Since its creation in 1972, Title IX has made a lot of progress for gender equality in high school athletics. Girls are receiving more opportunities to play sports, and funding for girls’ and boys’ programs has begun to balance out.
Perhaps the most notable change Title IX has created is making others, coaches, athletic directors and administration, aware of the need for equality.
Thomas Legath, Exeter Township School District’s athletic director, thinks that the secret to being successful as far as Title IX is concerned is to view all of the teams simply as sports teams, without focusing on the difference between boys’ and girls’ teams.
“I treat every coach how they should be treated, and they don’t feel that they’re not getting something someone else is,” Legath said.
While those in charge focus on the big changes and see how far they have come, the student athletes are looking at the little things, and see how far they still have to go.
Jessica Stout, a senior at Exeter Township Senior High School, played varsity softball for three years and is currently a member of the track team. Her participation in the two sports has given her a unique perspective on these equality issues, and she notices the things that seem minor, but mean a lot to the students.
“Some of the products that we have for softball weren’t quite the same as baseball. Not a huge issue, but I would say, it would be nice. Just a little bit more equal,” Stout said, looking at the differences between baseball and softball.
Legath tries to stay ahead of Title IX by balancing out as much as he can from his end.
“I try to make sure the things I can control, which are the spending of the money for the teams, are consistent for our girls’ and boys’ teams,” Legath said.
Legath also makes sure that every team has an equal number of home and away games, and an equal amount of opportunities to play on the shared playing surfaces, such as the stadium and basketball courts.
For the students, it isn’t really a game of numbers.
“The boys definitely have the scoreboard functioning pretty nice, the girls don’t,” Stout said, providing a clear example.
The scoreboards in question are drastically different, with the baseball field boasting a fully functioning electronic scoreboard. The softball field hosts a wooden frame, which used to have a simple scoreboard that has since been removed.
As Stout pointed out, it’s the small things that matter.
The baseball field has a permanent outfield fence and wall, while the softball team has a temporary snow fence erected each season. A permanent fence on the softball field would prevent the outfields of the back-to-back
softball fields from becoming a Jr. High football and field hockey field during the fall season.
The majority of high schools in Berks County have nicely constructed dugouts on their baseball fields, while the softball fields have only benches for the teams.
“It’s pretty equal with track,” Stout said, “because we’re all together. We use the same blocks, we use the same javelins and stuff like that. There’s not much that could be different.”
The field sports all use the same field, same stands, same benches and same scoreboard. Those sports that are forced to use different playing surfaces and equipment are the ones
that suffer, and because there are few sports in this situation, at Exeter baseball and softball are the only sports that cannot share a playing field, the differences tend to be overlooked.
Some differences can’t be helped, such as the fact that the school was built with the baseball field front and center while the softball fields are tucked away behind the Jr. high. Even Stout said that while it would be nice to be closer to the action, it’s not really an issue. While she admitted that the softball team loses some fans due to their lack of proximity to the high school, that isn’t really what matters the most to the team.
“I would like to see the equipment, stuff like that, especially along baseball, softball, more of stuff along those lines, balanced out a little,” Stout said.
Title IX has helped schools make a lot of progress in terms of gender equality, but, when the little things are considered, there is still a long way to go.