December 9, 2011
“Is that a girl?” I heard that question just about every Saturday morning during this football season. Yes, those braids sticking out from Number 21’s helmet belonged to my fourth grade daughter. I wasn’t ever really surprised by comments or reactions from spectators on other third and fourth grade boys’ teams. Maybe because I know she is actually a really good football player simply following her passion.
Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972 enacted on June 23, 1972, amended Title IX of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. The goal: to provide equal opportunity for both genders.
The law states, in relevant part: “No person in the United States shall, on the basis of sex, be excluded from participation in, be denied the benefits of, or be subjected to discrimination under any education program or activity receiving Federal financial assistance…” 20 U.S.C.A. § 1681 (West).
As stated succinctly by the National Collegiate Athletic Association, Title IX benefits everyone. It was written to ensure the under-represented gender – male or female – has equal access and opportunity.
Title IX is probably most often associated with women and sports, which is only one key area addressed by the law. With that, Title IX has begun to pave the way for many young girls to follow their dreams, especially in sports.
There are a plethora of debates, litigation, and articles on Title IX, but I want to focus instead on how each of us should follow our heart’s desires in life…regardless of gender, regardless of interest, regardless of what other people think.
I remember studying Pierre De Coubertin, considered to be the founder of modern Olympics, during a college history class. Although I took the course many years ago, Coubertin’s words of wisdom still resonate with me:
The important thing in life is not to triumph but to compete; … not victory but combat; …not conquering but fighting well; …not winning but taking part.
I recognize that my daughter isn’t the first to have played on a boys’ team, nor will she be the last. I would like to think that someday her presence on the gridiron – or a boy’s presence at the ballet barre – won’t cause heads to turn and jaws to drop. As Coubertin expressed, the most important thing is taking part.
As a child, I was always encouraged to follow my dreams and my passions. Although I am not an Olympic swimmer, a first chair violinist with the Boston Symphony Orchestra, or the next Ernest Hemingway, I developed life-long skills and interests. I still accept any swimming challenge, still play the fiddle when asked, and still jot down my thoughts. I took part then, and I still do now.
So, although my daughter may never play on her favorite National Football League team, the Chicago Bears, I won’t let her dreams and her passions fade. No matter what she ends up doing in life, I will always encourage her to be herself and to follow her dreams.
Many of our small law firm customers have already shared their passions with us in our Small Law Lifestyles profiles.
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