Second in a series.
It’s all about context. Title IX has evolved over its 50 years. Older coaches have seen the benefits of major changes over time. But younger coaches still see discrepancies and don’t like it.
For example, Bainbridge High assistant cross-country coach Dana Amore grew up in Ann Arbor, MI. Although it is a large sports town, it was still in its infancy regarding female athletes as late as the 1970s.
“By the time I was in high school, they were adding women’s sports,” Amore said. “I wanted to play soccer but that wasn’t available. I did cross-country and track because those were some of the only options.”
Female athletes did not have the same opportunities as men in other areas, too. When Amore competed for one of the Wolverines’ track team, they could not compete in the NCAA Championships. Instead, they were in the less-prestigious AIAW Championships.
The Association for Intercollegiate Athletics for Women, or AIAW, was founded in 1971 to govern collegiate women’s athletics and administer national championships. Although the organization was successful through the 1980s, it began overlapping with the NCAA championships, causing issues.
Therefore, AIAW ceased to exist in 1983, allowing women to make the leap to the NCAA.
Olympic High head volleyball coach Keith Peden has been coaching for 32 years. When he began at Olympic in 1993, the issues with Title IX were much different than they are today.
“You never read about a girls sport in the newspapers,” Peden said. “They were offered because they had to be offered but there was little emphasis on most girls’ sports.”
Although female athletics have improved over the years, Peden still deals with issues that have lingered since before he began coaching.
“When I came to Olympic High School, if guys and girls both needed to use the gym, guys got the prime practice time and girls had to work around it,” Peden said. “If football had to use the locker room for any reason, whether it was practice, varsity or JV game, the girls got kicked out of their locker room in favor of guys football. That was a struggle we faced over the last twenty years.”
This upcoming year, Peden and the female athletes will finally have their own locker rooms for the first time in school history. Before that, they went through several appalling events.
“One time, they made the guys’ football team wait in the hallway while the girls used the locker room, but they made the girls walk through the locker room when the football team was in the locker room,” Peden said. “They had to put up with cheers and sexist comments. One night, the football team sabotaged the locker room by wiping feces all over the toilet seats too.”
Although female athletes receive the most backlash, female coaches and athletic administrators have dealt with finding their place in the sports industry over the years. WIAA’s assistant executive director BJ Kuntz describes her mindset in an athletic administrative role.
“It feels like swimming uphill a lot,” Kuntz said. “You have to keep your head above water and keep going. You can’t let little things get in your way because often you bump into systems that have been developed with a male coach in mind.”
Although older coaches and staff have seen many issues, they have seen benefits, too. Coaches have seen better facilities, for example, Track and field coach Andrew Grimm has been at Bainbridge High since 1990. In his time, he also coached football.
“Facilities is one benefit I’ve seen because Title IX forces at least equal facilities,” Grimm said. “If you have a nice baseball field, you have to have a nice fast pitch field. Also, access to the weight room and athletic training like treating injuries and getting back on the playing field.”
Peden added in his first few years at Olympic three schools shared one stadium. Since then, each team is at least allotted a certain prime time to use the field for practice.
Although better facilities are great, one benefit outshines the rest. According to several older coaches and staff, the confidence and mental aspect of female athletes have been on the rise.
“I think the confidence that comes from participating in sports is one of the greatest outcomes that girls have been able to benefit from,” Kuntz said. “They have learned to use their voice and be an advocate. How does that translate? It translates when they go to college or go into the workforce and believe they can be a professional athlete or general manager.”
Peden said, “With the fact that you’re getting recognition more often now, you are seeing more confidence in them and more pride in what they do. They don’t feel like a second-class athlete anymore.”
Although older coaches have seen the progression, newer athletes, coaches and staff have different mindsets.
Ashli Payne played basketball at Olympic High until 2013. Afterward, she played at Eastern Washington and overseas for a few years. Recently, she coached Central Kitsap’s girl’s basketball team. At every level, she noticed the gap between male and female athletes.
“We were pretty spoiled at Division 1 as far as getting gear and more,” Payne said. “Eastern did a great job of making things equal. But if you compare it to the high school level, I saw a lot of discrepancies that I didn’t appreciate. They prioritized the men’s side more like a bigger storage unit, our practice time was bogus, and we would do the same thing the men would do but get in trouble for it.”
She added she stepped away from CKHS after one season because of the discrepancies between the two genders.
“A part of me stepping down as coach at CKHS had to do with the inequalities I saw between the men’s and the women’s sides,” Payne said. “How we as a coaching staff were treated a lot differently than everybody else in the same position. It starts with leadership and takes a lot of open-mindednesses.”
As for the athletic administrative role, South Kitsap athletic director Lindsey Foster added she still sees discrepancies at every level. “Where I saw the biggest discrepancy is in the resources,” Foster said. “The same thing that the men’s team got, the women’s team did not receive. It is still true up to the NCAA tournament today.”
Although both see discrepancies, they agreed Title IX has boosted opportunities for females.
“The biggest positive is equal opportunity and treating every athlete the same regardless of gender,” Foster said. “Student-athletes do a really good job of using their voice and having more information. Without knowing each other they can access each other and have discussions, which brings attention to the inequities.”
Overall, all the coaches and administration believe the gap is tightening. Yet, there is still more that needs to be done. A handful of coaches believe female athletes need more exposure while others added there should be more female coaches and administration across the board.
Even though Title IX is far from its final form, coaches can all agree on one thing, the overall benefit of the legislation.
“I’d have to rate Title IX pretty high because without it, I wouldn’t have had the experience I had,” Amore said. “For all its faults and bumps, I’d say it’s been a success.”