A Personal View: How Title IX Has Changed Women’s Athletics
by Loretta Boden Rodgers ’79
When asked to reflect upon how the passage of Title IX has changed athletics, I began to think of how fortunate today’s young female athletes are and how most probably have no comprehension of the way things used to be.
Years ago, a full scholarship for female tennis players or athletes in general was literally unheard of, and certainly not awarded to the same extent as that of a male athlete.
I arrived at Trinity College in the fall of 1975 armed with an old, heavy, wooden Slazenger tennis racquet, above average athletic ability and a tremendous desire to excel. Prior to my college experience I had taken no private tennis lessons and had limited tournament experience. It was Trinity physical education teacher and tennis coach Judy Newton who recognized my ability and desire, and literally taught me the correct way to play. We often had discussions in reference to the inequity of sports and how we wished things would change. We realized that equalizing legislation had been adopted, but it was far too early to predict what was yet to come.
Thirty years ago there were limited opportunities for female athletes, but with the passage of Title IX in 1972, much has changed, and I am proud and delighted to say the subsequent results of that important legislation has affected my own household in a positive manner.
My 16-year-old daughter Lisa, who is a sophomore at Sun Valley High School in Aston, Pa. and a sectionally ranked tennis player, has personally reaped the benefits of Title IX and I remind her frequently of the sacrifices made by female athletes such as Billie Jean King, Rosie Casals and the thousands who preceded her.
My daughter’s ability was recognized at the age of 10 and she was offered the opportunity to train in a local tennis academy on partial scholarship. Her involvement in tournaments was a natural progression as was extensive travel and the opportunity to experience new people and surroundings.
Although Lisa is only in the 10th grade, she has already been recruited by more than a dozen colleges and universities, and has been given extensive newspaper coverage as well as been featured in a local magazine article in reference to top area female athletes. The best part is that Lisa’s story is not rare. The scholarships, advanced training programs and attention that had always been offered to young men who excelled in sports are now being offered to young women. And that is the way it should be – and always should have been. It is frustrating to think about the countless generations of excellent female athletes who were virtually ignored and not given the opportunity to attend college or become professionals in their areas of expertise.
Several years ago, because of my daughter’s tennis ranking, my family was given the opportunity to have lunch with Billie Jean King, and after many years I could finally personally express my gratitude to her for all she had done to ensure my children’s future.
During lunch we began to discuss Title IX and the positive effect its passage has had on female athletics. My oldest daughter Laura, who was 15 at the time, fully understood the magnitude of the legislation. But to my dismay, 12-year-old Lisa, who most benefited from the passage of Title IX, seemed more interested in other things. It was then when Billie Jean turned to her and asked, “Lisa, what can I say that will impress you?” Lisa responded in typical 12-year-old fashion, “Oh Mrs. King, I am impressed already! Do you know that my mom had a poster of you on her wall when she was a student at Trinity College?”
Billie Jean laughed, still conscious of the fact that my daughter did not yet comprehend the importance of what had been accomplished. With that in mind, Billie Jean said, “Well, Lisa, what if I told you I won 71 singles titles, among them 20 Wimbledon championships?”
I had never seen Lisa’s head turn so quickly. “AWESOME,” she said. Now that she had Lisa’s undivided attention, Billie Jean proceeded to explain how little financial compensation she had received for all of her titles and said two major wins by a female tennis player today would equal what she earned winning 20 Wimbledon grand slam championships.
“And, that, Lisa, is what Title IX has done for you.” My daughter turned to one of the most decorated tennis players of all time and said simply, but with more conviction then I believe I have ever seen her have, “Thank You, from all of us!”
Loretta Boden Rodgers graduated from Trinity College in 1979 with a B.A. in history. She played No. 1 singles for the Trinity tennis team for three years and was captain of the team her senior year. Currently, she resides in Aston, Pa. and is a writer with the Delaware County Daily Times newspaper and correspondent/photographer with the Press Newspapers of Delaware County. She is married to Larry Rodgers and has two daughters, Laura (19), a sophomore nursing student at Neumann College, and Lisa (16), a sophomore at Sun Valley High School.