Blog created by Deborah Nelson from Nelson Boyd Attorney’s and is co-hosted on their website.
It has been more than 40 years since the Federal law commonly known as “Title IX” (Title Nine), which requires gender equality in all aspects of public education, including sports, was passed by Congress in 1972. It has taken much of that time to implement its benefits and even longer for society to evolve to the point where little girls were given equal opportunities for physical fitness and sports in public schools.
As a young girl in the 1960s and 1970s, these changes came too late for me; this was long before the soccer and lacrosse craze dominated elementary school sports for boys and girls. Although some girls played basketball or did gymnastics, there weren’t many opportunities or much encouragement to participate in sports in school. Instead, I focused on school and music, never giving much thought to sports. At one point, my parents thought that I should join an intramural softball team. I did – and it wasn’t pretty. I lacked the coordination, athletic skills, and confidence to fully appreciate the benefits of participating in sports and was left with the feeling that “sports are something boys do.”
It wasn’t until I turned 40 that I finally decided to become an athlete and embrace the many benefits of physical fitness. Once I did, the world opened up to me in a way it hadn’t before. I gained a confidence and a sense of accomplishment that I never had, scholastically or professionally, and I made new friends.
Fortunately, young girls these days are encouraged to participate in sports, to be part of a team, to develop their athletic skills, and to reap the many other benefits of physical fitness. Yet young girls still battle the demands to “measure up” to others expectations, to “look pretty” and mold themselves into the unachievable ideal that they feel society expects of them, and to deal with the many changes their bodies undergo as they hit puberty. It is a confusing and difficult time and some girls get lost along the way or struggle without good role models and appropriate resources. There is now a national organization, with many local chapters – Girls on the Run – that tries to fill those needs in a healthy, supportive, and positive environment.
Here is what Girls on the Run says about its mission:
Girls on the Run is a transformational physical activity based positive youth development program for girls in 3rd-5th grade. We teach life skills through dynamic interactive lessons and running games. The program culminates with the girls being physically and emotionally prepared to complete a celebratory 5K running event. The goal of the program is to unleash confidence through accomplishment while establishing a lifetime appreciation of health and fitness.
“…to unleash confidence through accomplishment…” Wow. And, focusing on girls in 3rd-5th grade. Double Wow. Just imagine, a program that focuses on young girls before they’ve faced the full brunt of peer pressure, cliques, and body image issues. Teaching them life skills while they are still young enough to fully embrace what they learn without being so self-conscious. Just imagine the difference you can make in a little girl’s life by supporting this program? How can we not help?
I wish there had been a Girls on the Run program when I was a little girl. I wish I had known that I could do athletic activities, that I was capable of it, that I would enjoy it, and that it wasn’t just about sports – that it was about so much more. I don’t doubt that some things might have been easier if I had learned those lessons earlier.
Still, I’m thankful for the joy that physical fitness has brought to my life. Ironically, my best runs these days are with my best friend who I met when we were in junior high band. We run together and laugh, and talk about our lives, and stop to pet dogs, and make big plans for the treat we’ll have when the run is over – and we talk about Girls on the Run. She is a GOTR “running buddy” and knows first-hand what a great program this is. Let’s work together to give those kinds of opportunities to girls across the country!