SCARBOROUGH – Tom Griffin called a halt to a recent Scarborough High softball practice, pulling together his 15 varsity players.
As the players looked at each other, wondering why Griffin interrupted a drill, he spoke to them.
“I’d like to have a show of hands,” he said. “How many of you know what Title IX is?”
Three players raised their hands.
Title IX, of course, is the groundbreaking anti-discrimination legislation passed in 1972 that opened doors for women and girls in the classroom, board rooms and on athletic fields.
Forty years later, more girls are playing high school and college sports. But few know the history that is Title IX.
“I’ve never heard of it,” said Parise Rossignol, the sophomore basketball player from Van Buren High who has verbally agreed to play at the University of Maine. “Nothing in school, or anything. I think it sounds pretty important.
“I think I should know about it.”
“It’s a double-edged sword,” said Liz Winslow, an assistant coach for the Red Storm. “It shows times are changing, but we’re kind of forgetting how we got here.”
But the fact that female high school players today are unfamiliar with Title IX shows that it’s working. They no longer have to worry about being accepted, playing or getting the same opportunities as boys.
“I think it speaks volumes about how far we’ve come,” said Janet Judge, a Title IX lawyer from North Yarmouth. “But on the other hand, there continues to be challenges and kids don’t understand that they don’t necessarily have to just accept that they aren’t getting wonderful opportunities, that they are just as good, that they are just as valuable
“The more disturbing thing for me is that they have a more negative opinion of Title IX, or a negative opinion of asking for (equality). I do love that they expect to be able to play and that, I think, is the legacy of Title IX and, without knowing, that is why they get to play. But telling stories isn’t a bad idea once in a while.”
Even the high school players agree with that.
“I wish I knew more,” said Alyssa Williamson, a sophomore pitcher/first baseman at Scarborough. “I would like to learn about it in school, It sounds interesting.”
When asked about Title IX, Ellis Miskell, a freshman 800-meter runner on the track team at North Yarmouth Academy, correctly answered that it was an anti-discrimination law. In addition to running for the Panthers, she rides horses. She knows that at that sport’s highest level, men and women ride on the same team.
“I just think it’s great that (gender) doesn’t matter,” she said. “I don’t know what I would have done 40 years ago before this passed and not being able to do the sports I love.”
Her teammate, sophomore thrower Kayla Rose — who also plays field hockey and ice hockey — said sports “have taught me life lessons. (Without Title IX) I would definitely be a different person.”
For Greely High student-athletes Kelsey Saunders and Emily Saunders, Title IX has great meaning. Judge is their mother. Kelsey, a junior, has actually attended several Title IX conferences with her mother.
“I know a lot about it,” she said. “Women have become more equal in sports, but there are a lot of underlying issues.”
Judge has done her best to make sure her daughters are aware of those issues and Title IX’s history, but more so, to be aware of their own rights.
“If I wasn’t able to do sports it would be awful,” said Emily, a freshman. “One thing that bothers me most of all is when people make fun of girls’ sports. It’s something that’s really important to me and I like to know I can be treated fairly.
“Sports is a big part of my life. It’s what I know.”
Staff Writer Mike Lowe can be contacted at 791-6422 or at: