Title IX: How opportunities in girls’ sports creates opportunities in life

A study by Ernst and Young found 94 percent of women in executive business leadership positions had played sports at one time in their life, showing the benefits of girls’ participation in sports 50 years after Title IX.

Title IX is a federal civil law that requires educational settings to provide equal opportunities for men and women, boys and girls - including in sports. The law was passed in 1972 and has significantly changed the way girls can participate in sports through schools.

The Tucker Center at the University of Minnesota is a one-of-a-kind research center devoted to girls and women in sport. Dr. Nicole LaVoi, a researcher there, explains how the financial requirements tied to Title IX created great opportunities for girls to compete in sports.

"Back in 1972, the budget for boys’ hockey sticks in the state of Minnesota was greater than all of the money spent on all girls’ sports in Minnesota. Think how that's changed in 50 years," Dr. LaVoi told FOX 9.

Since the implementation of Title IX, public schools and educational institutions are required to provide equal funding and resources for girls and boys sports. 

Dr. LaVoi says that’s led to high participation in girls’ sports and great learning opportunities for girls, as outlined in the Tucker Center’s research report titled "Developing Physically Active Girls." 

"[Sport] leads to social benefits, higher academic achievement, less dropout, less risky behavior, less drug use, more ability to achieve in male dominated professions as an adult, which leads to higher pay," Dr. LaVoi said. "We know that when girls and women are afforded the opportunity, there are a lot of positive things that can happen."

Minnesota State Supreme Court Justice Margaret Chutich explains how her experience on the tennis court led her to a spot on the state’s highest court.

In the early 1970s, before Title IX, when Chutich was a ninth grader at Fred Moore Middle School in Anoka, she played on the boys’ tennis team, alongside her brother, because there was not a team for girls.

By her senior year, in 1975, there was a girls team, thanks, in part to Title IX requirements, and the Minnesota State High School League’s decision to start implementing girls sports in high schools.

That year, Chutich won the championship title at the second-ever Minnesota State High School League state tournament.

"It meant the world to be able to compete at that level and have a state championship on the line," Chutich said.

She says that life-changing experience taught her how to perform under pressure and focus on achieving her goals.

"I learned how to compete and that was something that, for girls, was a little bit uncomfortable at that time. It seemed like we were being impolite or uncivilized to go out there with the ‘eye of the tiger’ and try to beat some else on the tennis court," Chutich said.

She says those skills helped her as a lawyer, and later a State Supreme Court Justice.

The women in Chutich’s family exemplify changing attitudes around women in sports throughout the last 100 years. In 1919, Chutich’s grandmother played basketball for Madison High School in the rural community of Madison, Minnesota. Chutich says her grandmother told stories of taking the train to a nearby town to play other teams.

By the late 1930s, attitudes about girls in sports changed. Across the country, and in Minnesota, leaders in education began to believe competition was harmful to women’s bodies. By the early 1940s, nearly every girls’ sports program had been cut from Minnesota high schools.

"My poor mother, who was very athletic and loved doing all sorts of sports, had no opportunities," Chutich said. "My sister is five years older than I am, graduated in 1971, and she didn’t have the opportunity to play on a sports team like I did."

After Title IX, and thanks to Eden Prairie teacher Dorothy McIntyre, who spearheaded an effort to bring girls sports back to Minnesota schools, girls were once again granted the opportunity to participate in sports and experience all of their benefits, beyond the court.

Dr. LaVoi says while many gains have been made since the passing of Title IX, there are still gaps in opportunity and, most of all, in representation.

"When Title IX was passed, 90 percent of girls and women were coached by women. Today, that number is stagnant at around 43 percent. So we have a lot of room for improvement in sport leadership," Dr. LaVoi said.