Thankful for IX

And by “IX,” I mean Title IX.

Now. I am a student athlete at NCAA Division II school–I’m not getting endorsements or working on my craft for eight hours out of my day (I only do about 3 or 4 hours a day on a long day; weights, run, play, repeat). We don’t have sellout crowds at any of our sporting events, let alone volleyball. In fact, people don’t even have to pay to get into our games. We just want people there.

We put in the work. We are pretty impressive athletes–not incredible or anything, but we work hard and have dedicated our college years to become our best selves in the sport that we love. We win some, we lose some. But we, as female student athletes, have received the opportunity to be able to compete for championships in the sport that we fell in love with as little girls. It’s incredible to me that I get this opportunity–an opportunity that my grandma didn’t even have the chance to take. Even my mom had very limited opportunities when it came to college athletics.

Title IX has done wonders for women and the equality we seek in sports. I just think society still has a way to go.

In my Sociology of Sport class this morning, we began to talk about gender in sports. We watched an ESPN film entitled Branded–a little film exploring how female professional athletes are viewed in society. Here’s what I learned: female soccer players make 25,000 dollars a year compared to janitor supervisors’ 45,000 dollars a year. You’re lucky to get an endorsement if you’re a professional female athlete; in order to get the big bucks you have to ooze a certain sex appeal. The WNBA has hardly any viewers compared to the NBA, yet the athletes are just as impressive. I also learned that Billy Jean King was awesome.

Even my team, a small Division II school that only instilled volleyball in the program about 10 years ago, has impacted some of the student body in a less than desirable way. There are always comments on Yik Yak about how so-and-so from the opposing team looked in her spandex, or how people are just there to get a good look at our admittedly tight required uniform.

Of course, not all of the community is like this. I get a ton of comments about how we actually played–those are the things I love about what I do. I’m a part of introducing volleyball to a community that hasn’t seen much of the sport. But those comments about appearances (especially about our spandex) still exist.

Women and men are beginning to be viewed more equally in society, but when it comes to women in sports, it couldn’t be more apparent that we are still not equal. Of course, I am so proud of my opportunity to get to become my best and get a little scholarship for what I do, but I just wanted to bring attention to the actual work female athletes put in. We have 6 AM workouts just like the guys do. We condition. I’ve participated in hours upon hours of practices and workouts since I’ve been a college athlete. We don’t just work out to get the perfect “beach body.” We work out to become stronger. Faster. Better than yesterday. I will always be an athlete in one form or fashion (I have goals to run half-marathons after I am done with volleyball), and I will always be proud of the fact that I move my body to become better, not necessarily better looking (though that is a plus).

Start giving credit where credit is due. I am so thankful for Title IX because of the opportunities it has bestowed on me and women in general, but I think it’s time that women are recognized in sports for the talents they bring to them. Not all athletes are going to be “pretty” enough to land an endorsement deal, but that doesn’t mean they aren’t incredible at what they do.

Thank you, Title IX, for giving women the chance to play the sports we love. Now it’s up to society to begin taking us more seriously.

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