As many of you know, I’ve been coaching football at Kennebunk High School for a long time now. In fact, 1978 was my first year coaching, just six years after Title IX took effect.

Kennebunk head coach Joe Rafferty works with players during a 2018 practice. Gregory Rec photo/Press Herald

I have had the privilege of working with hundreds of student-athletes and seen many of them grow over the years, even after their time in school. There are countless life lessons one can take away from athletics. Commitment, self-discipline, how to gracefully handle both triumphs and failures, and the value of teamwork are just some examples of what organized sports can teach you at a young age.

Title IX grants all of our students the ability to partake in this, for all our students to have the chance to learn these lessons and, most importantly, to play the game they love. And that’s how it should be. To celebrate the 50th anniversary of Title IX, I wanted to take some time to talk about its history and to recognize a few of the talented athletes in our communities and their accolades.

On June 23, 1972, then-President Richard Nixon signed the Education Amendments Act, which officially recognized gender equity in education as a civil right. The 37-word clause, commonly known as Title IX, provided that, “No person in the United States shall, on the basis of sex, be excluded from participation in, be denied the benefits of, or be subjected to discrimination under any education program or activity receiving Federal financial assistance.”

As a result, gender equity in sports was changed forever. What followed shortly thereafter was a massive influx of women participating in athletics in school. According to a new report on Title IX, 3 million more high school girls have opportunities to participate in sports than they did before Title IX. Collegiate athletics was also forever changed. Before Title IX, women made up 15 percent of all college athletes; today, that figure stands at 44 percent.

I can’t help but take this opportunity to recognize my three daughters. All of them began participating in sports when they were in middle school. They all played basketball and field hockey, my middle daughter joined the swimming and diving team, and my youngest also played lacrosse. As a father, I can’t tell you how proud I was to watch my girls play throughout their academic careers. To imagine a world where they wouldn’t be allowed to play is unfathomable to me.

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Locally, we have had many incredible young women dominate in their respective sports. One of the most recent is Emily Archibald, of Kennebunk. Emily was a force to be reckoned with when she played basketball in high school. She set a flurry of single-game, season and school records, was a two-time Maine Gatorade Player of the Year and is the only player in school history to record more than 1,000 points, 1,000 rebounds, 200 assists, 200 steals and 200 blocked shots. While Emily couldn’t be stopped on the hardwood, she was also a first-team SMAA all-conference selection in lacrosse and soccer. Emily is continuing to be a leader and role model as a starting forward at Providence College.

Just last year, not one, but two students made history as the first female athletes from Wells High School to commit to play Division I sports. Basketball player Grace Ramsdell and soccer player Emma Badger will continue their athletic careers at Merrimack College and Boston College, respectively.

Grace finished her career with 860 rebounds and more than 1,200 points, placing her second all time for the school in scoring. Emma holds Wells’ single-season record in scoring (30) and is a four-time recipient of first team all-conference honors and a two-time regional all-star. As a coach, it is always extra special watching our student-athletes like Emily, Grace and Emma develop their skills and grow into leaders on and off the field.

The anniversary of Title IX reminds us all of how far we have come in the pursuit of equal play and how much it benefits all of us and our communities that it is in place.

As always, you can reach out to me at any time by sending me an email at [email protected] or by phone at 207-590-9902. You can also reach my office at 207-287-1515. If you want to stay even more up to date on what we’re working on in Augusta, sign up for my email newsletter at mainesenate.org.

Joseph Rafferty is a member of the Maine State Senate representing District 34, Acton, Kennebunk, Lebanon, Moody, North Berwick, Wells, West Lebanon and part of Berwick. He can be reached at [email protected]

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