It will be 45 years on Friday (June 23, 2017) since the passing of Title IX. As a woman who has been active in sports my entire life, I am so incredibly grateful to those who worked to make this happen.
I grew up in a very rural part of North Dakota (like “my nearest neighbor was 1 mile away” rural). One of the coolest parts of my upbringing was that girls regularly played sports. In fact, it was EXPECTED that you'd play sports. Granted, it may have partially been because we needed all available girls to participate in sports so we’d have enough girls for a team. But my hometown did an awesome job encouraging AND supporting girls’ sports, regardless of the reason!
Because I’m so grateful for those who made Title IX happen, I thought it would be worth encouraging all of you who love women’s sports to celebrate the milestone of 45 years! So here's 9 ways you can make that happen. And these celebratory ideas are NOT just geared toward women! We need everyone on board supporting girls and women in sport to keep the awesomeness going.
1. Watch the Nine for IX short film series.
I was STOKED when the Nine for IX series came out and pretty much watched them all the moment I could get my hands on them. These videos address so many issues of women’s sport from inclusion, sex vs. achievement, being an athlete, being a mother, and so much more. Even though I've been involved in sports my entire life, I learned A LOT from watching this series. It’s nearly impossible to pick my favorite, although I am partial to Pat XO (which is about Pat Summitt) given my basketball career. (She ROCKED at being supportive AND tough). The website also has a variety of Nine for IX shorts that are worthy of a watch, too.
2. Talk about issues in women's sports.
I love discussing powerful issues, especially when the goal is to LEARN something from the discussion. If you watch the Nine for IX series, there are a number of discussion points you can download from the website to guide these dialogues. Another way to talk about issues? Ask those coaching, playing, parenting, and refereeing women's sports (women AND men who are involved, BTW) about some of the issues they face or they see female athletes face.
3. Support women's sports by watching them.
I hear it time and time again: "but women's sports are different than men's sports." Okay, IF that's true, SO WHAT? As if that makes them any less valuable?! These athletes are putting themselves on the line regularly to do something they love. There's incredible power in that! But you also need to remember: if you love women's sports, they need your support. You can support them in person or on TV. All support matters.
As part of their celebration, ESPN is holding a 24-hour marathon of live and classic sports programming of women's sports. That seems like an easy place to catch some awesome women's sport action!
4. Read the research
The Tucker Center for Research on Girls & Women in Sport is a fantastic resource. One of their projects is reporting on stats related to the percentage of women coaches at the collegiate level, and they put out a report card regarding this every year. Other current projects include media representation of female athletes, Title IX/gender equity, and physical activity and girls. All super awesome stuff! Now go get that knowledge and drop it on someone. The NCAA also recently published a new report on the status of female student-athletes. The report highlights some wonderful things that have been achieved and areas where we still need to grow.
5. Support a girl or woman getting involved in sports
Unfortunately, not all girls and women are in environments that encourage physical activity or sport involvement. Yet, we can all do our part to help make that happen. Maybe it's taking your daughter or niece out for a bike ride (don't forget your helmets!) or going for a walk with a friend. Do you do triathlons and have a friend who admires this but is scared to try one herself? Invite her for a run or ask if she wants to come watch (yay, another race sherpa!). Invite the neighborhood kids to go shoot hoops at a local park. Whatever it is, be encouraging and supportive. It may be scary for some of them to try something new, so make it a good experience!
6. Coach a girl's team
Youth sports teams are ALWAYS looking for more volunteer coaches! Coaches of any gender are awesome. Interestingly, however, I can think of very few women coaching youth sport teams (girls or boys). What an awesome way to model sport participation!
You don't have to be a parent or incredible sports expert to coach. Especially for younger kids, creating a positive sport environment where growth is encouraged is most important. (No, we cannot predict if that 5-year-old is going to be a professional athlete...so just focus on having FUN!) If being the head coach is overwhelming, volunteer to help with practice or be an assistant coach. My guess is they'd be glad to have you. Just remember to be an awesome role model.
7. Volunteer at a sporting event
We forget that many of these events, especially for younger kids, don't happen without dedicated volunteers. I remember playing pee-wee basketball (please excuse my SUPER dated term) in elementary school, and our community would totally be involved. My dad was kind enough to volunteer as a ref (it helped me have MASSIVE respect for those refereeing games), and my mom kept the score book. Other parents volunteered for the concession stand, cleaning up after the events, etc. All of it needed to happen so we could play hoops. Pretty cool if you ask me!
8. Support (or create!) nonprofits focused on girls and women in sport
Supporting non-profits doesn't just mean financially; many non-profits are also happy to have your time or donation of goods related to their cause. Support them however you are able.
There are several nonprofits focused on increasing physical activity and sport participation for women and girls: Girls on the Run, Women's Sports Foundation, Alliance of Women Coaches, and Women's Sport Trust are some that come to mind for me. There's another list provided by Girls Can Do that is worthy of perusal. If you have a favorite, I'd love to hear about it, as I know there are many more out there. I love resources!
Or maybe you have an idea for a non-profit. Then START YOUR OWN! Or maybe start a chapter of a national non-profit in your community. We can never have too many community resources!
9. Share your support for girls and women in sport on social media
One of the things I LOVE about social media is the incredible access to information I would not come across otherwise. There are many cool campaigns around girls and women in sport, such as #SheCanCoach (women coaches), #HeresProof (women's sports ARE well-attended), and #BeAGameChanger (increasing visibility & impact of women's sport). Or share powerful research and articles with the hashtag #TitleIX. Whatever it is, go out and connect with those who share the same passion for girls and women in sports as you have.
These are just a few ideas I had about ways you can celebrate the 45th anniversary of Title IX. Do you have an idea that's not listed? I'd LOVE to hear it (and I'm sure others would love to hear it, too). Here's to another 45 awesome years of girls and women in sport!
Dr. Erin Haugen is a licensed clinical psychologist and sport/performance psychologist located in Grand Forks, ND. She specializes in helping college student-athletes excel in sports and in life. She is a former basketball player, current triathlete, and LOVES dogs.
Disclaimer: You should consult an appropriate professional for specific advice tailored to your situation. If you are experiencing a life-threatening emergency, you should call 911 or go to your nearest emergency room.