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I Went To School In The Dark Ages – Pre-Title IX – Celia Cole

Gazelle Girls, Celia Cole

I watched men play baseball, football and golf. I watched boys wrestle, dive, swim, run and play soccer. We girls had the Girls’ Athletic Association. It met once a week and some 200 girls tried to participate in a single game of baseball, or take turns on the tumbling mats or the trampoline, or play one game of basketball or volleyball. Seriously? Yep, seriously. We played baseball on the asphalt parking lot because the boys had the grass field.

When the WNBA played their first televised game, I literally cried. I cried real tears of joy – and of regret – for all the opportunities lost on girls gone by. When the women’s World Cup Soccer games came to Chicagoland – I was front and center for every game.

When my daughter wanted to play soccer, we recruited enough players for a local team. We tried but failed to find a licensed coach so I surrendered and decided to do it. Was I a great coach? Absolutely not! But all those girls – every single one – made the varsity team her first year in high school, and every single one graduated high school. No drop-outs, no drugs and no pregnancies.  Tell me that doesn’t matter. (Don’t you dare try, because we’ll have to fight.  :-)   ) Several of those girls went to state semi-finals their freshman and junior years. Only a couple played in college, but everybody is still active. Some run, some play hockey and most still play soccer. Teams for talented women exist, and scholarships exist that drive young women to opportunities that did not exist in my era.

I have three granddaughters now. One plays soccer, one loves cheer and one loves dance. We have choices now! The interests can be fed! My family might not have the talent for the scholarship money. But, those scholarships and teams bring all of us opportunities to broaden our horizons and increase our ability to participate in life-long, healthy and fun activities. They teach us skills to participate successfully in business groups and teams in our chosen careers.

Now it is easier for women to stay healthy and strong on a daily basis doing things that excite us and keep us enthusiastically participating. I will run my first half marathon in March, but it will be a “training” run to get me ready for what I consider my first “real” one – the Gazelle Girl Half Marathon. I get all weepy and teary-eyed thinking what this means. Us women of the 1960′s fought very hard for the equality that Title IX brought to the playing field. We sacrificed relationships where the significant other simply could not understand what drove us. We looked foolish and militant to the world as we insisted on our “rights” to equity. I am often the only woman in my age group in runs that are of medium size, because women of my era simply did not have these opportunities and didn’t take care of themselves. Now that the opportunities are easily available, their bodies are not ready for that challenge. I am s-l-oooo-wwww. (Seriously slow.)  But, the thrill of attempting to get better, run farther, run faster is there, and so is the opportunity to run.

I wish I could genuinely share all that Title IX has meant to me as I watched my daughter — and my sons (because they grew up knowing they were not any better than their female counterparts) — be impacted in ways I could only dream of as I grew up.

So, if you see a nearly 65-year-old woman run/walking the Gazelle Girl Half Marathon in – hopefully something around three hours – with tears streaming down her face because she followed some beautiful, talented, young women somewhere way in front of her, that will be ME!

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