What’s With All the Hoopla?

This past Tuesday was not just any National Girls and Women in Sports Day (NGWSD). Rather, as this year marks the 40th anniversary of Title IX, it was an occasion for many activist groups and lawmakers to preach to young girls that they must get involved in sports for fear that other activities won’t allow them to learn discipline, teamwork, leadership and confidence. Unfortunately, this line of thinking is wrong, especially because it pressures girls into making choices they can arrive at themselves.

As Wendy Parker smartly points out, “NGWSD has become an agent in a never-ending nostalgia parade that traffics in emotion and ignores the necessity of moving forward. Sports is seamlessly incorporated into the everyday lives of the women involved in them. We celebrate it daily by doing what we love the most.”

One of her concerns — moving forward — is rightly justified. As a country, we finally need to recognize that Title IX legislated equality of opportunity to ensure that boys and girls would be able to participate in any activity, not just sports. “Evangelizing,” as Parker describes how activist groups try to plant their own rigid thinking on the female masses, is not going to convince girls to suddenly drop their favorite hobbies to play sports. After all, the law was not created to make every girl an athlete; it was passed to halt discrimination on the basis of gender.

Now that athletic opportunities for girls have expanded so that they can play an on array of teams in multiple seasons, we have to let go to enable girls to decide for themselves whether sports are right for them. If they chose arts and crafts, choir or band instead of athletics, what’s the big deal so long as they’re enjoying themselves? The important thing is that they’re afforded the freedom of choice.

What all this hype, rhetoric and constant plea for more female athletes will do is strengthen calls for equal numbers of male and female athletes. And as many athletes and administrators can attest to from first-hand experience, attempting to create an even gender ratio translates into cutting male (and even female) teams, losing practice partners and crushing young people’s aspirations. That’s nothing to celebrate, and that’s why we’re hoping that Title IX’s 40th year will bring with it a fresh, fair approach to implementation that will expand, not limit opportunities.

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