50th Edition, Sports

Title IX opens sports

By Rutul Patel
Published: February 2011

By Rutul Patel, Volume 50
February 15, 2011

Walking towards the Field House today, one sees banners and trophies proudly decorating the walls. Some of the awards, won by the boys’ teams, have been around since the school first started; however, many other awards, those won by the girls’ teams, are relatively new.
Out of the 19 sports presently offered to girls at South, only three were originally played and accepted as varsity sports.
“It started out with basketball, tennis, and field hockey. These were the only sports available to girls in the 1960s,” former girls’ coach Judy Kennedy said.
Kennedy led various girls’ teams for almost 40 years at South before she retired in 2005. Beyond the three sports mentioned above, many other athletic opportunities were not presented to girls.
Sports like girls’ gymnastics and volleyball that weren’t considered varsity sports, but more like clubs or after school activities.
It wasn’t until June 23, 1972 that gender equality was brought to the public school system. On that day, the United States Congress passed Title IX.
This amendment to the US education policy stated that: “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 or activity receiving Federal financial assistance.”
After this amendment, drastic changes occurred in the school’s athletic programs. The walls that divided genders had been virtually torn down. If a girl had wanted to play on a boys’ team and there was no athletic equivalent for her, she could try out. The opportunities were available, but according to Kennedy, no one capitalized on the new legislation.
“After Title IX the whole landscape changed. Girls had more opportunities than ever before, but people were still skeptical. It wasn’t until the Billie Jean King vs. Bobby Rigs tennis match that people believed in gender equality on the sports field,” Kennedy said.
The Billie Jean King vs. Bobby Rigs match was a world-famous

match in 1973. Bobby Rigs, a World Champion mens’ tennis player, challenged King, the women’s leader, to a match. He boasted proudly that “women could never be the players men were, they were simply too weak and they were just women.” King accepted the challenge and trounced Rigs.
“Her victory proved to the [world] that women are legitimate athletes,” Kennedy said. “After Title IX and the King vs. Rigs match people started to look at women’s sports differently. And with the help of George Winkler we began to expand.”
Winkler, the Athletic Director at the time, began programs of integration in the school. The two genders had separate gym facilities. The current Fitness Center was the girls’ gym and Gym B was the boys’ gym.
Winkler also fought for funding for the girls’ sports and brought new athletic programs for girls to South.
By the end of 1973, instead of having three sports in total, the girls had a couple sports every season. Soccer and volleyball ran in the fall, gymnastics and basketball in the winter, and tennis and softball in the spring, for instance.
“I was really lucky to have someone like Winkler. Many of my colleagues in the coaching field did not get the support I did. [South] was given liberties that were uncanny back then, and that really helped keep us ahead of the curve,” Kennedy said.
Kennedy is regarded as one of the pioneers for South’s girls’ athletics program. Coaching teams like Field Hockey, Basketball, Volleyball, and Gymnastics, she helped lead the charge for equality.
Equality isn’t clearly defined between two genders in a category likes sports. One gender, boys, is considered dominant because of supposed physical advantages. Although there are exceptions, girls competing in predominantly boys’ sports are not something seen everyday.
But strides like Title IX give girls more opportunities to shine.
“In spheres like academics, the two genders are equal. And even though they are equally good in their own right, you have to compare them individually in sports,” Girls’ Tennis Coach Robert Jampol said.
And compared to the standards and codes of 50 years ago, South has come a long way.
“I’ve noticed much more acceptance of girls. There isn’t a huge difference between the level of competitiveness between the two genders anymore and more girls are coming out to play,” said Kennedy.
With the past changed and the present at peace with itself, not much has to be changed.
“[I think the next step] would be to get girls more familiar with the sports. If there are more girls willing to do certain sports like powderpuff, then teams can start up. It’s a lot of fun being a part of something, and many girls miss opportunities to experience that fun,” Junior Chloe Jackson-Unger said.

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