It was 1973, a year after Title IX became law, and she was sitting in the stands – “drinking Pepsi,’’ she said – while her brother played a B.U.M. (Brooks-Unity-Munroe) League youth basketball game at the Mt. View High School gym in the small central Maine town of Thorndike.
“I knew I could play with those guys,’’ she said recently. “I told my mother I could beat (my brother). I should have been able to play on Saturday mornings when the boys did. But the only option back then for girls was cheerleading.’’
And Emily Ellis was no cheerleader.
Eventually, she would play basketball. And she would play it well. Ellis was recently inducted into the Maine Sports Hall of Fame in recognition of her outstanding career, both at Mt. View and at the University of Maine, where her No. 40 was the first number retired by the Black Bears – male or female.
Ellis played at Maine from 1981 to 1985, finished with 1,696 points and 623 rebounds, then went on to play professionally in Europe for three years.
She has seen many changes over the four decades that Title IX has been law.
She remembers her freshman year, trying out for one of the two scholarships available against “60 other kids from New England’’ at Lengyel Gym.
“We practiced at the women’s gym, played our games in The Pit (at Memorial Gym),’’ she said. “In my junior year, we actually started practicing where we played, so we had some sort of home-court advantage. So it wasn’t exactly the same back then.’’
She said a key element of Title IX is that it gave young women the chance to compete in interscholastic or intercollegiate sports. That, in turn, gave them the confidence and mindset to compete in the business world.
Ellis owns Maine Team Realty in Bangor, as well as Construction Team Properties.
“Sports is just part of the educational process,’’ said Ellis, who owns Maine Team Realty in Bangor. “I think there are a lot of women out there today who see the world in a different way because they had the ability to compete and learn the same lessons in sports as men did.’’
And she sees even more doing it in the future.
“I think I’m one of the first group of women who have had the benefit of Title IX,’’ she said. “Everything’s still not exactly the same, but I think the next wave is going to be where the guys who played sports in college have daughters playing sports. (Former Maine and major league pitcher) Billy Swift has three daughters. And he is not going to allow his girls to not have the same opportunities he had.’’