Featured Article: “How Women Sports Teams Got Their Start” by Maria Cramer
In 1972, Congress passed Title IX, the landmark gender equality legislation that affected girls’ and women’s sports, college admissions, academic majors, vocational programs, teaching and coaching positions and even the handling of sexual assaults on campus.
In this lesson, you will learn about the history of women’s sports and Title IX’s role in addressing the issue of sex-based discrimination in sports. Then, you will take part in a Big Paper silent conversation with your classmates to discuss gender-based integration — or separation — in sports.
Part 1: Journal Reflection
Do you play sports at school or in your community? How often do you think about your gender identity when playing sports? Is your team integrated or separated based on gender? How important is gender separation or integration to you when you play? Why?
Part 2: Video
Have you heard of Title IX before? What do you know about this significant gender-equality law? To learn more, watch this 3-minute video from Sporting News about the history of Title IX.
How did Title IX come to be? What led to the enactment of the bill?
What is the purpose of Title IX? What, and who, does it protect?
What is the focus of Title IX today?
Questions for Writing and Discussion
Read the article, then answer the following questions:
1. Why was Sybil Bauer’s backstroke performance at Northwestern University in 1922 a pivotal moment in challenging beliefs about women’s athletic abilities?
2. How do the numbers of girls and women in sports today compare to those in 1972, when Title IX was first passed?
3. What did the beginnings of women’s sports teams look like? How were rules changed? What do you think of those modifications?
4. What is the perspective of Sheree Bekker, a lecturer on health and sports medicine, on the origin of women’s sports teams? How do the examples of Madge Syers, Jackie Mitchell or Zhang Shang support her thesis? Do you agree with her point of view? Why or why not?
5. Why does Chad Carlson, an associate professor of kinesiology, believe that administrators of colleges and teams should explore integrating sports teams? According to Susan K. Cahn, a historian and the author of a book on gender and sexuality in women’s sports, why would integrating sports create a conundrum? Which perspective do you agree with? Why?
In your journal, write about your response to the article. What did you learn? What surprised you or moved you? How does the article apply to you and your life?
Then, read this quote from the article and write your responses to the questions below in your journal:
Since Title IX was passed, women have been competitive with men at the elite level in fields like rock climbing, surfing and endurance sports, like ultra running and biking.
Their achievements have led some to ask, Should we start integrating more professional sports?
What is your response to the question above? Do you think high school or college sports should be integrated? What about professional or pre-professional sports teams?
Now, as a class, engage in a Big Paper silent conversation either in person or virtually. In groups, react to the question above, or to a quote from the featured article, on a large piece of paper. You have to use writing — not spoken words — to communicate and respond to the quote. Take time to think about your responses, but also give yourself space to be challenged by what others have to say. You can directly respond in writing to what someone else writes on your Big Paper, or draw arrows or symbols to react to other comments.
After five minutes, you will go to another group’s Big Paper, and read over their silent conversation. Your group will have a chance to silently react and write responses to it.
Finally, you will come back as a class and have a verbal discussion about what you noticed in the Big Paper conversations. You can share what comments surprised you or offered you a different perspective, and you can share any trends or similarities you might have noticed in other perspectives or beliefs.
Additional Teaching and Learning Opportunities
Learn more about a past or present-day woman in sports. The article mentions women in the past who paved the way, as well as some contemporary women dominating sports like surfing, ultra running and biking. Choose one of these women to learn more about by conducting research online or in your library. Find out about how this person got started, their achievements and any challenges they faced. You can share your findings with your classmates by creating a one-pager.
Interview a female athlete in your community. Who are the star female athletes at your school or on a local team? What would you like to know about their experiences as a girl or woman in sports? Conduct some background research about this person by looking at their social media and reading local newspaper articles. Then, write at least five questions you would like to ask them.
If you would like to share your interview in writing, use this guide from our Profile Contest to get tips on preparing and conducting your interview. Or if you’d prefer to create a podcast, you can jump into this interview guide that gives tips from “The Daily” podcast. If you make a podcast no longer than five minutes, you can submit it to our Student Podcast Contest by May 18 — be sure to carefully read the instructions!
Learn about trans and nonbinary athletes. Title IX protects trans and nonbinary athletes as well. To learn about some of their experiences and perspectives, read the article “Nonbinary Runners Have Been Here the Whole Time,” then watch the Opinion Documentary “I’m a Trans Runner Struggling to Compete Fairly.” What perspectives and experiences did you learn about from the reading and the video? Put these takeaways in conversation with the featured article; How do these new perspectives relate to the topics discussed in the article you read above?
Want more Lessons of the Day? You can find them all here.