What Title IX Did For Women's Sports is Something to Cheer About

This mom thinks counting cheerleaders as athletes bends gender equity to the breaking point.

I see them everywhere. Little girls playing soccer, running, doing gymnastics, playing baseball. In short, little girls doing sports. When I was a girl, the only reason I had for being behind homeplate was to catch the practice pitches my little brother threw.  I wasn’t the only girl watching from the sidelines while the boys participated in sports. In fact, most of us were on the bench . . . in the bleachers.

This month marks the 40th anniversary of legislation that changed the face of American athletics.Title IX made it illegal for educational programs and activities to discriminate against anyone based on their gender. One of the most significant results of Title IX was the explosive growth in athletic programs for girls and women at the high school and college level. According to one study, the number of women in college sports programs increased by 450 percent between 1972 and 2006. In 2008, the U.S. Olympic team was nearly half women.

Some claim that increasing opportunities for women has meant cutting back on programs for men. The research just doesn’t bear that out. Sure, schools are cutting programs in this economy, but not for the big football programs. Rather than shift money from football or basketball, schools are cutting what they consider minor men’s sports and blaming it on Title IX.

While I applaud creativity, some schools and organizations, like Quinnipiac University in Connecticut, even tried to include cheerleading as a sport they offer men and women. It’s really a neat argument. Cheerleading is already in the budget. Cheerleaders are enviably fit and athletic. Why not count them toward Title IX qualifications and kill two birds with one stone?

As athletic as cheerleaders are, no one’s turning on the Friday night lights for just them. Yes, there are competitions for cheerleaders. There are even movies about competitions for cheerleaders; I’ve watched and enjoyed some. But there are competitions for marching bands, too, and no one is trying to put the color guard in the same category as the point guards.

If we’re going to start counting cheerleaders as athletes, then let’s dress them appropriately. Cheerleading is the number one cause of serious sport-related injury to women. Let’s get them helmets, kneepads and shin guards. Heck, I’d like to see helmets on the gymnasts and ice skaters, too, and they don’t have near as far to fall.

Quinnipiac lost its case and was forced to reinstate the women’s volleyball team. The University subsequently joined seven other schools to form the National Competitive Stunts and Tumbling Association. Their goal is to develop competitive cheer into a collegiate sport. I’m all for the cheerleaders moving from the sidelines to the spotlight and getting a sport of their own. Until then, though, colleges will have to find other ways of meeting Title IX compliance.

Janice Lindegard July 02, 2012 at 08:56 PM
My husband and I have this debate in our house all the time. I believe that everyone should be able to play to the best of their ability, no matter their gender, so that puts me in the co-ed team category. My husband does not believe that there is a woman alive who can play football, but concedes that women can probably play baseball and other sports that are not so heavily reliant on body weight. I believe there was a female pitcher, Peanut Johnson, who could have competed. That said, I think many women would prefer to compete with other women as, in many sports, men's bodies give them advantages. Likewise, there are events that women do better in because of their bodies. I'll have to look them up, but I think some distance running is easier for women and certainly men have an advantage in events like rings (gymnastics). When boys-only and men-only organizations are forced to include girls, it is when they are receiving federal dollars in some form. I haven't researched this, but there probably aren't a lot of boys clamoring to join the Girl Scouts or do the uneven parallel bars. The problem, then, isn't that there can't be male only sports, but that there have to be equal opportunities for females. So, if there is a mens lacrosse team and there are enough females to field a lacrosse team, the school/college has to field a female lacrosse team. Hope that makes sense.
The Sentinel July 02, 2012 at 09:28 PM
Thanks Janice. it may not seem so but I also agreee that everyone should be able to play to the best of their ability. But, TO ME, that doesn't mean co-ed teams. Males and females have more than enough chance to play on gender-based teams. I was extremely upset several years agoo when the young female golfer (wish I oculd remember her name) felt it was her right to compete in a PGA tourney when there were plethora of LPGA tournaments. I may be wrong but I seem to remember that she went down pretty much in flames. WHY can't women let men play amongst themselves? For the most part, women/girls and boys/men have enough one-gender sports to PROVIDE equal opportunity to play. I DO understand your points, especially about lacrosse teams, which kind of mixes our comments...schools would HAVE to field a women's lacrosse team but NOT nexessarily have to allow women and men to play on mixed teams. I DID laugh about your comment about boys not clamoring for join the Girl Scouts (I DO remember the court case ab0out the Boy Scouts HAVING tio allow girls) because being surrounded by girls is a boy's dream a little later in teens years. LOL. I imagine camp-outs would be...interesting. Thanks for the reply. But it'll still irk the heck out of me when a female crosses into a male-only domain when they doon't have to, i.e. PGA/LPGA. Your husband has found an ally. Have a very nice 4th.
The Sentinel July 02, 2012 at 09:30 PM
Sorry about all the typos. I am going blind and just don't notice them until it's too late.
Fernando Molina July 03, 2012 at 03:42 PM
I invite you to learn and share more actual facts about the affects of Title IX on college sports, the Quinnipiac case, status of cheer as a sport and the injury risk of all forms of cheer. Title IX has had a great effect for creating opportunities for women in sports, however, the University of Maryland is a very recent example of cutting men's sports to compensate as they have just announced cutting 4 men's and 3 women's sports due to budget cutbacks. http://bit.ly/Lfe1pJ That seems equal unless you look and see that they currently have 11 men's teams and 4 women's teams so they will now be left with only 6 and 11, hardly an equal number of different sport opportunities but the university is forced by Title IX to attempt to have an equal number of spots open for both men and women to it's school enrollment. Undoubtedly UMD learned from Quinnipiac Unviersity in the 2010 case that you cite however, the Cheerleading as a sport determination was for legal references only. The case was about the university illegally counting athletes and facilities to meet Title IX requirements.
Fernando Molina July 03, 2012 at 03:42 PM
There are estimates of 4,000,000 cheeerleaders in the US with close to 400,000 in HS cheer. Your injury references regard to HS cheer only so you can see it is a very small portion of the forms of cheerleading. Cheerleading has a long way to go as a sport and as a mom blogger I hope you would help learn more and support the millions of kids in the sport they love rather than be negative about it.


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