What I “Won” From Playing Sports

8 12 2010

My first tennis trophy

As part of the National Women’s Law Center’s Blog to Rally for Girls’ Sports Day, I was asked to answer the question, “What did you win by playing sports?”

I would not be writing this blog if it weren’t for sports. I have “won” in nearly every way possible because of sports, I have:

1) a career in the study of sport/physical activity (referred to in academia as Kinesiology), which started with coaching women’s tennis at the NCAA D-III level.

2) a healthy body in which I can still be physically active (knock on wood!).

3) lifelong friends, amazing students and athletes, and influential mentors.

4) developed psychological, physical, social, and emotional skills which have helped me successfully navigate life (so far!).

5) expanded my personal and professional identity in ways that (on most days) I can be proud.

My most memorable tennis trophy

6) cultivated my voice in hopes of making a difference in the lives of others in and through sport.

There is not one part of my life that has not been shaped by sports.

I am in a unique group of women sandwiched between the generation older than me (grateful women who were the first to benefit from the passage of Title IX and knew of the days where opportunities to play sports were to be relished and enjoyed) and the generations younger than me (which includes some entitled girls who have taken those opportunities for granted and never knew how bad it used to be).

In my current role as Associate Director for the Tucker Center for Research on Girls and Women in Sport at the University of Minnesota, I am keenly aware of the many positive outcomes of Title IX. Yet, this landmark federal legislation remains fragile and under attack.

Many argue that “we no longer need Title IX” due to the tremendous gains for girls and women in sport (and other) contexts. This simply is not true. In the briefing paper produced by the NWLC it states,

Since Title IX was enacted in 1972, girls have made great strides in athletics.1 But
even today, the law’s work is not done. Girls make up half of all high school students
nationwide but only 41 percent of all high school athletes, which means that schools
provide girls with 1.3 million fewer opportunities to play sports as compared to boys…even for those opportunities the schools do provide, girls’ teams often do not receive equal benefits and services. For example, female athletes are frequently assigned to inferior facilities and disadvantageous times to play. Although national data on the treatment of girls’ sports are not available at the high school level (unlike for colleges, which are required by federal law to report gender equity in athletics data every year), the available data and reports demonstrate the pervasiveness of discrimination against girls in high school sports programs
.

While I have won in so many ways playing sports (trophies included), I now have a responsibility to ensure that girls and women into the future will continue to win.


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Equal Pay Day…not for female youth sport coaches!

29 04 2009

fair-payThe following information is taken from the National Women’s Law Center’s Campaign for Fair Pay. April 28, Equal Pay Day, marks the day in 2009 when the average woman’s wages will finally catch up with those paid to the average man in 2008. In the United States, women are paid only 78¢ on average for every dollar paid to men. More than 45 years ago, President Kennedy signed the Equal Pay Act into law, making it illegal for employers to pay unequal wages to men and women who perform substantially equal work. The following year, Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 was enacted, making it illegal to discriminate, including in compensation, on the basis of sex, race, color, religion, and national origin. At the time of the Equal Pay Act’s passage in 1963, women were paid merely 59 cents to every dollar earned by men. Although enforcement of the Equal Pay Act and Title VII has helped to narrow the wage gap, significant disparities remain and must be addressed.

In Minnesota, my home state, in 2007 on average, women in Minnesota working full-time, year-round earned only 77% of what men working full-time, year-round earned — one percentage point below the nationwide average of 78%.

Since I’ve been writing about youth sport coaches in the last week, just a little data about this group as it pertains to being paid….or in this case, NOT being paid. In study being conducted by one of my graduate students, male youth sport coaches are twice as likely to be paid than their female counterparts in Minnesota youth soccer clubs. She didn’t collect how much pay disparity exists, which I think would be an interesting follow up study! I’ll share more of these research findings when we finish the full analysis.