Susan GolbeSenior Manager, Monitoring & Evaluation Up2Us Sports
On the 43rd anniversary of Title IX, it’s an apt time to think about how far female athletic participation has come and what remains to be accomplished. At Up2Us Sports, we know the work is not done. In some communities Title IX has been so effective it has become nearly invisible, yet for other communities, inequality persists. Most notably, there are fewer sports opportunities for youth attending schools with a majority non-White population. Girls who attend these schools have the fewest opportunities to participate in sports[i]. We also know female athletes still receive drastically less media coverage than male athletes[ii]. Did you know the FIFA Women’s World Cup is going on right now in Canada? I’m a fan and I can barely find any coverage!
Even though I’ve only lived in a world with Title IX, I know it takes more than a law to feel like I can walk onto a sports field and play with the boys; it takes a positive and inclusive culture in which female athletes feel commonplace and respected. As a recreational adult athlete, I have heard some archaic things. I have been told that I should sub out more so men can play more minutes or conversely, that I was good enough to “sub in like I was a guy.” I have been made to feel as if I am only permitted to play one of three positions acceptable for women and that I must continually earn my spot while men are under no such pressure.
Title IX’s continued importance cannot be blurred. Up2Us Sports is doing its part on two crucial fronts: externally and internally. Externally, our signature program Coach Across America boasts a 45% female coach force that is serving in the same communities as the schools with inequitable sports opportunities for boys and girls of color. These coaches provide girls the inspiration and safety they need to participate. Female coaches are integral components of the cultural change necessary to promote female athletic participation. Every day even when the media or others don’t show it, these coaches show young girls that women can play sports and coach them too.
Internally, Up2Us Sports’ staff culture is actively supportive of female athletic participation. We recently dedicated an entire staff meeting to Title IX and the barriers girls face when accessing sports programs; our March Madness brackets are for both men’s and women’s tournaments; at our Coach Training Institutes a role specifically designed for endurance and speed was assigned to me with no hesitation based on my gender; we have an annual wiffleball game at our staff retreat in which equal numbers of men and women play without attention to “appropriate” positions or gender-balanced teams; we have female staff members who coach lacrosse, volleyball, basketball, and softball, and their supervisors provide them with the flexibility they need in their work schedules so they can coach during the day. When Up2Us Sports says we care about female athletes, we mean it: We’re paying them to work in the communities that need them most and we’re creating an internally supportive culture that is determined to create lasting change.