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Sunday, June 26, 2016

Title IX and Women's Sports

In the history of our nation, the battles against discrimination have been well documented. Discrimination based upon gender, religion, ethnic background, race and many other categories, have existed since the beginnings of man. In the United States, discrimination has been challenged and legal action has been taken, to try to eliminate or at least mitigate, its occurrences throughout the country. One area of discrimination that has seriously affected the rights and freedoms of our citizens is gender discrimination. For many years, even decades, discrimination against women ran wild. There was a time when women couldn’t vote, hold certain jobs, receive equal pay, play certain sports, or attend certain educational institutions. The era of the 1960’s and 1970’s saw people in America, take a stand against all discrimination. Many laws were passed, to reverse the damaging practices of discrimination, in order to provide equality for all people. One such law that was passed was called the Education Amendments Act of 1972. One very important part of this law is known as Title IX (Sommers, 2014).

Title IX is a comprehensive federal law that prohibits discrimination on the basis of sex, in any federally funded education program or activity. The rules and regulations found within Title IX, apply to any local, state, or federal institution that uses financial aid benefits from the U.S. Department of Education. There are key areas where participating institutions have to comply with the guidelines set forth in Title IX. These areas include recruitment, admissions, and counseling; financial assistance; athletics; sex-based harassment; treatment of pregnant and parenting students; discipline; single-sex education; and employment. Institutions using Title IX, are prohibited from any form of retaliation, against any person who files a complaint or takes any actions, based upon alleged discrimination (OCR, 2015).

With the passing of Title IX, opportunities for women exploded in many categories. While Title IX covers many different areas, it is known for its relationship with women’s sports and sports in general. Before Title IX, there were very limited opportunities for women in sports. Women could not join men’s sports teams and there were no women’s teams or sports leagues. That situation quickly changed with the passing of Title IX. The past thirty years have seen the rapid growth of women’s sports. Women’s sports have even invaded the once male dominated, arena of combat sports. Today, women compete in mixed martial arts, Olympic sports, boxing and a long list of other sports. There are now women’s teams, leagues and individual participation in a very large number of sports ranging from alternative, individual sports to highly organized team sports. Women and girls have been allowed to play on formerly all-male teams and new teams for women have been created in sports that were previously male dominant (Appenzeller, 2011).

Title IX has been successful in many areas of women’s rights, especially in terms of sports participation. While there have been great advancements in women’s sports due to Title IX, problems have existed from its inception. With any new law that is passed, unforeseen details, omissions and errors are likely to exist. As women’s progress in sports evolved many smaller details have led to numerous litigation and court cases over a variety of related topics. Issues such as funding, facilities, equipment, administration, scholarships, training and coaching have seen the inside of many court rooms over the past thirty years. Many of these issues were simply due to the lack of women’s sports infrastructure prior to the implementation of Title IX. Many schools and institutions simply had never needed certain things because the women’s sports didn’t exist.

And there are the situations where the law, simply was not followed or complied with. Not everyone agreed with Title IX and many were very hesitant to comply with this new law. Many lawsuits corrected these situations one topic at a time. With each lawsuit, new precedence was set that contributed to the evolution of Title IX (Flanagan & Greenberg, 2012).

One of the big issues that arose after the implementation of Title IX was in regards to proportionality. Institutions and schools now had to ensure that athletic programs were proportional based upon the numbers of male and female students. This turned out to be a huge problem because the number of women in a school didn’t necessarily reflect the number of women interested in participating in the athletic programs. Schools were required to take actions based upon these numbers whether they were accurate or not. In many instances, new women’s teams were created to meet the number requirements at the cost of having to cut certain male teams and events. Some schools faced severe budget issues and potential litigation in the face of Title IX demands. Many of the men’s programs had to be cut from the budget in order to facilitate the women’s requirements. There were many more lawsuits that followed these types of actions (Sommers, 2014).

Another unintended consequence of the Title IX implementation concerned women’s health and safety. There have always been health and safety issues surrounding sports in general. Some say it goes with the territory. With the advent of numerous women’s scholarship opportunities, made readily available, the number of women who specialized in one sport, rose dramatically. With specialization in sports, the potential risk factors go way up and the likelihood of injury becomes great. This is true for both men and women. Now, with more women specializing in a sport, while seeking scholarship opportunities, injury rates climbed high. Overuse injuries are the most common, claiming over fifty percent of the reported sports injuries. Sports medicine doctors, surgeons, trainers and coaches have warned potential athletes for years, against specializing in one sport too early. But with scholarships on the line, young women choose to assume this risk in growing numbers, despite the warnings. Other health issues, that have become a growing problem for women in sports, include eating disorders, sexual abuse, ACL tears, concussions, and the female athlete triad syndrome (Flanagan & Greenberg, 2012).

Woman’s sport coaching and administration has been another area of contention. Even with the surge of women’s sports team and an increase in the number of coaching positions available, there has been a steady decline in the number of female coaches. Men dominate the coaching and administration roles in the majority of all sports teams. While the issue has been raised and is being looked into by various organizations, the numbers are still far from equitable (Sommers, 2014).

There are many topics and issues surrounding Title IX. There have been numerous lawsuits and litigation surrounding the complexities of this law. As a result, most institutions and universities now implement training programs, specifically targeted at Title IX compliance, awareness and implementation. These programs are mandatory in many places, for supervisors, employees, teachers, coaches, students and athletes. This increased education and awareness will hopefully curb the unintended negative consequences of a great law, which has done so much for women’s rights and equality.

While Title IX turned out to be far from perfect, the positive aspects and results have outweighed any of the negative problems that have arose. With increased education, oversight and awareness, Title IX should be able to evolve, and continue to ensure that women’s rights and equality remain protected, into the foreseeable future (Appenzeller, 2011).


Appenzeller, H. (2011). Ethical behavior in sport. Durham, N.C.: Carolina Academic Press.

Sommers, C. (2014). Title lX: How a Good Law Went Terribly Wrong. Time. Retrieved from

Office for Civil Rights (OCR). (2015). Title IX and Sex Discrimination. U.S. Department of Education. Retrieved from
Flanagan, L., & Greenberg, S. (2012). How Title IX Hurts Female Athletes. The Atlantic. Retrieved from

Eric Dempsey
MS, ISSA Master Trainer
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