Like many women who grew up in the 1990s, it’s difficult for me to imagine what my life would be like without organized sports. From the age of five, athletics were a significant part of my life. I played soccer, basketball, and even some softball (though, admittedly, not very well). In high school and college, I found my passion for rowing.
Organized sports were an integral part of my childhood. Playing sports taught me teamwork, goal setting, a good work ethic, and the habit of putting in daily practice to learn a skill. No doubt, these lessons shaped me into who I am today.
So it’s difficult to imagine that there was a time—not too long before I entered a peewee soccer league—when women and girls didn’t have many opportunities to play sports.
Before the 1970s, the concept of women’s sports wasn’t very widespread at all. In fact, they were almost nonexistent. During the 1971-1972 school year, only seven percent of high school athletes were girls. But in the 2010-2011 school year, girls made up over 41 percent of all high school athletes.
So, what changed after 1972?
Well, Congress passed Title IX—a piece of legislation intended to give women and girls equal opportunities in education. Since its passage into law, women have been given exponentially more opportunities to play organized sports.
And the benefits of this go well beyond the world of athletics. Here are five ways women benefit from participating in sports post-Title IX.
1. Girls who play sports are healthier.
After the passage of Title IX, research shows that girls had a seven percent lower risk of becoming obese as adults. The study says that “no other public health program can claim similar success.” In addition, girls who play sports are less likely to smoke cigarettes than their peers.
2. They’re happier.
Girls who participate in sports from a young age have, on average, a higher self-esteem. They are also less likely to become depressed.
3. They achieve better grades.
Girls who play sports are more likely to do well in science classes and more likely to score higher on standardized tests than their peers who don’t play sports. Participating in athletics also means you’re more likely to have a higher grade point average (GPA). A statewide study in North Carolina showed that high school girls who played a sport had on average a full point higher GPA than their peers.
4. They have brighter futures.
High school students who play sports are more likely to graduate. Across all demographics, girls who play a sport are less likely to engage in risky behavior. And they’re less than half as likely to become pregnant during adolescence than their peers.
5. And they’re more likely to have successful careers.
A survey showed that 94 percent of women in business leadership positions had played a sport in high school and 52 percent had played a sport in college. And if that alone isn’t impressive, 4 out of 5 executive businesswomen say that that lessons they learned through sports contributed to their success.
Title IX changed the game for women. More girls have opportunities to play sports, and those opportunities shape them into becoming smarter, happier, and more successful versions of themselves.
Unfortunately, right now, some are using Title IX to take away opportunities from female athletes.
In several places across the country, biological males who identify as female are being allowed to compete against women and girls in many different sports. Not only is this demoralizing for female athletes, it also limits the amount of opportunities to compete.
For example, in Connecticut, the Connecticut Interscholastic Athletic Conference (CIAC) has allowed males to participate in high school women’s track since 2017. As a result, sprinter Selina Soule was bumped out of the opportunity to compete for a spot at the New England regional championships by two male athletes who have an obvious physical advantage. This means that Selina was denied an opportunity to run in front of college scouts.
That’s unfair. And it must end.
Please stand with these young women and make it clear that they should not be forced to give up athletic—and even scholarship—opportunities at the expense of a political agenda. They deserve #FairPlay.
Make your voice heard. Sign the petition today to encourage the Trump Administration and Members of Congress to safeguard the athletic and academic futures of young women across the country.
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