What We Can Do For the Next Generation

This post is long overdue, but I’m just now getting to putting my thoughts down, so better late than never!

On Saturday, April 14, I sat on the keynote panel for the 2018 Lehigh Valley Association Association of Independent Colleges’ (LVAIC) Women’s and Gender Studies Conference.  The keynote topic was Title IX.  Now, let’s be real.  My life is VERY, VERY different if not for Title IX.  Not sure if you’ve noticed based on the other content on the site, but sport is my hobby .  It also happens to be central to my career.  It’s one of those omnipresent forces in my life.  However, in prepping for this session (where I focused on the participative aspects of the law), I found myself questioning if I was doing enough so the next generation of women athletes have an even better experience with sport than I have.

In short, I got to thinking, what do I do well in regards to supporting the spirit and letter of Title IX:

  1. Take every opportunity to grill my students on the three prongs.
  2. Rant about how no colleges are really in compliance with Title IX
  3. Rant about blatant Title IX violations (I rant so very well)
  4. Remind my students that one of the extraordinary scholars under which I’ve studied, Dr. Sarah Fields, would preach the value of the Equal Protection Clause of the 14th Amendment
  5. Highlight women and girls athletic achievements through my various communication platforms

The takeaway from this – I talk really well and there isn’t enough action.  So what can I do to show the next generation the support our foremothers showed us?  I started by identifying the challenges facing this generation of girls in sport.  And when I say I “identified,” I mean I searched the Women’s Sports Foundation and the Tucker Center for Research on Girls & Women in Sport  because there are smarter people than me looking into this stuff.  Several of the issues shouldn’t surprise anyone. Gender stereotypes, role modeling, and financial constraints remain among the many issues.  The continued underrepresentation of women in administrative leadership and coaching positions also contributes to these issues. This is not a comprehensive list, but it was enough to bring me back to my central question – what can I do?

I slept on this for a few nights and realized there were a few things I could easily do or were already doing.

  1.  I somehow lost sight of the fact that I stand in front of 30ish men every day who will comprise the next generation of sport managers.  Helping them understand  and embrace the values of diverse sport and become advocates is vital.  I also need to ensure the rest of my students know to both fight for themselves and not shut out their advocates.  Real change takes a lot of people – accept help.
  2. Be a role model myself. I see this as being comfortable in my own skin and celebrating others who do so.
  3. Give more time to events for girls in sport.  I worked my first Girls on the Run event last December and won’t forget the look on the little girls’ faces when they saw my marathon medals. It wasn’t about the bling, it was that I, who looks like a normal, mom-aged woman to them, could still EARN them.
  4. Make consistent contributions to organizations furthering the efforts.  My bank balance isn’t mind blowing, but I can afford a few bucks for those causes that matter.  Picking a few causes and making annual contributions can go a long way, as opposed to inconsistent giving to many organizations (I know how hard this is in the current climate…).  My advice is to do your research into those organizations that matter to you and then pick a few to send your money.

I really appreciated the reflection that came from the invitation to participate in this panel.  I also feel like I need to add that the primary focus of the panel was the role of Title IX in sexual harassment, sexual assault, and the corresponding prevention and education efforts.  My esteemed colleagues did an excellent job addressing these topics and while I addressed the intersection with sport, I was careful to listen.  These are not my areas of expertise, but it’s vital to learn in order to be part of the solution.  In fact, I’m very much looking forward to hearing the latest research in this area at the North American Society for Sport Management Annual Conference in a few short weeks.  We have to keep learning and growing to keep enacting positive change!

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