My mom was not an athlete. Having graduated high school three years before Title IX was enacted, she did not grow up playing sports competitively. But, when she raised two daughters in the 80s, things had changed.
While many of our friends signed up to be cheerleaders for the boys basketball league (my town didn’t have a separate girls league until I was in 5th grade), she signed us up for gymnastics, softball and tennis lessons.
“You will not be a cheerleader,” she told my older sister and me. “You will be the ones people are cheering for.”
I didn’t argue. I was happier in cleats than a skirt anyway.
I wonder, all these years later, if my mom knew the impact that decision would have on us. We didn’t become superstar athletes (my sister went on to run Division II track), but it set the tone for the people we would become.
Sports made me a better decision maker – I had to learn to strategize and think for myself without a coach in tennis, and as a setter on the court in volleyball. It gave me a healthy body image. I was proud of my muscular legs, not ashamed of them! And, it provided the earliest lessons in teamwork, goal-setting and learning from failure.
That’s why my mom is my Title IX hero. She wasn’t a trailblazer for hundreds, or even dozens, of young women. But she was for me.
If you have a Title IX hero, I encourage you to nominate her for a prestigious award presented by Indiana Humanities and Indiana Fever. Winners (and nominators) will be recognized at a Sept. 9 Indiana Fever game for Inspiring Women Night.
Title IX is a part of the Higher Education Act passed in 1972 that requires gender equity for boys and girls in every educational program that receives federal funding. This year is the 40th anniversary of Title IX, and a fitting opportunity to look back on an amendment that has opened countless doors for women in sports, academics, and professional life. Learn more about the nomination process at www.indianahumanities.org. The deadline to submit a nomination is July 31.
Kristen Fuhs Wells is the director of communications for Indiana Humanities, and a Spencer, Ind., native.