BOSTON (CBS) – At the ASA Hoops Basketball Camp in Dedham, kids say sports are for everyone. Ben Ordonez says, “It’s fun and I’m happy on the court, everybody should be allowed to play.”
They’re surprised to learn it wasn’t always this way. Mayayla Paquette says, “Now a days everyone can play and it doesn’t matter what gender you are and it’s kind of weird that back then that was happening.” Aidan Kelly adds, “It must have been hard for girls to watch and struggle and say we should play too instead of just boys playing.”
Nancy Lyons, the Associate Director of Athletics at Boston University, remembers when she was young. “Growing up in a local hometown, we had one recreational activity that was available for girls, that was baton twirling,” She says. “When I was in high school, we had three varsity sports for girls that you could participate in. We played half the number of games; we wore the same uniform for two sports and bought our uniform for the third sport. We didn’t have full time coaches.”
Lyons remembers what happened after Congress passed the federal law 40 years ago to give women equal rights in educational programs, known as Title IX. She says, “It was an incredible explosion in opportunity in athletics for women and girls.”
One of the Title IX Pioneers at the time was Chris Ernst.
She was a rower at Yale University in 1976. The men’s crew team was treated much differently from the women’s team. “There were no facilities for showers or even toilets for women, and we had to wait until after the men took showers. After our exercise in cold weather was pretty miserable. It was pretty clear that wasn’t fair.”
Ernst and her teammates knew their rights under Title IX, and decided to make their voices heard. “We came up with the idea of saying we’re women on this campus we’re here and you have to deal with us.” She explains, “We wrote Title IX on our backs and chests in Yale blue magic marker.” They invited a reporter and a photographer from the New York Times.
“His story appeared in the New York Times the next day,” she says. “The cat was out of the bag at that point.”
Yale alumni began calling the university asking. “Poof. Poof. There was the boat house, renovated.”
50 Eggs Films created a documentary about Ernst, called A Hero For Daisy.
Ernst is also being honored next week by the Sports Museum at the TD Garden at their annual fundraiser called Traditions. It raises money for kids’ sports programs.
Ernst says it’s important to remember Title IX isn’t just about athletics, but about all educational opportunities. When she thinks about the 40th anniversary, she says, “I hope that we don’t care about it in another 10 years. I hope no one thinks about it because it’s all settled and there are no complaints. When we told her about the kids at ASA Hoops, their feelings of empowerment, and their surprise learning about the inequality in the past for girls, she says, “When I hear that I think everything’s right with the world. That’s all we wanted. And it’s happened when we’re alive. How great is that?“