Conquering the gender barrier

National Girls and Women in Sports Day celebrates Title IX

Posted: Wednesday, February 06, 2002

For 30 years now, Title IX has advanced the opportunities for female athletes. That fact is being heralded today, the 16th annual National Girls and Women in Sports Day.

Juneau has taken narrowing the gender gap seriously, said Sandi Wagner, athletic director at Juneau-Douglas High School for seven years. For example, equality of opportunity was achieved some time ago, but equality of numbers was not.

"Anchorage has had trouble with that," Wagner said. In Juneau, however, some teams have more girls than boys.

Wagner grew up with Title IX. "When it first came out, I was in Washington state trying to play athletics," she said, "and we did not have the opportunity. Then things started to change."

"Before Title IX, very few high schools around the country had more than one or two sports (in which girls could participate)," Wagner said. "Swimming and tennis were the most popular." There was Olga Korbut but not Mia Hamm. Now, schoolgirls play soccer and compete in track and field, the number of women coaches has sky-rocketed, and women reporters are allowed in locker rooms.

"When I played basketball in college, they didn't think we could play the full court," recalled Fran Tolumsky, a retired physical education teacher who graduated from high school in 1966. Tolumsky is a professor at the University of Alaska Southeast and group exercise coordinator for the Juneau Racquet Club.

"We don't have to have the secondary gym time or the lesser facility any more," Tolumsky said. "It's wonderful to see all the athletic scholarships for women today, but what I see as the biggest benefits are growth in confidence and self-esteem. When you participate in a sport, you learn more than the sport. There is so much that comes from being empowered to be an individual."

On June 23, 1972, Congress enacted Title IX of the Education Amendments. Elementary schools were required to comply four years from that date, and high schools and colleges, six years.

The numbers show the differences that Title IX has made. For example, in 1972, 294,000 girls participated in high school sports. This year, 2.6 million girls - nearly 10 times as many - will participate. In 1972, 206 women participated in the Winter Olympics. In 2002, 827 will participate, and women will be permitted to participate in the bobsledding event for the first time at Salt Lake City. In 1972, LPGA prize money going to women amounted to $988,400. This year, female golfing pros will pocket $43.5 million. In 1972, no college athletic scholarships were awarded to women. This year, scholarships will total $180 million.

"When I was Equity Specialist (Title IX) with DOE, schools were working to integrate and develop gender fare sports," said Connie Munro of Juneau. "But in many cases the budget was not equal and communities not supporting them equally. I think Juneau is doing better."

Jim Hamey, coach of the Crimson Bears girls basketball team, has witnessed many changes since he joined the school in 1971 to teach physical education and weight training.

"The boys' programs were going strong, but the girls' programs had an emphasis on entertainment more than competition," Hamey said. "If you were a female and had some (athletic) skills, you could be on the drill team or a cheerleader. There's nothing wrong with that, but the competitive sports were not nearly as available as they are now. The opportunities for playing after high school were not anything close to what they are now."

"Slowly and begrudgingly, things have advanced," Hamey said. "They have developed programs that give girls the chance to play competitively in every arena. Juneau was one of the leaders in that respect."

As an example of a thoroughly modern sportswoman, Hamey mentions Andrea Lloyd Curry who moved here from Sitka and attended JDHS for half a year in the 1980s. Curry eventually played basketball professionally, in the U.S. and Italy, and won an Olympic gold medal in 1988.

"Curry, who just retired from the WNBA, made it big in professional basketball," Hamey said. "She had several knee problems but she hung in there."

Girls played high school basketball in Juneau in the 1930s, traveling to other Southeast towns by ferry for games. That tradition continued, Hamey said. "We had opportunities here that Anchorage did not present until the 1970s. We started girls' soccer earlier than Anchorage did, and we had an emphasis on total involvement of both boys and girls in all activities. When we traveled, we included everybody, pep squads as well as teams. Most schools don't do that."

Kim Kiefer, director of the city's Parks and Recreation Department, noted that adult programs for volleyball feature both men's and women's teams and a co-ed team. "Five years ago we started a Classic Basketball program for those women who had never played and wanted to understand the sport. The soccer group has done the same thing."

National Girls and Women in Sports Day was declared by Congress in 1986.

Ann Chandonnet can be reached at achandonnet@juneauempire.com.



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