William “Tige’’ Curran remembers the first girls softball team he coached at Deering High in Portland very well. The year was 1976, four years after Title IX was signed into law.
“Our uniforms,’’ he said, “were the boys’ soccer shirts. The girls wore their own blue jeans and sneakers.’’
Curran retired in 2008, 32 years later after turning the Rams’ program into one of the best in the state. Deering won four state championships in the 1980s. Curran, also Deering’s head football coach for 11 years during that span, saw a great leap in women’s sports in his tenure.
“The big thing was the girls got better coaching, and it was very noticeable when they came up,’’ he said. “Those first few years, the indoor tryouts in the gym, you were taking your life in your hands.
“We would have 30 kids and maybe three or four could catch the ball. The rest, you had to teach. As time went on, the girls got more skilled and stronger. By the 80s, we had girls come along who could really play.’’
Those weren’t the only changes Curran saw. Playing fields improved. Uniforms became, well, uniform.
“I remember one year the baseball team got these nice new warm-ups,’’ he said. “They weren’t weather-proof. But they were really nice.
“We got these cheap polyester things that didn’t do a thing. It took some talking, but we got better ones. We only wore those for one year. You had to take time to make people realize things had to be equal.’’
Curran, who came out of retirement this year to help his daughter Maureen coach the Cheverus softball team, has three daughters who were all active in sports at South Portland High. So he saw Title IX from a parent’s perspective as well.
Overall, he’s proud of the progress he’s seen in girls’ sports over the past 40 years.
“I think once people understood things should be equal, things really improved,’’ he said. “I guess I feel good about it.’’