Monday, July 13, 2009

When Girls Couldn't Play

Posted By on Mon, Jul 13, 2009 at 3:03 PM

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I went to a high school reunion back in Grand Rapids, Michigan, a few weeks ago and talked to a classmate who teaches high school and coaches tennis outside Detroit.

That weekend, her current school and our old school were competing 75 miles away for the girl’s state tennis championships. Which led us to a conversation about how things have changed in 40 years.

Our alma mater, East Grand Rapids High School, has won 112 state championships since it opened in 1925. And for roughly 50 years, half the student body couldn’t play. Otherwise that number would probably be in excess of 200.

Until the early 1970s, girls at our school had two options for organized high school sports: cheerleader or not. If you’re over the age of 30, ask your mother about her memories of high school sports. Or dig out her old yearbook. Don’t you wish you could have been in French Club, GAA, or Future Homemakers of America?

Today there are 14 options at EGRHS: basketball, bowling, crew, cross country, dance, field hockey, golf, lacrosse, soccer, swimming, tennis, track, volleyball, and water polo. And, of course, cheerleading.

Carol said she and her friends used to watch the boys tennis team. Talk about unfair. Not only did girls not have their own team, our team was mediocre at best. Given the opportunities their daughters would have, several girls probably could have made the team.

Carol married a guy who is also a teacher, tennis coach, and player. Both of them play in organized leagues. I married a woman who is a better tennis player than I am, even though she just missed reaping the benefits of Title IX, the great equalizer of college sports for men and women.

One reason so many children of baby boomers are sports crazed from the age of five or so is because their parents were relatively sports deprived. Or half of them, anyway.

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