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Bargell: Oval opportunities

by Cindy Bargell

Sometimes, maybe it really is better not to know. I don’t often think this is the case, but I have given the adage serious thought of late when considering how fortunate our girls have been to participate in activities here in Summit County.

It started with our youngest’s mild inquiries this fall about the possibility of playing football. When the questions graduated to badgering, I came up with several reasons why I couldn’t look into it. Just as quickly, she came up with even better answers. “You could get hurt,” I admonished. She responded by reminding me that I calmly watch her tumble across a 4-inch balance beam – where injury is not unheard of.

“It’ll be hard, I stated matter of factly.” So was swimming a mile she countered, but she’s done it, and been pleased as punch with the accomplishment. Then, she mercilessly tugged at the heart-strings, telling me she should be able to play because, after all, Grandpa (my pop) made his living coaching the sport. So, I did what any self-respecting mom would do. I had her dad call the coach. All the while our oldest was pursuing a parallel track – sans shoulder pads – on the middle school volleyball team. And, I got to thinking about how fortunate they are, and not just to have great coaches who daily teach the importance of discipline and hard work. More to the guts of the matter, the fact they have the opportunity to get in the game, so to speak.

Of course, it was not always so. In fact, about 40 years ago it took an Act of Congress to open these doors. The Amendment to the Civil Rights Act of 1964, known as Title IX, was passed into law on June 23, 1972, simply stating what most of us now think should be patently obvious: “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.” The Amendment applied to more than just sports activities, addressing discrimination in science and math educational opportunities that abounded at the time. I’m sure I never gave Title IX a thought when I entered law school in 1990, where half of the seats were occupied by women. In 1972 however, women earned only 7 percent of the law degrees awarded in the nation.

Now, I don’t really consider myself a women’s “libber,” if that term even still exists. It remains important in my view, however, to have a healthy appreciation for the brave souls who broke down the barriers most of our children have no clue once existed. A while back, when I told the girls that, when I was their age, it was pretty much universally accepted that a woman could not run the full distance of a marathon, they literally thought I was joking. Or, in the alternative, that my contemporaries are Fred and Wilma Flintstone.

Sure, there’s been plenty of controversy about how giving the girls the chance to play has wreaked havoc on boys’ sports. But you’d sure never know it by the reception our daughter received. From the coaches who have genuinely welcomed her to the team (especially the one who patiently worked with her equipment-challenged mom to properly fit a helmet) to the young man who casually greeted her with a high-five on the field yesterday, it’s been “no biggie” as the kids would say. And, when I asked one of the dads we know, who has a son on the team, what his thoughts were on our daughter joining in, he was enthusiastically supportive. I did however get “the look” from my husband (you know, that stare between spouses that readily communicates that stopping all flow of sound from my mouth would be the ideal course of action).

Later, he explained that the only way the kids would think there was an issue with a girl participating – in any activity or event – is if we acted like there was one. And so, I said a silent thank-you to all the people who have so believed in providing an opportunity to our children that they have gone to bat, and sometimes to the mat, for future generations. They sure hit a home run here in Summit County.

Cindy Bargell lives outside of Silverthorne with her husband and two daughters. She is a card-carrying PTSA member, real estate and natural resources lawyer and part-time gymnastics coach. She welcomes your comments at cindy@visanibargell.com.


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