010-2011 academic year, over 3.2 million women participated on college teams. Scholarships for women athletes, practically non-existent 40 years ago, are abundant in the wide array of sports.

40 years ago Title IX opened doors both on the field and off for women dreamers who just wanted the same opportunities their male classmates had. Millions of dreams have become realities now because of this simple law:

" No person in the United States shall, on the basis of sex, be excluded from participation in, be denied the benefits of, or be subjected to discrimination under any education program or activity receiving Federal financial assistance..."

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    Carla, thanks for the column! I was a beginning school principal when Title IX passed. I worked in a county in Oregon where there were no other female administrators. I sat in smoked filled rooms full of school administrators who deplored the passage of Title IX. They worried about scheduling the fields and gyms for women's sports because it would diminish practice time for the boys. Fast forward to 2012: Fathers and mothers were moved to tears when the North Medford Softball team composed of accomplished women athletes won the 6A championship. Fast forward to 2012: The South Medford women's basketball team won the state championship with several Latina players.

    The world is changing. Great strides have been made. There is more work to be done.Edith Green would still be working on equality if she were with us. She would be working on equal pay for equal work!

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    Thanks, Carla. Great stuff.

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    Before title IX, we were restricted from playing full court Basketball in school. Half the team on one end of the court and half the team on the other. We had to pass the ball over mid court line. Ridiculous!

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      In Iowa and Oklahoma, many high school girls played that version of the game (6 on 6) into the 90's. Iowa teams were given the option to convert to normal 5 on 5 hoops in 1983; when 6 on 6 was fully dropped in 1993, most teams had not yet converted. The girls game was extremely popular in Iowa, and the annual state tournament drew huge crowds.

      Oklahoma was the last to drop the restrictive girls game in 1995, and 6 on 6 disappeared into history just as the WNBA was born.


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        This is the first I've ever heard about six-on-six, and I'm completely fascinated.

        The NYT describes it thusly:

        Six-player girls basketball looks like two separate three-on-three games played on the same court. Three guards from one team defend against three forwards from the other at each end. No one can cross the midcourt line. Players are limited to two dribbles. Officials run the ball up the court after a basket.

        So... it's not that folks didn't like girls playing against each other.

        But... what? They thought girls couldn't/shouldn't/wouldn't run up and down the court?

        So weird.

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          The 6 on 6 game was developed not long after Dr. James Naismith invented basketball, so it was, in some ways, an anachronism from another era in which women, um.. didn't sweat in public. But I wouldn't say Iowa hung on so long because they were hanging on to arcane ideas, but because the girls' game was extremely popular.

          Whole towns would show up for games; tournaments would sell out, and games were often high scoring affairs that showcased some real ability. Over the decades, just like in the 5 on 5 game, skill and talent levels increased exponentially.

          What doomed 6 on 6 was not a lack of opportunity to play, but that the girls from Iowa schools were ill equiped to compete for scholarships in the womens' college game that was rapidly maturing.

          While an anachronism now, and an annoyance in my own youth, Iowa girls 6 on 6 basketball gave opportunities to girls where none would have existed otherwise.

          Check out: http://www.iptv.org/iowastories/story.cfm/sixonsix/1584/mtag_20080301_full-doc/video

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    When the Havens 6th grade girls took over the recess court, a full court game was adopted. Just like the boys, the girls scrambled up and down the court with unrestricted energy and bountiful exuberance.

    In my 6th grade year, the adminstrators put together girls basketball inter-school competitions between Havens and the 2 other schools in our town. Ironically, we played 6 on 6 in those match-ups!

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