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Sharon Meers's picture

Yesterday, I got an email from my high school track coach -- he asked if I’m still working on my 400 meter dash (let me tell you, it needed work.) I wasn’t a natural athlete. I was a bookish girl who liked ballet and chorus. For most of my childhood, no one seemed worried about my non-participation in sports -- I wasn’t a boy so, the message seemed to be, it didn’t matter so much. Thank heavens for track!

I’ve always been grateful that my broadminded coach took weak raw material and turned me into a passable runner. But, I had not fully considered all the positive knock-on effects. According to the New York Times, a new Wharton study says Title IX (which stimulated a six-fold jump in girls sports participation) can also be thanked for 40% of the rise in female employment. Looking at state-by-state data, the Wharton study says encouraging female athletics is associated with dramatic leaps in female achievement.

So when work is tough and I feel like throwing up my hands, maybe it’s the experience of prevailing over shin-splints and aching muscles and dehydration that helps me hang in there. Maybe part of leveling the playing field for women is realizing that competitive athletics are no more optional for girls than for boys. Some of us may not “like” sports (due to both nature and nurture - for people like me), but then how many kids “like” vegetables? All girls need the same push into the fray, into glory and the grit of physical competition, that boys get.

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