In the last twenty years, there has been a drastic increase in the number of women in organized sports. This is not only true in the high school but also the college and Olympic level. The 1998 victory of the American women at the World Cup, stands as one of the most important and dramatic international victories in all of American sports. Due to the passage of Title IX, in which a comprobable amount of money must be spent on women’s sports programs as men’s women are now given much more of an opportunity to compete and rise within their respective areas of interest.
(Peters, 1998 p. 34) This also gives women a greater sense of self esteem that comes from team sports. Even though Title IX has given women a much greater ability to play organized sports in the college level, it does come with a bit of controversy. Fifty years ago, women mainly went to college to find a husband and organized sports, when offered to women, many were dissuaded since it was seen as behavior not becoming of a lady. Now women are encouraged to go to college, finish their degree and to compete in any sport that they feel they would be able to excel or enjoy.
The situation today is a vast improvement for women as compared to the situation that their mothers and grandmothers had to face, if they were encouraged to go to college at all. However, Title IX does place an adverse affect upon other sports. Many colleges have been forced to cut their athletic programs and scholarships all together in order to be able to comply with Title IX. (Peters, 2003 p. 165) And for the major universities, the football program brings in millions of dollars for the schools.
And since a college football team fields over eighty athletes, there is little room for other traditionally male dominated sports to receive funding from the university, since an equal number of money must go to both female and male sports programs. As a result, a male dominated sport, which brings in more money for the school and is more popular, is therefore made a club sport and loses all funding in order that the same sport is given funding to their female counterparts.
This has forced the cause of equal treatment as well as acceptance among the sexes to be slowed as male athletes find their scholarships have been taken away and some times, their entire wrestling or swimming program has been cut in order to make way for a Women’s volleyball sport, regardless of its popularity or how much money it brings into the university. Therefore, there is both good and bad that comes with Title IX.
However, for women, Title IX and all other future legislation that is designed to strengthen the equality of the sexes, helps to improve the all around health and well being of women. In many of the same ways sports benefits men, it has the same effect upon men. Women are encouraged to stay healthy, learn to interact within a group, and enjoy the friendship and bonding that can sometimes only come from organized sports. Both sexes are able to benefit from partaking in organized sports in this way.
Sports can instill a strong work ethic in a woman to the same degree that it does for a man, gives the woman a sense of purpose and self respect which can only serve to benefit herself when she enters the real world and is faced with making decisions that will have a direct effect upon her future and that of her children and family. Women in the professional level of sports, though their games are not televised and only bring a small fraction of the revenue that male dominated sports can being, still serve as a important role models for many young women in America today.
“It is to the benefit of a teenage girl to admire and emulate Mia Hamm or Sheryl Swoops, real women with real bodies and who strive to take care of them in healthy ways, instead of the mindless movie star, void of any morals as she leaves one marriage in order to enter another and who is known to smoke, do drugs and starve herself in order to get that next major role in Hollywood. ” (Szymanski, 2001 p. 23)
It is to the benefit of the individual, her family, her friends and society as a whole that a large majority of professional female athletes, to a much larger degree than male athletes, serve to be positive role models for the high school girls who seem to follow their every move. It would be much more reassuring to me if my future daughter strived to gain a level of excellence through hard work and commitment because she saw the same attributes in her favorite WNBA star than the mindless partying and drinking that women like Paris Hilton and Britney Spears offers to their fans.
In this way, women can play an important role in sports for girls and young women, looking to find an identity for them and less likely to find them being motivated by football and baseball athletes in the same way that a man would might find himself being compelled to do. The role that women play in sports has a direct effect upon the morals that they have and try to instill in the girls who watch their every move.
Young people, regardless of their gender, can be very impressionable and it is crucial that during these years, what is being allowed into the hearts and minds of this country’s children, does not serve as an impediment to their positive growth as they make the transition from children to adults. A professional female athlete or even a volleyball or softball coach has too much of the same degree, the ability to be a positive role model for her girls as a football coach has to his athletes.
In this way, the ethical principles that the coach chooses to ignore when coaching her athletes, has a direct and adverse effect upon these young girls. To even a larger extent than with male’s sports, it is likely that the women who grow up playing organized sports, will never reach the professional level and therefore must be ready for the real world once they finish high school or college. “Proper guidance that too many women, can come only from organized sports, is essential in the proper upbringing that these women need. ” ( Cleary, 1998 p. 156) Habits, whether good or bad, are hard to break.
And it is unlikely that a woman will completely turn her back on the ideals of fair play, mutual respect for others, being able to work well in a group, a high level of self esteem and a personal demand for excellence, when she becomes an adult and her playing days are only a memory in her mind. In this way, women in sports, especially with the growth of female soccer and basketball, has a growing responsibility to exemplify positive qualities in order to prove themselves worthy of the adoration that they receive from the impressionable young girls in this country.
The ethical principles that these athletes have and thee importance of their ability to make smart decisions, both on and off the field, extend far beyond the field of play as well as beyond that particular moment in time.
Cleary, E. 1998 The Importance of Proper Decision Making in Athletic Competition. Century Press. Lombardi, V. (1970) The Second Effort. New York: CBS Productions Peters, J. (2003) Title IX Chicago: University of Chicago Press Sayers, G. (1997) I Am Third. New York: Penguin Press. Szymanski, M. (2001) Women in Sports. Champaign: University of Illinois Press.