Female athletes at every level should be celebrating today - it's the 40th anniversary of Title IX.
The law was enacted to ensure that male and female students would have equal opportunities in every area offered by educational institutions that received government funding, and it made immediate impact. According to an Associated Press story, less than 300,000 girls were participating in high school sports prior to 1972. Two years later the total skyrocketed to 1.3 million.
Today more than 3 million are participating and thriving, many of them never knowing the long journey it took to put them on equal footing with boys sports.
According to an article in the Seattle Times, Title IX has produced a huge 979 percent increase in girls sports at the high school level and 545 percent at the collegiate level. Nobody has climbed that mountain more successfully than
coach Leta Andrews, who has won more prep basketball games than any other woman
- or man - with an amazing 1,375 victories in 50 years.
When she graduated from Granbury High in 1955, the school offered only basketball and tennis for girls. When Title IX became law in 1972, she was coaching at Comanche (Texas), which offered only basketball and track for girls.
"We had an adequate gym and shared it with the boys - a lot like I do today," she recalled. "Most of my career it's been early (practices). I don't know about fairness. I have such a passion for what I do. I guess if they told me to go out on the tennis courts and work out, I'd do it."
Now back at her alma mater, Andrews said her basketball girls practice each morning from 7 until 9:15, then they go to class. Today they play doubleheaders, with the girls serving as the preliminary game.
She calls Title IX "a long journey. There's no doubt in my mind that women should be treated equally. It's the law of the land and shouldn't even be questioned. It has opened so many doors for our young ladies to go on and strive for success. All three of my daughters got to go to the University of Texas (on scholarships) and play basketball. (Education) is a career and a livelihood for them."
For a long time, Andrews had to drive the team bus to out-of-town games. In the beginning of her career, she coached every girls sport from junior high on up.
Today she has three assistants at the high school level. She admits she still finds it hard to delegate authority after doing it all for so long.Louise Crocco
Louise Crocco, who won more than 1,100 volleyball matches during her 39-year career at Cardinal Gibbons (Fort Lauderdale, Fla.)
, was able to play volleyball, basketball and softball for two years on a very limited basis during her prep career at Cardinal Gibbons, graduating in 1965. Still, that was far superior to her first two years spent in Albany, N.Y., where no girls sports were offered.
Cardinal Gibbons, like many schools in the pre-1972 years, had offered only a basic intramural program for girls.
When she began coaching at Cardinal Gibbons in 1969, she found out they had dropped girls volleyball, basketball and softball, leaving only tennis and swimming. She asked to revive the three lost sports and soon rebuilt them.
In 1974, Crocco said girls sports were given a major boost when a state tournament was initiated in volleyball. That got the public schools involved. The next year basketball and softball were added for girls.
She explained, "It took a little bit of time for everything to get organized, because the facilities were being used only for boys. We were playing outside for volleyball and basketball. We weren't allowed into the gym. They finally saw how serious and competitive our girls were. In 1975 we got inside, but still practiced outside for a few years. At first we used our physical education clothes for uniforms. Booster clubs then helped us get regular uniforms."
There were practically no coaches fit to handle the steady rise of girls sports, because the colleges had not prepared them. In fact, Crocco pointed out that while attending college she could only take courses in how to teach girls games, but not the inside training needed to coach. It was strictly prohibited.
She pointed out, "We missed out on coaching strategies, like how to run a zone or a man-to-man defense. I was very fortunate, because I always watched it (the games). After graduation I still had to attend clinics in the summer (for true coaching knowledge). At the beginning there was a very big differential between (male and female coaching salaries)."
The 65-year-old Crocco, now retired, says she is "proudest that girls sports now are accepted. You can be an athlete and a lot of them get their educations (through athletic scholarships). They've come a long way."
In the future, she adds, "Everybody should keep looking at facilities, getting equal time in the gyms, and equal pay (for coaches)."
She has had to remind her girls at times over the years that things weren't always this good. One day they complained that air conditioning on the bus wasn't working. She quickly explained to them that they had only a 12-seat van for 15 players, equipment and luggage to go to their first state tournament.Diane Laffey
Diane Laffey of Regina (Warren, Mich.)
has completed 50 years as a head softball coach and ranks No. 4 all-time with 1,052 victories.
The 72-year-old coach graduated from Nativity in Detroit in 1957 and played both sports offered - basketball and softball. The schedules generally consisted of 10 games, all against local teams. At the University of Detroit she had no sports available to try out for.
Her first varsity softball job was in 1962 at St. Anthony in Detroit. The school offered only basketball and softball and she coached both. She pointed out, "The facility was fine, but we didn't get the best practice times for basketball. In softball we had a practice field two blocks from the school. We played our games at a local park. We had a maximum of 12 games. The salaries were nowhere near (equal)."
Fast-pitch softball and independent basketball leagues were the only routes for girls after high school.
After Title IX, state tournaments were started for girls, giving them more games and, eventually, more sports. This somewhat eased the disappointment of producing outstanding athletes pre-Title IX who never had college opportunities.
Laffey came to Regina in 1970 at which time only basketball, volleyball and softball were available for girls. Today the school offers 14 sports.
"It was painful at first," she admitted. "But it's gotten smoother since. We now have over 300 in a sport. We still have over 100 in two sports and 30 or 40 who play three sports."
A problem cropping up in recent years is getting enough qualified staff members to coach.
'It's becoming a nightmare," she pointed out.
Laffey said that the door is open much wider today, therefore, for not only female coaches, but also for female referees and umpires. "I'd also like to see more room for females in administration."
In the future, she admits, "It worries me a bit that some schools are dropping male sports. I don't want Title IX to be blamed for losing some male sports. I think there is room for both."Sister Lynn Winsor
Though she describes herself as more of an adviser or manager, Sister Lynn Winsor has built the nation's No. 1 girls golf dynasty in America at her alma mater, Xavier College Prep (Phoenix)
. Surrounded by outstanding assistant coaches, she holds national records with a sizzling 391-25 won-lost record and 169 consecutive victories. All this success has produced 29 large-school state championships.
The 68-year-old coach/athletic director, who has turned out five LPGA players, has accomplished all of these feats in just 38 years.
She graduated from Xavier in 1961 and returned to coach in 1974. In high school she played basketball, softball and volleyball in a small area league. Each team in volleyball had nine players on the court. At Arizona State University, no sports were available, although she did begin playing golf with friends.
Xavier offered three sports when she took over and now offers 11. Twelve - if you count sand volleyball. Sister Lynn, you see, is an innovator and paid her assistants $1 each this year to work with this pilot program, which drew four other Arizona schools. She just needed to purchase shirts, nets, 12 balls and a donation of 12 tons of sand for her 14-player team.
"We've been a leader," she said proudly. "When Xavier does something, others watch. You have to be persistent and have an administration that supports."
Sister Lynn stressed that the interest of parents in their girls' sports is a very vital commodity in advancing Title IX.
"Parents expect much more for their kids (today)," she pointed out.
She credits her own state and the National Federation of High School Associations for helping girls sports make great strides. She is on a committee that gives awards each year to state schools that improve their girls sports. Her favorite story is about a male athletic director from a small school in the desert who knew his girls were not getting a fair shake and called on the committee to take a look.
"He knew he wasn't going to win the award," she noted. "It was to inspire his school to do better. We wrote it up, handed it to the school board. He applied for the award the next year and won it (because the school had made great improvements). We came back (to make the award) and the girls were so grateful."