What Sports Mean to the Women of Players Health
Today, June 23, 2022, marks the 50th anniversary of the passage of Title IX. Part of the Education Amendments Act of 1972, this 37-word phrase is a federal civil rights law that profoundly changed education—and youth sports—in the United States by barring sex discrimination in the nation's schools, including universities.
Title IX was the catalyst for sweeping changes in high school and collegiate sports in the early 70s. At the college level, before Title IX, the NCAA held no championships for women's athletics and offered no athletic scholarships to women. Since 1972, women's participation in high school sports has increased by 990% and 545% in collegiate sports.
At Players Health, we promote equality in sports, directly in line with our mission: to create the safest and most accessible environments possible for athletes to play the sports they love. And, we are proud that 42% of our full-time employees are women, many of whom played sports in their school years (and beyond!). In honor of the Title IX 50th anniversary, we'd like to share a few stories from Players Health employees about how playing sports—which may not have been possible without the passage of Title IX—shaped them into the women they are today.
"Growing up, I was an active kid, playing volleyball, basketball, and softball throughout my younger years and early on in high school. I ended up quitting all my sports by 10th grade to work and hang out with friends, which I regretted as I grew older.
"In my 20s, I tried boxing to get in shape. Boxing became more than just a workout for me—I grew to love the sport and started competing in 2017. Since then, I have been in almost 30 amateur boxing matches, have competed in several national tournaments, and was ranked number 6 in the nation in my weight class in 2018.
"Boxing has helped me both physically and mentally. It has given me confidence and a sense of belonging, which I believe most athletes gain from being involved in sports. It's so important for girls and women to have equal opportunities in sports, as that's not something we have always had. Did you know that the first time women boxed in the Olympics was in 2012? That's right, just 10 years ago! We've come a long way, but there's still a lot of work to do before we can say women and men are truly on equal footing in sports."
"I started playing sports from the moment I could grasp a ball, bat, or stick. I was on skates on the ice in mite hockey at the age of four. My parents put me in Junior Golf a few years after that. I played basketball in the Winter whenever I wasn't dressed in hockey gear, and I played volleyball in the Fall until my high school formed an organized soccer program.
"My sister is five years older than I am, and my dad tried to coach us whenever possible when we were young, so I would tag along to her softball practices, chase balls, and jump into drills whenever dad let me. Eventually, I spent a couple of years playing as a member of my sister's team, well before I was part of that age group. Softball spawned into "my sport." It helped me form long-term relationships, be a more confident individual, pay for my education, and experience so much success, including an NCAA National Championship. All these benefits led me to my diploma and a career I adore. As a child of the 80s, I'm proud of my journey as a female athlete with plenty more to achieve.
"I was diagnosed with ADHD as an adult. In my case, I lean toward hyperactivity and impulsivity. Sports, arts, and organized activities helped me, at the time unknowingly, navigate this. I had an outlet nearly 100% of the time. My parents supported my overactivity (ADHD or not), while my coaches and teammates kept me stimulated and learning.
"All of this, plus being lucky to have an immediate and extended support system of family, friends, and teammates helped teach me core values. Sports shaped me into the confident, determined, and strong-willed woman that I am today. Success comes with hard work. Every now and then, folks are lucky enough to achieve success without it, but I'm confident one learns and achieves oodles and oodles more by putting it in. I love that sports have afforded women an even greater opportunity for success throughout their lives."
"I played softball on a co-ed team, starting at 10 years old. I remember asking my dad to throw the ball as hard to me as he did my older brother because, as the only girl in the infield, I needed to learn to catch any ball thrown to me. I wanted to be treated equally, but I knew I needed to prove myself. I continued to play softball through high school, but field hockey became my first love after picking up the stick in 6th grade.
"Being a part of the field hockey team impacted me in such a big way and instilled traits in me that contributed to my work ethic and who I am today. Learning how to work with others for a common goal, encouraging each other in our losses, and celebrating each other in our wins built lifelong leadership skills that I use every day in my personal and professional lives. Being involved in team sports increased my confidence and helped me develop a positive self-image.
"I believe it is so important for girls to play sports because of the positive self-image, confidence, and collaborative skills it can build. We need to continue working to level the playing field as there are still many instances or inconsistencies in the level of support given to girls' sports vs. boys' sports at all levels. We must continue to be diligent in our efforts for equality because girls should not need to prove they are worth equal treatment—they should just receive it because they deserve it, and the law mandates it."
"As a child, I loved flipping through my parents' old yearbooks. I especially loved the picture in the superlatives section where my mom had been voted "Most Athletic Girl." Her 5'2" self, in her cheerleading outfit, is leaping to block a shot against the six-foot-plus "Most Athletic Boy" in his basketball warmups. Based on how high she's jumping, I'd put money on her winning that matchup. (Mom later told me she went hard for that ball even though it was just for a picture because she wanted to show that she could "play with the boys.”)
"My mom graduated from high school in 1967. It wasn't until decades later that I realized that Kutztown High School's most athletic girl was not wearing a cheerleading uniform because that was her choice of athletic activity; it was because it was her only choice.
"I am my mother's daughter. There is no doubt when you look at our shared physical features (including the prominent calves, which were not so coveted in the 60s and still today make zippering tall boots a hit-or-miss proposition). My mom had few choices regarding her athletic opportunities, but I took those choices for granted. I fell in love with field hockey, found lacrosse, ran races, biked miles and miles, and learned to play tennis competitively later in life. Along the way, I discovered through sports that I was strong, could persevere, and achieve challenging goals. I was inspired by coaches who, in turn, inspired me to coach, and I owe my career to participation in sports.
"And unlike my mother, I would have been a rotten cheerleader."
The Next 50 Years
We've progressed toward equality in sports over the last 50 years, but we still have much work to do. This infographic from the Women's Sports Foundation highlights Title IX Fast Facts, illustrating how far we've come and how much of a gender gap remains in youth sports participation. While we celebrate the strides made over the last half-century, we can also begin working on the inequities that still exist for girls and women athletes: funding, resources, and opportunities for girls and women of color, with disabilities, from low socioeconomic households, and for LGBTQ+ and non-binary youth.
Further, the Aspen Institute's 2015 Project Play Report indicates that more than 60 percent of parents of children 18 and under-identified the "quality of behavior of youth sports coaches as a "big concern," especially for coaches of girls and low-income families. A top official for the YMCA of the USA reiterated a similar message, saying his organization's "most pressing need is more trained coaches." The Project Play Report addressed the worries observed that requiring training will discourage coaches from volunteering. The report stated that the opposite happened with USA Hockey's implementation of training programs; easy-to-use training tools like video demos and courses are crucial to coach retention and compliance.
Additionally, the U.S. Center for SafeSport's 2020 Athlete Culture & Climate Survey surveyed 3,959 adult athletes (76.1% cisgender women and 1.3% gender non-conforming or transgender individuals) in more than 50 sports. Eighty percent reported experiencing psychological harm, 21.7% reported experiencing physical harm, and 9% reported experiencing inappropriate sexual contact during their sports involvement—and more than half who reported unwanted sexual experiences said that those experiences happened to them before age 18. Also, women and gender non-conforming athletes reported higher psychological and physical harm rates than men.
Players Health is committed to protecting young athletes regardless of gender, but we understand that girls and gender non-conforming kids are at higher risk of abuse in sports. We provide tools, resources, and education to sports organizations so they can ensure their coaches are background checked and trained per the Safe Sport Act of 2017. We're also making it easier for coaches, parents, and athletes to report abuse and misconduct, providing investigative services, and engaging our network of professionals in every U.S. state to address abuse claims as quickly as possible.
We recognize that there is more work to do. Still, we will continue living our mission to provide the safest and most accessible environments for kids to play the sports they love, including supporting gender equality in sports and protecting kids from physical, sexual, and emotional abuse. Visit our website for more info about who we are and what we do, and follow us on social to stay updated about what’s happening at Players Health.
- Twitter @playershealth
- Instagram @playershealth
- Facebook @PlayersHealth