I gave my daughter the same gifts I gave my sons: a love for reading, sport, nature and family.
I believed if she adopted these pursuits as part of her lifestyle, she would increase her chance for success in a sometimes unforgiving and competitive world. Nature supplies the salve while tending to wounds; family the support when you need a hand up; reading puts you in the seeker’s role for knowledge, skills and opportunity and sport teaches you how to compete.
My daughter was fortunate to grow up in the age of equality for women’s sports. She competed in three sports in high school, remains active and is physically fit at 27. Like most women her age, she is a beneficiary of Title IX, the federal civil rights law that brought gender equality to sports.
Title IX turned 40 this year and The Press is celebrating this milestone. In this week’s special section, Girls Sports: 40 Years after Title IX, Press reporters tell the story of how girls’ sports in our high schools have grown from virtually nothing in 1972 to a current 45 to 50 percent participation rate at many of our schools. Our reporters have contacted former athletes to see how sport has helped them achieve success in their chosen fields. We have talked to coaches and administrators and we provide parents with some advice on how to introduce sports to their young children.
So, why is this 40th anniversary so important?
The world is changing. We just elected five women to the United States Senate, the largest female class in our history. There are more women in Congress today than ever before: 20 in the Senate and 78 in the House. Also, for the first time in our nation’s history, there are more women in the workplace than men.
As more and more women move into positions of power, there is a greater need for a systematic approach to teaching leadership, teamwork, discipline, mental and physical toughness and how to deal with failure. Sport provides a training ground for these lessons.
According to Mark Di Giorgio, a spokesperson for Mass Mutual Financial Group, a recent Oppenheimer survey interviewed more than 400 senior women executives earning at least $75,000 annually at companies with more than 100 employees. The results were striking. Eighty-one percent played organized team sports, 86 percent stated sports helped them become more disciplined, 69 percent said sports helped develop their leadership skills and 68 percent said sports helped them deal with failure.
Sports can not only help young women become leaders in business and government, but sports also benefits society in other ways. According to a 2006 study published in the Journal of Physical Activity and Health entitled The Economic Cost of Physical Inactivity and Excess Weight in American Adults, the national cost of medical care, worker’s compensation and productivity losses stemming from physical inactivity and excess weight totaled an estimated $508 billion in 2003.
Evidence also suggests participation in sports increases high school graduation rates and reduces teen pregnancies.
Sports are not a panacea and admittedly there are other ways to learn the lessons sports can teach young women. But, today, The Press celebrates Title IX. Today is a day for fathers and mothers and educators to reflect on how they can encourage more young girls to get involved in a sport to improve their shot at a successful and rewarding life.
I hope you and the young women in your life read about the role models we portray in our special section: Girl Sports: 40 Years after Title IX. Thanks for reading.
Click here to read the entire section!