What Every Girl Should Know

Today, when girls play sports in high school, chances are that 99 out of 100 of them don't give a thought about what high school girls' sports were like in the past.  Even just a generation or two ago, the landscape of athletics for girls and women was very different from what it is today.  In 1972, Congress enacted a piece of legislation now referred to as Title IX.  The basic gist of the law was to ensure that educational institutions that received federal dollars would not discriminate between male and female teams when allocating resources within a sports program.  Up until that time, most team sports were thought of as male activities only.  Female participation was seen in many quarters as laughable.  And the level that they played most team sports was seen as being far inferior to their male counterparts.  Societal norms and mores pressured girls not to become involved in sports.  "Tomboys" were often ostracized.


Title IX changed everything.  But these changes took a long while to really take effect.  Eventually, though, we got to where we are today.  A much improved situation, although not a perfect one.  Boys' & men's sports still define a high school or college's athletic presence, so there is still a ways to go.  Let me give you an example:  If you hear someone say, "Hey, I got tickets for the next UD basketball game!", most of us just assume that the lucky person has tickets for the men's team.  And attendance when comparing boys'/girls' or men's/women's teams is, even today, largely skewed in favor of the male teams.  But there has been progress, and things aren't as bad as they were just 15 or 20 years ago.


Girls/Women's Basketball, in particular, has undergone many sweeping changes since Title IX was enacted.  Prior to the early 70s, girls teams played with bizarre rules and in uniforms that did nothing to promote gender equality.  A couple of players could only play in one half of the court.  Another couple could only play in the remaining half of the court.  One (possibly two) girls were "rovers" and were allowed in either half of the court.  It was ridiculous!  And this went on into the 1970s!!


In the photo to the left, taken from the 1973 Padua yearbook, we see the insanity of the uniforms.  Padua players were in skirts.  Their opponents were in shorts with a baseball-style top!  Both teams' uniforms having sleeves.






















In the photo to the right, you're looking at the 1975/1976 Padua JV team.  (The varsity team had converted over to shorts by that time, but the JV was still in the skirts.)  Things weren't ALL bad.  Number 12 is wearing ultra-cool high-top Cons and the striped tube socks demonstrate clearly that these girls meant business.



















Above, game action during the '70/'71 season.  Padua at St. E's.  Yup -- The Box!


A '75/'76 season game at Padua.  In this pic, Padua is actually in the shorts while their opponents are in the outdated skirts.


Girls, please be aware of things that your female athletic ancestors had to go through so that you could have things relatively easy today.  How many of you would be willing to play basketball with crazy rules and uniforms?  My guess is not very many.  If your own mother or grandmother played back in those days, give her a big hug and a sincere "thank you" for helping to blaze the trail so that you could have it better.


Jim Charles


All photos courtesy Padua Academy