Title IX had a huge impact on women’s sports when it was enacted in the 70s. Since then, women’s sports have continued to grow and develop and society seems to have accepted that women want, can and will succeed in the world of sports. I feel that a major revision is necessary. The focus should shift from strictly gender equality to equal opportunity for all. Certain stereotypes will still follow many female athletes, but every group of people gets stereotyped. It doesn’t make it right, but that’s the reality of it.
I’ll address what most people would expect me to first, the issue of cheerleading. By Title IX’s definition of a sport, cheerleading doesn’t fall into that category because our primary focus and time commitment (excluding all-star cheerleading) isn’t competition. I love competing but being a huge sports fan I also like having that close-up experience of games. That being said, unless something changes, cheerleading is fighting a losing battle with Title IX.
USA Cheer is trying to change cheerleading so that it fits into Title IX’s requirements. They developed Stunt, which essentially breaks parts of cheerleading down into quarters. There is a playbook for the first three quarters with pre-determined stunt, tumbling, pyramid and basket toss sequences. The fourth quarter is essentially a competitive routine minus the cheer. Even though it was fun to be a part of Stunt (SRU put together a team to help with Stunt’s NCAA application process), I can’t see it ever replacing the already existing competitions.
Now that that’s out of the way, I’ll address some of my more relatable concerns with Title IX. I’m all for women getting the opportunity to participate in sports, but I don’t like that some sports have been negatively affected. Many schools have had to push sports down into the club category in order to comply with Title IX. If something is a sport, it deserves to be recognized as such regardless of gender. For example, our men’s lacrosse team is considered a club, but I feel they have the right to be recognized as a school sport just like the women do.
Also, I don’t feel that it is fair that teams should be weighted so that they follow Title IX. Rosters should be based on talent levels, not on gender rations. For example, take a look at our cross-country team. There are so many female runners, which is awesome, but to keep numbers fair, there are very few males. I don’t understand how it is fair to turn away men that have the talent and want to participate just to keep things statistically even.
Don’t get me wrong, Title IX has done amazing things for women’s sports, but I feel that by continuing to focus on gender statistics, we’re holding many athletes back. We’re taking scholarship opportunities away from athletes that attend universities that don’t list their sport as a sport. Similarly, I feel that we’re holding ourselves back as well. We’re trying to get to a place of equal opportunities for all, but we’re constantly dividing the numbers and looking for issues or something to blame. For example, football is one of Title IX’s biggest concerns because of the amount of money universities invest in it. Because so much money goes into supporting football, cuts for men’s sports usually come from the less publicized sports. These smaller programs tend to face many struggles and sometimes fall apart.
I think that by recognizing more sports, opportunities would be opened up for athletes. It should be less about the numbers and more about the participants themselves. If a university has enough athletes that want to compete as a sport and represent the school, the opportunity to do so should be there. Yes, I understand that could get hectic and stressful, especially for the Athletic Director, but I do feel it would be worth it.