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Title IX in the Fieldhouse

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By Gail Bush, Ph.D. |

Up Highway 41 just north of Chicago there is an unassuming fieldhouse off the shoulder of the road. It has random sports silhouettes painted on the mustard-colored siding and a gravel parking lot to one side. In order to reach it from the south you have to continue to drive north before you can swing around and head back to the sports club.

When you enter the building a familiar smell forcefully wafts over to welcome you. It is the high school locker room smell of years gone by. Then the bright fluorescent lights hanging over the fields assault your eyes and there you behold all that Title IX has produced in surburbia: girls in full team regalia winning and losing on the field of indoor soccer.  

We arrive in time for warm-ups and my daughter leaves me at the door to find her ‘girls’. I scope out a few familiar dads standing by the field where our game will start in a half an hour, say hi, and head for the bleachers.

Our healthy, strong, confident daughters take to the field, game faces at the ready, with a sense of ownership that their mothers could only imagine. We are watching Title IX in all its glory.  As I watch my daughter run quickly (she is a cross-country runner) and gracefully down the field I delight in the advantages that she has at this tender age of mind-body communication. The early high school years were a time when girls my age lost touch with their bodies in any positive sense and never again felt that connection that we felt as children on the playground. Studies show that high school girls who are involved in sports have fewer pregnancies, don’t tend to get into drugs, have better self-image and better chances of graduating and attending college.

Sitting on the metal bleachers I am not thinking about studies and statistics. I watch a girl push my daughter down, get fouled and later my Claire is equally aggressive and no foul called. But she likes fouls. They are a testament to her drive, her knowing how to play the game, her determination to win by playing hard, come what may.

I look over at the moms. As each one looks up to watch the play in action, to watch her daughter and the team, there is a look of longing, of wishing, of wondering, and of thanks. We think of how quickly things change. We didn’t have it but we are so glad that in their lifetimes, our daughters don’t even know what Title IX is, what it means, how it has given them something that they will always carry, that no one can ever take away from them. These young women cannot imagine life without sport and we cannot imagine how life might have been different for us if there had been a place for us in the arena.         

Gail Bush is a professor emeritus of education, college trustee, and a former librarian. Her debut picture book, “Our World is Whole”, was published by Sleeping Bear Press in May 2020. “Indivisible: Poems for Social Justice, an anthology of 20th Century American poetry”, was published in 2013 by Norwood House Press. To learn more please visit www.gailbush.com

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