In 2022, the 36th National Girls & Women in Sports Day and the 50th anniversary of Title IX are being celebrated, and yet, with all the progress made, there’s more our community can do.

Greely’s Kayla Delisle takes control of a rebound against Skowhegan during the Class A state championship March 5 at Cross Insurance Arena. Girls and women who play sports generally have greater self-confidence, lower levels of depression, healthier body image and better overall well-being compared to their peers who don’t participate in sports, according to the Women’s Sports Foundation. Ben McCanna/Staff Photographer

According to the Women’s Sports Foundation, girls and women who play sports generally have greater self-confidence, lower levels of depression, healthier body image and better overall well-being than those who don’t participate in sports. Female high school athletes are also more likely to get higher grades and graduate than peers not engaging in sports. Many studies point to collegiate athletes excelling professionally.

Despite these findings, the participation and support for girls and women in sports still fall short in comparison to boys and men in both school and professional sports.

Boys get 1.13 million more sport opportunities than girls each year, reports the National Federation of State High School Associations, and the gap between high school girls and boys participating in sports has not significantly narrowed over the last 20 years.

That’s not to say there hasn’t been impressive progress. This June, the 50th anniversary of the landmark gender equity law, Title IX, will be observed, passed as part of the Education Amendments of 1972.

Title IX banned sex discrimination in federally funded education programs and had a drastic effect on girls’ participation in sports. According to the Women’s Sports Foundation, before Title IX, one in 27 girls played sports; today that number is one in three! A noticeable shift can be seen in professional sports with the battle for more roles and equal pay in women’s sports gaining traction – most recently with the settlement by the U.S. Soccer Federation and the U.S. Women’s National Soccer players.


Ongoing efforts help bring awareness to this topic.

Every February since 1987, National Girls & Women in Sports Day inspires girls and women to not only play and be active but also to realize their full power and potential. Recognized by University of Southern Maine leaders through the 1990s, the Maine Sports Commission has been a proud supporter since 2017, cohosting a symposium with the University of Maine and forming a statewide committee. Colleagues from professional teams, nonprofit organizations and many colleges and universities team up to host annual presentations and promote all Maine events, amplifying our collective efforts.

Given Title IX’s removal of barriers, this can’t be just a once-a-year initiative. Actions can be taken every season to increase participation:

• Invite the girls in your life to participate in sports. The health benefits of playing sports can empower individuals as they grow.

• Help make sports more accessible and inclusive. The costs of playing sports can’t be overlooked when boosting participation rates. Sports should be accessible no matter the financial status of a family. Organizations like Every Kid Sports are helping bridge that gap by providing grants to low-income families. Additionally, Maine Adaptive provides sports and recreation programs for adults and children with disabilities. All Mainers should have access to sports; supporting impactful organizations helps make that happen.

• Become a volunteer coach. Only 25 percent of youth coaches in the United States are women. Seeing women actively participating in sports and serving as mentors can greatly increase a girl’s participation in sports.

• Explore local opportunities to become involved in nonprofits like Boys & Girls Clubs, Girls Got Game Sports Camp UNE, Girls on the Run Maine, Maine Recreation & Parks Association, Maine Ultimate GUM and Strong Girls United Foundation.

• Simply show up! Women’s and girls’ sporting events have historically been under-attended. The simple act of buying a ticket or showing up to cheer on your local team can boost morale and player retention.

Small steps like these can have a big impact on the girls and women of Maine. Let’s all work together to ensure that girls and boys alike are enjoying the benefits of an active life through sports, receiving the game-changing message to always keep playing.

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