How Title IX First Changed the World of Women’s Sports – TIME

No matter how important the shift in society’s attitudes, the crucial change, the enduring alteration, takes place in the lives of individuals. Each time a young girl acquires the discipline to polish an athletic skill or learns to subject her ego to the requirements of team play, she helps gain the self-confidence that marks the healthy adult. Girls are showing they can be as determined as boys. In Lee, Mass., a high school softball pitcher named Linda (“Luke”) Lucchese, 18, informs the opposing bench. “Forget it, you guys. The gate is shut.” Then she wins the game 11-4. Luke’s attitude is shared by World-Class Miler Francie Larrieu, 25: “I have learned through athletics that if you believe in yourself and your capabilities, you can do anything you set out to do. I have proved it to myself over and over.”

Researchers have found that the virtues of sport, when equally shared, equally benefit both sexes. Notes Dr. William Morgan, of the University of Arizona’s Sports Psychology laboratory: “Athletes are less depressed, more stable and have higher psychological vigor than the general public. This is true of both men and women athletes.”

If, as folklore and public policy have long insisted, sport is good for people, if it builds a better society by encouraging mental and physical vigor, courage and tenacity, then the revolution in women’s sports holds a bright promise for the future. One city in which the future is now is Cedar Rapids, Iowa. In 1969, well before law, much less custom, required the city to make any reforms, Cedar Rapids opened its public school athletic programs to girls and, equally important, to the less-gifted boys traditionally squeezed out by win-oriented athletic systems. Says Tom Ecker, head of school athletics, “Our program exists to develop good kids, not to serve as a training ground for the universities and pros.”

…Kelly Galiher, 15, has grown up in the Cedar Rapids system that celebrates sport for all. The attitudes and resistance that have stunted women’s athleticism elsewhere are foreign to Kelly, a sprinter. Does she know that sports are, in some quarters, still viewed as unseemly for young women? “That’s ridiculous. Boys sweat, and we’re going to sweat. We call it getting out and trying.” She has no memories of disapproval from parents or peers. And she has never been called the terrible misnomer that long and unfairly condemned athletic girls. “Tomboy? That idea has gone out here.” It’s vanishing everywhere.


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