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In Honor of National Girls and Women in Sports Day

National Girls and Women in Sports Day (NGWSD) was Feb. 1. Established by Congress in 1987, the Women's Sports Foundation says the holiday was created in order to recognize women's sports and the progress made since the passing of Title IX in 1972. According to the U.S. Department of Education, Title IX prohibits discrimination based on sex in any education programs or activities that receive federal funding. One of the greatest impacts Title IX has made is in the advancement of girls' and women's sports in schools and colleges across the country.

Vicki Davis is synonymous with girls' sports at Hastings High School, and she was hired the same year that Title IX was passed. While in college, Davis said, she encountered the kind of discrimination that the legislation was aimed to prevent.

"When I was in college playing basketball, I got hit in the mouth and was bleeding," Davis said. "So I went to the training office and asked for some ice, but they wouldn't give it to me or help me because I wasn't a male athlete."

Davis said that the most important effect Title IX had was getting everyone's attention.

"The number one thing that Title IX did was that it made people listen," Davis explained. "They had to listen to us, Title IX gave us a voice. Now people had to sit down and listen to the coaches, listen to the girls about what they wanted. I tried to educate them and show them that the girls deserved it, and the girls showed them that they deserved it."

When Davis arrived in Hastings in 1972, she said there were only two or three sports for girls available, but the administration was looking to change that. She was hired to coach tennis and track, and swimming might have been around then as well. Besides those newly created sports, she said the only athletic opportunities girls had were cheerleading and GAA (Girls Athletics Association), where girls were allowed to use the gym once a week during the evening. Not long after she started, volleyball and basketball were also added due to overwhelming interest.

"We had 70 to 80 girls out for volleyball once we had it for all three levels," Davis said. "There was plenty of interest — they were biting at the bit to play."

Davis was awarded the Special Merit Award by the Minnesota chapter of National Girls and Women in Sports Day organization in 2002 for all that she has done for girls' athletics in the state of Minnesota. When she was principal, she said that every year she would also take the captains of the girls' sports to the event each February so they could see the history involved in women's sports in Minnesota.

How far has Hastings High School come in terms of girls' athletics? Not long after Davis started, there were six athletic opportunities for girls: cheerleading, swimming, tennis, track and field, basketball and volleyball. In comparison, during the 2015-2016 school year, girls could compete in 17 different sports, the same as the boys. In fact, for a long period of time from 2000-2013, there were slightly more sports offered to girls than to boys.

Participation is also very close between boys and girls. Over the last 17 years (from the turn of the century), girls at HHS have made up 41-46 percent of the students who participated in athletics. What potentially skews this number is the lack of an equivalent to football for girls, as football regularly has well over 100 participants per year — double what the most popular girls' sport receives.

Today, Title IX regulations require schools to provide equitable opportunities for both boys and girls. When it comes to participation, schools are expected to maintain similar participation rates for girls as they do for boys. For example: if a school's student population is 51 percent boys, then about 49 percent of athletes should be girls.

Current athletic director Trent Hanson said that he believes Hastings has done a very good job abiding by Title IX, but that it is an ongoing effort to keep improving and provide opportunities for his students. However, in general, Hanson said that the challenges facing HHS athletics, for both boys and girls, lie in "appropriate entry and participation."

"Youth sports is as intense and expensive as it has ever been, though there are lots of opportunities," Hanson said. "We're seeing more and more burnout and exhaustion in younger kids who are exiting sports before reaching the varsity level. I'm really concerned about the younger kids. They are being forced or encouraged to specialize in just one or a few sports at a younger and younger age. The question is, how can we welcome and encourage kids in an appropriate way into our athletics so they stay out into high school and up to the varsity level? And how can we educate the community about the benefits of school athletics as opposed to club athletics or outside organizations?"

Alec Hamilton

Alec Hamilton is a sports reporter and general assignment reporter at the Hastings Star Gazette. He is a journalism graduate of Drake University.

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