Tuesday, October 13, 2015

Bat (H)er Up: Women Making History in Sports

Senator Bayh exercises with Title IX
athletes at Purdue University, ca. 1970s.
Photo in p
ublic domain, via Wikimedia Commons
It's been 43 years since Senator Birch Bayh of Indiana introduced the legislation, now commonly called Title IX, that gave girls a chance to compete in athletics. The law made sure that schools gave equal opportunity to play sports by offering separate teams and fair funding opportunities. Suddenly, girls weren't just cheering from the sidelines; they were playing volleyball and softball, swimming and running cross country.

But what about girls who don't want to play the sports usually reserved for girls? Unfortunately, girls are still facing a lot of resistance in their efforts to break into sports that are traditionally in the domain of men.

The Sweet Spot, Stacy Barnett Mozer, is a great book for athletic middle school and upper elementary girls. Thirteen-year-old Sam Barrette’s baseball coach tells her that her attitude's holding her back, but how can she not have an attitude when she has to listen to boys and people in the stands screaming things like “Go play softball,” all season, just because she's the only girl playing in the 13U league. Lovely and sensitive, this book will help guide girls through the difficulties of asserting themselves and becoming leaders in a man's world.

The Girl Who Threw Butterflies, by Mick Cochrane, is another book about a girl trying to play baseball. After her father's death in a car accident, eighth grader, Molly Williams decides to join the baseball team and show off the knuckleball her father taught her how to throw. Although the author does a little more telling than showing, this book also gives a fair picture of a girl overcoming hardships, both on the field and in her personal life.

Dairy Queen by Catherine Gilbert Murdock tells the story of fifteen-year-old D. J. Schwenk, the only daughter of a farmer in Red Bend, Wisconsin who loves football so much that he names his cows after football players. D.J. knows a lot about football because of her brothers, but when she decides that she wants to join the team, the opposition nearly sacks her courage.

Because all of these books are set in the present, none are really historical novels. However, time passes, and present novels become historical. Let us hope that the opposition to girls in male dominated sports truly becomes an historical issue soon.

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