June 22, 2012

Title IX: A Legacy in Lacrosse 40 Years Later

by Clare Lochary | LaxMagazine.com

At Penn State in the early 1970s, Barbara Doran was among the first group of women nationwide to recieve a collegiate athletic scholarship.
© Penn State

"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 educational program or activity receiving Federal financial assistance."

— Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972 to the Civil Rights Act

It has been 40 years since President Richard Nixon signed into law Title IX—the gender equity legislation that has since been a boon to women's athletics in general, and women's lacrosse in particular. Lacrosse Magazine gathered reflections from women across generations on how the law has affected their lives on and off the field.

Barbara Doran

Penn State '75
Team USA, 1975-85

As one of Penn State's first female student-athletes to receive an athletic scholarship, I was a three-sport varsity athlete. In those days, we had seven or eight games a season, no championships, no statistics, no awards. We got a navy blue wool blanket with a big white letter "S" on it for being a varsity player. When I grew up, muscles were not considered glamorous or feminine. Tall girls wore flat shoes and slumped over with bad posture to hide their "unfeminine" height. I was embarrassed to wear sleeveless shirts in the summer because of my Michelle Obama arms. The Daily Collegian, the student newspaper, would not assign any reporters to cover women's sports, as the editor claimed no one was interested. So I volunteered (insisted!) to cover the sports I played — field hockey, basketball and lacrosse — and kept a running public battle with the editor via ads, editorials and a description I later gave to Sports Illustrated to describe an encounter with him: "There he was, like a little rat, hunched over his typewriter."

We were very aware of Title IX's passage in 1972. In the fall of 1974, Penn State led the nation in offering the first sports scholarships for women. I received a partial scholarship for field hockey my senior year. Women athletes were considered such anomalies at the time that CBS sent a team to interview me and several others the year scholarships were introduced, and Sports Illustrated sent one of their best writers, Pat Jordan, to interview five of us from different sports to see what made us tick. To his great surprise, we were normal women who just happened to play sports. He later turned his article into a book called Broken Patterns.

When scholarships became available, we had our first training meals ever, shared with the very cute guys from the soccer team. (This was the era of the famed and handsome Bahr boys, who both went on to be very successful placekickers for different NFL teams.) The field hockey and lacrosse teams still shared the same coach and uniforms, and if you couldn't get the right sized kilt, you just pinned it so it didn't fall off.

I skipped basketball my senior year to work with another women's sports activist from the sports information office, Mary Jo Haverbeck, to start, from scratch, the first women's sports information effort in the country — keeping stats, writing press releases on the players and doing brochures for the games. I still have those first brochures: an 8 1/2 x 11 piece of mimeographed paper folded in half with the player lineups from each team typed in with their ages and heights.

Val Walchak

West Chester '66
National Hall of Fame '99
High school coach, umpire and administrator

In 1972, I was teaching and coaching at Haverford High School in Pennsylvania. Title IX wasn't on the radar. It took us a good eight years before we really began to consider the potential impact. We went onto an hourly pay scale for coaches, and the men's [pay] was so much higher, because they had so many more games. They started getting paid time and a half if we scheduled them for night or Saturday games. The pay, eventually, was the thing that drove us to explore Title IX. I was athletic director at the time, and the men's coaches were being paid for postseason play, while one of the women's coaches wasn't. So she called up the ACLU. It was very interesting when we went to arbitration how quickly everything as resolved. Once that happened, I had calls from coaches and athletic directors all over the whole area. This was in the early 1980s.

With the men, the coaches just threw all the equipment and the uniforms in bags to be refurbished at the end of the season. I had to get the coaches to encourage the girls to wash and repair their uniforms before they returned them. One of the responses [from the school district] was, "Well, that's not so strange. Girls know how to sew and wash things." We just started laughing hysterically. And the reasons we didn't have night games was because they were "protecting" the girls from coming out at night. I said, "Well, how about the cheerleaders? They come out for the night games for football and boys basketball."

It takes a long time to get things right. You have to be persistent. I like to see women be strong enough to step up make a stand about what their rights are. There still seems to be a reticence about that — and there are consequences of those who step up — but it is worth it. I loved my teaching and coaching there at Haverford. It was family and home to me. But there were some things that needed to be improved. When Time had [Penn State's] Karen Pesto, who played at Haverford, on the cover ("Women in Sports," June 26, 1978), I framed it. When I moved into the athletic director's position, sometimes it would be really hard [to push for equality]. But I looked at that picture of Karen, and I thought, "Oh no. This can't be."

Kelly Amonte Hiller, coach of seven-time NCAA champion Northwestern, says of Title IX, "I don't think it's any secret Northwestern added lacrosse because of [it]."
© Anne Ryan

Kelly Amonte Hiller

Maryland '96
National Hall of Fame nominee '12
Team USA, 1997-2005
Northwestern University head coach, 2002-present

I can remember wanting to play sports when I was 5 or 6 years old. Softball wasn't available, so I had to play Little League baseball. There was no girls' ice hockey, so I played with the boys. As I got older, the opportunities became more prevalent. I feel like with my age group, sports were really emerging, and all the work that people put in before me to create those opportunities were really starting to pay off.

Seeing the opportunities my brother [future NHL All-Star Tony Amonte] got as a student-athlete, he was really courted. That was the standard I set, and that was one of the big reasons why I chose Maryland — because Cindy Timchal set the same tone. That was really important to me, to be taken seriously.

It's such an important piece of legislation for female athletes. Initially it provides the opportunity. I try to get involved at the national level with bettering all areas of the sport. [Media coverage] is something that I'm really focused on. I try to aid in getting our sport on TV as much as possible, with the NCAA championship being on ESPN for the first time this year. I try to focus, as a coach, on the smallest details, because I know it's the smallest details that affect the players' experience — like the Big Ten Network and how amazing that is for our conference, our school and our sport. Or something as small as, "This is the right type of meal that we want to get these girls get so they feel special — just as special as a male athlete. And they feel like they can achieve anything when they walk on the field." That's my goal, to provide that environment so that they can play fearless.

I don't think it's any secret Northwestern added lacrosse because of Title IX. The level of support that we have now is just unbelievable. We're viewed in the same light as men's basketball or football, and that's really special.

Dana Dobbie

Maryland '08
Team Canada, 2003-present
Loyola University Maryland assistant coach, 2009-present

I'm from a super small town, and even though it's close to the U.S., I didn't really understand what the NCAA was all about until I started getting Sports Illustrated for Women. Female sports didn't and don't necessarily get the same attention in Canada, even for ice hockey. That American magazine sparked my imagination about what it could be like. I can remember being 14 years old and reading an article about Maryland women's lacrosse and how great it was. I'm overwhelmed by the opportunities and experience that America has given to women's sports.

If it weren't for Title IX, what would we be?

It's a unique playing opportunity here versus at home. When someone excels at something, it wasn't jealousy. It was support and camaraderie, and that flows out to other things on and off the field.

Australia-native Jen Adams, the current Loyola (Md.) women's coach, says part of the reason she hasn't returned home is the level of professionalism in modern American athletics.
© Brian Schneider

Jen Adams

Maryland '01
National Hall of Fame nominee '12
Team Australia, 1997-present
Loyola University Maryland head coach, 2009-present

What lured me to the States was the professionalism behind NCAA athletics. Sports are very much a part of Australian society, but in a very different way, especially on the women's side. Here it's done on such a high level. It's one of the reasons I haven't left. To be able to work in sports and get paid and make it your career, it's insane.

I grew up being good at sports, but in Australia, that wouldn't necessarily have led to anything else. In America, being good at sports can lead to college, to a career, to a profession. That's huge, and it's so unique.

People are very quick to let you know how good you have it. When I got to Maryland, [former Terps assistant and current Monmouth University head coach] Denise Wescott let us know about their trips to the equivalent of the final four. They stayed in tents at a camping site and did campfire cooking. There were no per diems, nice buses and great meals.

It still floors me that you can get an education while playing a sport, that you get to practice every day and have full-time coaches who are really invested in making sure practice is good, that people care about your team and that you have marketing to get people to watch your game. And there's no paying out of pocket in the American system. In Australia, you might make a good team, but then your parents have to pay $1,000 each trip, and you're in awe that you're in a rickety old bus to do it. When Australians come here, they still have the wow factor when they see what we have. [Current Loyola stars] Cass Cursaro and Marlee Paton are thrilled to get a pair of shoes. In Australia, you might save for a stick and get one every five years. Here you get a stick for free. If it breaks in practice, you get another one. You could go through five in a season.

The group of friends I made through college lacrosse is like nothing else. We built relationships and a sisterhood. That's why I love college athletics.

Josie Harper

West Chester '65
National Hall of Fame '06
Team USA, 1982-86
Dartmouth College athletic director, 2002-09

I grew up outside of Philly. Title IX wasn't on my radar screen [when it passed] because the opportunities for girls there were pretty plentiful. But you didn't have the choices you have today, and the only way to stay in it was to go to West Chester State. They had a fabulous sports education program.

When I came to Dartmouth College in 1981, it was not only on the radar screen, but it had a direct impact on my job as head lacrosse coach and assistant field hockey coach. Dartmouth only went coed in 1972. Some alumni that weren't really keen on coeducation. They felt it "watered down" men's education.

As athletic director, I would say, "Don't you just love this place?" And they'd say, "Yeah!" And I'd say, "Don't you love your daughters and granddaughters?" And they'd say, "Yeah!" And I'd say, "So why wouldn't you want them to experience the same experiences you had at the place you love?" And they never really had an answer.

[Title IX] is one of these things that needed to happen.

A version of this article appears in the June issue of Lacrosse Magazine, the flagship publication of US Lacrosse, as part of an in-depth package "Title IX: A Legacy in Lacrosse." Don't get the mag? Join US Lacrosse and its 400,000-plus members today to start your subscription.

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