In honor of the 50th anniversary of Title IX, a notable panel gathered at the 2022 National Senior Games presented by Humana to share personal stories of the often harsh realities for women in sports before and since Title IX was enacted..
Prior to this, women’s teams either simply did not exist or dealt with inadequate facilities, no coaching staff, and a lack of recognition for their achievements.
While Title IX, which prohibits discrimination by sex in any education program or activity receiving federal financial assistance, put change in motion, panelist Bruce Wigo noted that the amendment was not an immediate panacea for gender equity in sports. The legislation passed in 1972, yet it wasn’t until 1981 that the first full women’s collegiate sports scholarship was awarded. It took another three years for the women’s marathon to be added to the Olympics.
Marathon legend Kathrine Switzer, NSGA Board Member Carla Ruff, Al Oerter Foundation CEO Cathy Oerter, and pickleball athlete Erica Gonzalez shared stories of boldly breaking down barriers to be able to do what they love.
In 1967, Kathrine resisted attempts to remove her from the Boston Marathon, becoming the first woman to officially complete the race and inspiring countless women take up the sport. She shared how running and encouragement from her father built her confidence as a young adult. That confidence has carried her through pivotal moments in life.
A special part of holding the event at the National Senior Games is that many audience members had their own Title IX stories to share.
Kathrine noted this story sharing as one element that made this experience special. “We also share a passion – males and females – about advancing the sport and advancing opportunities for women,” she says. “I think we also piqued people’s interests in what the future will bring and what potential there is. There are several frontiers left out there: women continue to be a frontier, race continues to be a frontier, and age – is the most exciting of all.”
On display during the event were nine pieces of art created by Olympians and Paralympians on loan from the Art of the Olympians program run by the Al Oerter Foundation. This collection will be on display again during a second special event, “Your Title IX Story: The Art of the Olympians,” on Thursday, May 19, at 1 pm in the Greater Fort Lauderdale Broward County Convention Center room 222.