Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Support of women's sports: "The right thing to do"


A cross-generational panel set the stage for a lively conversation on Tuesday night at the Pennsylvania State University's All-Sports Museum. Once you managed to find your way through the labyrinth of photos, videos and quotes from the school's past, you arrived to a full room to go back to another moment: The enactment of Title IX.

Martha Adams, former chair of the Penn State women's physical education committee, recalled the pre-Title IX days when women had, so called, "play days" to enhance their skill levels and, through sports, socialize with women from other institutions.

In the 1960s, a few years before Title IX was written into law, the women at Penn State began asking why they didn't have varsity programs. So the efforts began. Adams said that some of the policies that were in place at the time, "today are laughable." She was quick to credit the faculty and the administration for the support they have given to the women's sporting initiatives.

"We have come a long way of doing the right thing," Adams said. 

Representing another generation was Sue Scheetz, who moved up the ladder at Penn State from being an assistant lacrosse coach to head coach to, later Associate Athletic Director and Senior Woman Administrator.

Scheetz talked about her early involvement in sports and the efforts to push for opportunities for women in sports. "You can't get everything done at once, but you can get something done at once," Scheetz said.

She pointed out that one issue about the legislation is the myths. As a former lecturer in the Department of Kinesiology, Scheetz said she was "amazed at the number of students who didn't know what Title IX was or had misconceptions.

The third member of a panel  is a person whose mere presence at Penn State is historical. Coquese Washington became the first female African-American head coach in the school's history.

Washington said that she never would have thought she could have a career in athletics. Now, however, the young women she recruits tell her they want to be professional basketball players, or work in other sport-related fields, such as physical therapy or sports media.

The panelists agreed that the lack of women in leadership positions is still an issue in athletics.

"Young women don't see anybody who looks like them," Washington said.

She also added that women's basketball coaches are placing emphasis on creating a pool of good assistant coaches who could eventually advance in athletics.

Scheetz concurred with these initiatives.

"We need more women who are successful, who will serve as role models for young female athletes," Scheetz said.

But gender equity in sports might face some challenges in the near future. Scheetz is worried that the financial challenges will make non-revenue sports difficult to sustain. That said, the panelists are hoping for continued support of women's sports.

If for no other reason, but because it was, and still is, "the right thing to do."

-- Dunja Antunovic


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