June 22, 2012 • Huddle Up

Title IX: Through The Eyes Of A Dad With 2 Daughters

“Daddy, girls play basketball too?” My five-year-old daughter, Lucy, fired this question at me this winter as I mindlessly flipped between two men’s college basketball games, only accidentally landing on a women’s contest with the incorrect push of the “plus” button rather than the “minus” on the remote. Like with most questions from my inquisitive Lucy, I was ill prepared to offer a viable response. I mustered up something about, “Yeah. Of course. Girls can do anything boys can do.”

Did she believe it? I don’t know. There only are a couple of people truly influencing her big-picture thoughts on the world right now, and my wife is not much of a sports fan. So, Lucy relies on me (“daddy”) to fill in those blanks. And, clearly, I hadn’t been doing my part despite being someone who writes about sports for a living. She wasn’t asking the question from a legislative or legal angle. Somehow, Lucy simply didn’t understand girls play basketball. That’s my fault.

With the 40th anniversary of Title IX taking place this weekend, I keep thinking back to that exchange I had with Lucy as we sat on the couch that day. Despite all the progress made within women’s athletics and despite all the change legislated into action due to Title IX, some girls and women still don’t see a female face when they think about sports and athletics. It’s probably the reason why, as the father of two girls, I’m constantly asked, “Are you going to try for a boy?”

The opportunities are there thanks to Title IX—now as parents, we have to ensure our daughters understand it’s OK to play sports, to compete and to make athletics a part of their lives. It doesn’t matter that Lucy only really likes to read, play with My Little Ponies and wear dresses every day of her life, I still need to make it a point to incorporate some exercise into her world and at least offer sports as an option for fun (we presented her with playing soccer this spring with a response of, “Um, am I going to have to run? OK, then probably not.”)

On the flip side, I have a two-year-old, Paige, who runs through walls, has been known to take a kid’s ball on the playground and exudes “athlete” in everything she does. The happiest I’ve seen her is riding in the jogging stroller while daddy struggles to push the entire contraption up a hill. My gut tells me (sometimes, as a parent, that’s all you rely upon) it’s going to be easier introducing athletics into her world. The hard part is not pushing her too much if she doesn’t want it. As great as Title IX has been for opportunities, one small, unintended consequence is it produces dollar signs in the eyes of some parents.

The cost of college continues to skyrocket, meaning full-ride athletic scholarships are even more appealing. Pushing your daughter to excel at a sport like golf or lacrosse could be a $100,000 decision. But, at what cost? We’re continuing to inch closer to a generation of girls who have great athletic opportunities in front of them due to Title IX but are too burned-out to take advantage of them. It’s a fine line parents constantly straddle.

For Lucy and Paige, I’m thrilled Title IX has been around for 40 years. The opportunities are the same for them as they are for the boys down the street. I’m grateful we’re not fighting a legal battle for inclusion, so I can better spend my time with my girls by throwing a ball around the yard, getting them to find the joy in running (maybe even outside of the stroller) or even taking some time to play My Little Ponies. It’s their choice, and as a parent, all you want is for them to have the opportunity to do what makes them happy.

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