This year marks the 40th anniversary of Title IX.

I highly doubt when the United States Congress brought the act into legislation in 1972 that it expected to be responsible for helping build the female sport system in Canada. But it has.

The original premise of Title IX was to ensure that women had the same access to competitive sports as men in terms of access to leagues, coaches, facilities, instruction, etc. That would be my technical interpretation of the bill. But the emotional interpretation would be to allow girls to play sports, just like boys.

“Allow” may seem like a harsh term. But keep in mind we are using the Mark Harrison history files here. So I may be way off in my facts. But I think allow is a good word when you consider that at one point female basketball guards were not “allowed” to cross half court or that female runners were not “allowed” to run marathons. One was based on some arcane beliefs about skills and the other based on a non-medical practitioners assessment of female physiology.
Here is another way to look at Title IX. For a US post-secondary institution, it requires leveling the playing field. If an NCAA school offers 300 scholarships to male athletes, it has to provide the same for females. Hmm, the Nebraska football team almost offered that just to its gridiron squad. The outcome has been mostly positive. Sports such as soccer, lacrosse, softball and hockey were quickly stocked on the women’s side to get the number up. Clearly football with 96 spots essentially reserved for guys, required even more females to be added in. But the beautiful thing is that women were provided opportunities for elite coaching, conditioning and competition.

Fast-forward to 2012 and it’s no wonder that the USA has become a female soccer super power, that a female professional basketball league exists in America (though still lagging behind its European counterparts) and that countless other sports have blossomed as well.

Which brings me back home. Title IX has provided a unique opportunity for Canadian female athletes to go stateside and receive an amazing education while on athletic scholarship. I am not saying this is the be all and end all, as I am a huge supporter of the CIS experience. But… a free ride at a school like Syracuse (which runs about $43,000 for first year) is quite a reward for a young Canadian hockey goalie like a friend of mine’s daughter.

But it has not just been Title IX. Own the Podium has been a marvelous success. It doesn’t reward gender. It doesn’t reward the popularity of a sport. It rewards performance and has allowed many of our athletes to thrive. And in many cases attend amazing Canadian colleges or universities.

Competing at this level has allowed some of our athletes to receive the push they need to compete on a world stage.

Why do I bring all this up?

Well, after this past weekend I have a hunch that the women are going to be the story of Canada’s Olympics in 2012. And I haven’t done the math, so maybe none of these stalwarts went stateside. That’s not the point. The point is the progress in women’s sports.

Back to the message. Think about what has gone on the past while.
This past weekend Jessica Zelinka made her bid to be recognized as Canada’s top female athlete by not only winning the heptathlon trials, but also earning a stunning 110M hurdle victory. (Though I am very sad for Perdita and Priscilla.)

Also this last weekend our women’s basketball team stared down elimination by defeating Croatia and Japan in two elimination games to qualify for the Olympics for the first time since Sydney. They will join our women’s soccer team as the only two-team sport entries in the games for the Red & White.
Plus last week, superstar boxer Mary Spencer received a wild card entry to the Games where she will put her World Championship form to the test.

Jessica, Mary and our women’s hoops and footy teams are going to be some of the exciting stories of the Games.

Check out their personal and team websites.
Check out their social media pages.
Check out the stories about them in publications across the Great White North.

When you do, you will see what I see. Sponsorship GOLD. Opportunities for companies to get in and create some magic. Yes, you may feel a bit last minute, and trust me you are, but that isn’t what matters.

What matters is that you help create a level playing field for OUR women. It’s not them against the men. It’s our women against the world. Your last-second assist can help them clear the final hurdle, land the final punch, sink the final basket or stop the final penalty kick.

In a few short weeks the stories of these Games will fill our homes. Wouldn’t it be exciting to tell your daughter you helped Jessica bring home a medal? Some day she will tell her daughter about YOU.

4 thoughts on “Entitled: Levelling the Playing Field for Canada’s Female Athletes

  1. Great article Mark! I wholeheartedly agree. Let’s add to list some outstanding Canadian women who are headed for success at the Paralympic Games as well. Women such as Michelle Stilwell (wheelchair athletics), Robbie Weldon (cycling)and the Canadian Women’s Wheelchair Basketball Team, to name but a few.

    1. Great point! We signed Michelle up with one of our clients and she & the others you list deserve the support!

  2. As always, a great tale Mark! I’ll be sharing this via our KidSport network on Facebook to encourage Canadians to support their athletes in whateve way they can.

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