Female college athletes were not always given the same opportunities as their male counterparts, but that all changed thanks to the Title IX law and support from the Women’s Sports Foundation (WSF).
More than 50 years ago, tennis legend Billie Jean King attended Cal State LA. Despite her outstanding athletic talents, she could not receive an athletic scholarship because of her gender.
Today, King is known as former No. 1 professional tennis player in the world. She won a total of 39 Grand Slam titles, six Wimbledon singles championships, and four U.S. Open titles.
King won the singles title at the inaugural Women’s Tennis Association (WTA) Tour Championships and was ranked No. 1 in the world for five years.
In 1974, King founded the WSF in San Francisco. The sports foundation makes an effort to help other female athletes, like King, who have solid athletic abilities but are not given equal opportunities as their male counterparts.
The foundation she created is committed to providing athletes with the exposure they need to advance in their sports or to transition to successful careers after competition. They also help female athletes find funding to pay for their education while playing a collegiate sport.
According to the WSF website, before 1972, only one in 27 girls played sports.
In the late 1800s and early 1900s, many people were against women participating in sports, and efforts to limit women’s sports activity were high.
Activities for women were recreational rather than sport-specific and competitive. They played informally and without rules. The focus was on getting in exercise and physical activity rather than the competition itself.
Women’s opportunities to compete in sports were limited in America until Federal Legislation, known as Title IX, became law.
Title IX was passed by President Nixon in 1972. It prohibits discrimination based on sex in any educational program receiving federal aid.
Title IX states, “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.”
This law is important because it allows females participating in collegiate sports to receive scholarship money.
Title IX requires America to recognize a woman’s right to participate in sports on a playing field equal to that of men. The law also discourages sexual discrimination in education and sports.
According to the WSF website, today, two in five girls play sports. There has been a dramatic increase in women’s participation rates since 1972.
Title IX and the WSF are important because they help ensure that every girl has access to not only sports, but the lifelong benefits they offer as well.
Female athletes receive the opportunity to play, become eligible for scholarship benefits, and engaging in competitive play helps prepare them for life. By participating in competitive sports, women gain confidence, learn how to win and lose, and gain skills such as team-building.
Today, more than 150,000 women are competing in sports at the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) level. Women make up more than 40 percent of the participants in intercollegiate athletics and receive about 43 percent of scholarships.
Women made their first appearance in the Olympic Games in Paris in 1900. That year, 22 women competed in tennis, sailing, croquet, equestrianism and golf.
Here at CSUSB, female university athletes believe there is a move closer to equality between male and female athletes although certain discriminations still exist.
“I think Title IX is there to do what it’s supposed to, and at the collegiate level a school is able to enforce it, but in society, the gender pay gap still exists,” said Crystal Becerra, former CSUSB women’s soccer player.
Overall, female athletes now have the opportunity and platform to showcase their athletic ability, which is a historical achievement that should be celebrated.