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On Thursday, we celebrated the 50th Anniversary of Title IX. This short, one-sentence provision opened the door for women’s sports across the United States. Before Title IX passed in the 1970s, only 300,000 (or 7%) of high school athletes were women. In the past 50 years, the number has risen above 3.4 million– around 43% of all high school athletes.
The effects of Title IX also extended outside of high school and college sports. Of the 400 Americans that attended the 1972 Olympics in Germany, only 84 of them were women. Forty years later, at the 2012 London Olympic Games, American women outnumbered American men for the first time in history– both in participation and in medals. Title IX indirectly contributed to the athletic dominance of the United States on a global scale.
Participation in athletics has long-lasting benefits that transcend a student’s time in school. These benefits include a stronger sense of self-confidence in building relationships, a better understanding of oneself, a foundation for lifelong fitness, and an expanded capacity for empathy. Recent surveys have even shown that participation in high school sports is a better predictor of future success than grade point averages or standardized testing scores.
However, I am concerned about the current landscape of women’s sports, and how actions (or a lack of action) from policymakers could destroy the future of women’s sports altogether. Last year, the Department of Education issued a “Notice of Interpretation” stating that Title IX’s protections extend to “discrimination based on gender identity.” This has led to biological men competing in women’s sports- shattering the record boards and leaving young women behind.
Every girl in Nebraska should have an opportunity for a fair playing field. I was lucky to be coached in volleyball and track by some of the trailblazers in Nebraska high school girls’ sports. There are no plaques on any walls celebrating my athletic achievements, and I was far from ever being the “best of the best.” However, the discipline, commitment, and lessons learned during my time in youth and high school sports will stick with me for the rest of my life.
District 1, you have my commitment that I will introduce legislation next session to protect the integrity of women’s sports in Nebraska. The future generations of young women competing in high school and college athletics depend on it.
As always, I welcome your input on issues important to you. Follow along on my Facebook and Twitter pages, both entitled “Senator Julie Slama” for more updates, or contact me directly at Senator Julie Slama, District 1 State Capitol, PO Box 94604, Lincoln NE 68509-4604; telephone: 402-471-2733; email: email@example.com.
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