50 Years of Title IX

Honoring girls sports at MA

Title IX: No person in the United States shall, on the basis of sex, be excluded from participation in, be denied the benefits of, or be subjected to discrimination under any education program or activity receiving Federal financial assistance.

Minnehaha has a long history of success in many sports, specifically girls’ sports. As of recently, girls’ soccer, girls’ basketball, and also participants from girls’ track and tennis have all won state championships. However, this has not always been the case at Minnehaha, or in the United States in general.

Many years ago, the only sports programs offered for girls at Minnehaha were girls’ basketball and cheerleading. Now, girls’ teams at Minnehaha have long separated themselves from many other schools in the area, but back then girls didn’t have the opportunity to showcase their athletic abilities in front of their peers at school in all the sports like girls’ sports were just dismissed and passed upon. Then, in 1972, Title IX was passed, and it changed the lives of female athletes forever.

Title IX ensured that girls would be given the same opportunities in education as boys – and those opportunities included school-related athletics. This meant they would offer the same number of sports for girls as boys and have the same amount of funding and resources for the both. When Title IX was first announced, there was lots of confusion around it. Many people thought it was just about equal education rights for women, but now when brought up it is mostly referred to as a law that changed women’s athletics.

Mary Carlson, a physical education/health teacher and coach, was one of Minnehaha’s most influential women to coach and lead girls’ athletics, especially in the early days. She began her work in 1972, the year Title IX was passed, and retired in 2015. On Oct. 1, she was honored as the Distinguished Faculty member at Minnehaha’s Homecoming awards and recognition ceremony.

“Because I was just out of college and a first-year teacher/coach,” she said, “I did not know exactly how Title IX was enforced.”

As a matter of fact, because Minnehaha was a private school, they actually didn’t have to comply with the same rules as public schools, meaning they really didn’t have to enforce Title IX. Carlson proposed to the leaders of Minnehaha that they needed to offer more girls’ teams, but it wasn’t easy to get a yes from them.

“Basically, the response was that there was no money in the budget to do that,” Carlson remarked.

However, she finally came to an agreement with Minnehaha that if they were to allow her to coach one sport, she would be required to coach as many girls’ teams as possible. You can only imagine how overwhelming it would be to have just gotten out of college and to now be coaching basically year-round.

“I know that I was overworked and underpaid but I was so passionate about sports and coaching I didn’t care,” Carlson said.

Many of her peers could clearly see her passionate attitude towards girls’ sports also, as she became assistant athletic director for two years to continue the growth of girls’ sports in our MA community. To put it in perspective, before she came to Minnehaha, there were two teams, the girl’s basketball team, and a co-ed cross-country team.

When she decided to coach at Minnehaha, volleyball and cross country in the fall, basketball in the winter, and track in the spring finally became the new and improved girls’ sports teams at Minnehaha. Now, Minnehaha has been a power machine for Minnesota State High School Championships, winning a spectacular amount of state titles on both the boy’s and girls’ sides Not only did having girls compete in high school sports affect their physical talent, but it also helped them do better in the classroom, and ultimately in their lives after school.

Sarina Baker (‘11), the new Assistant Principal at Minnehaha, was a very talented basketball player for Minnehaha’s Girl’s Basketball team. She scored more than 1000 points and continued her basketball career into college playing at St. Cates just across the river in St. Paul. Not only did basketball help her make a name for herself on the court, it also helped her excel in her life after high school, in college, and on the professional scale.

“Being an athlete. It just teaches you how to get stuff done essentially.” Said Baker, remarking on how she had to be organized on and off the court. For her, success in the classroom was essential to her success on the basketball court.

Carlson also saw how sports were affecting girls for the better, on the coaching side. “At MA, I saw many players become more confident and self-assured as they interacted on their teams,” said Carlson. “Most of the players on my teams pushed themselves to be better not just physically but academically.”

A report from NFHS (The National Federation of State High School Associations) shows that Minnesota high school sports are heading in the right direction. In the 2009-2010 school year, Minnesota had 124,479 boys involved in high school athletics compared to 105,564 girls. This gap has closed by a lot, and in the most recent poll done in the ‘18-’19 school year, there was only a 3,000 people gap between girls and boys in high school sports in Minnesota, with the boys still having a slight edge.

To put it in perspective, in the United States in 1972, 50 years ago, there were 3 million more males than females involved in high school sports. Now, nearly 50 years later, that gap has closed immensely, to 4,534,758 boys to 3,402,733 girls. Having this amount of girls in sports is not only amazing for high-schoolers, but it also helps put women in better opportunities to succeed in the professional world.

As Baker would say, “My motto is to do it well the first time and so really it [basketball]… helps organize your life in a way… so that you can be successful.”

There were many other advocates for women’s sports outside of our Minnehaha community also, including Rosie Peterson. Grandmother of Minnehaha student Clara Peterson (‘25), Peterson also has a very interesting background in advocacy for women’s sports. As a matter of fact, Peterson actually started the Women’s Track Team at the University of Minnesota in 1967.

“The men’s track and field team were not very happy to have us practicing on the track,” remarked Peterson. “We worked hard and won the guys over. They saw we were serious.”

There were many battles that Peterson faced, including teasing and judgment just because she was a woman competing in track at the collegiate level.

“One woman at school came up to me and told me I was disgusting because I wore sweats in public,” said Peterson. “Another time some guys came up and asked me if I thought I was cool because I was wearing puma running shoes.”

Thankfully, the perception and excitement for girl’s sports has taken a turn for the better since then. In reality, the passing of Title IX 50 years ago has helped progress not only the community we have here at Minnehaha, but the whole women’s sports community in the United States.

It is not done yet, there is still progress to be made and in the next few years, there will be even more of a push for recognition of women’s and girl’s athletics.

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