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What Title IX means to me

Coaches and athletes around Western New York are marking the 40th anniversary of Title IX on June 23. The federal law prohibited gender discrimination in educational opportunities and shortly after its passage, the statute was applied to athletics where it gained notoriety and began a cultural shift in the United States for women in sports.

Hear the interivews Buffalo News sports reporter Amy Moritz had those on the WNY sports scene about Title IX and its impact on their lives:

Mike Rappl
Softball coach and former women’s basketball coach Canisius College

We say it’s the 40-year anniversary of Title IX, but did we really get serious about athletics for girls until the mid-80s? It’s really not that long ago and we’ve come a long way with things like facilities and full-time coaches.
Interview: Mike Rappl

Doris Ortega

Basketball player, St. Bonaventure

Ncs8da0j2idq6ftbPlaying in the A-10 is really physical. …. You have to go into the game with the mentality that you’re probably going to get beat up during the game. That’s how it is. I like the physical play. The whole beating up and going at it, that describes the A-10 and that’s how I’m used to playing.

Hearing the history of how the program used to be helps because you never want to go back to a losing season. As an athlete, a competitor, you don’t like to lose. As for the program, it’s great to look at the progress you’ve made over the years. It’s also a reminder of where you were and a point in time where you don’t want to be again. 
Interview: Doris Ortega

Cathy Hummel
Canisius volleyball coach

Hummel, a 1991 graduate of Hofstra, was a beneficiary of the early years of Title IX. She grew up playing sports with the boys where “tomboy” wasn’t necessarily a bad word:

At that time no, because I got to play with the boys and I was one of the girls who could play with the boys. But as I went through high school and college, there was more of a negative connotation because there were so few women that surfaced up to the college level.
Interview: Cathy Hummel

Jennifer Teague
Softball coach, University at Buffalo

I didn’t get caught up in what the boys had what the girls had. What drew me to coaching was that I knew how sports shaped who I was. It allowed me to fight through a lot of adversity in my life. It reminded me not be a victim of circumstances. It taught me a lot of life lessons that we through sport. What drew me to coaching was being able to shape young ladies into phenomenal people who are going to give back to society. Obviously I love the competition side of it and I’m extremely passionate about the game of softball. … I don’t know where I’d be without sports.
Interview: Jennifer Teague

Alex Sahlen
Player WNY Flash, soccer coach

It’s been everything for me. …. You’ve got to keep fighting and supporting each other. Even if you’re, 9,10, 11 support us because when I retire, I’m going to support you. I coached a group of girls a couple weeks ago and asked them to name a WPS team other than the Flash and they couldn’t. To me, that broke my heart. Because you’ve got to support it if you want it to move forward. If you want to see women’s sports successed, you have to support it to see it grow.
Interview: Alex Sahlen

MJ Telford
Former player and basketball coach, St. Bonaventure University 

I got, not a sneaker contract. I didn’t get any money but I went out and asked some people if we could wear their sneakers and for a while we wore Ponys. But we at least were providing sneakers for the girls which previous to that was unheard of. Even having gear. We used to think it was a big deal. The team would get together and we were so excited when we would pick out sweatshirts that said “Lady Bonnies” on it. And then you got sweat pants. It’s things that I think a lot of young girls at this point who are fortunate enough to have the benefit of the pioneers of the 70s who fought for improvements and enhancements. They don’t even think [sneakers and gear are] some things that you wouldn’t have.
Interview: MJ Telford

Allison Braun
Basketball player, Canisius College

Title IX means to me the opportunity to even play. My mother is very athletic. She’s a runner but she would always talk to me about how she couldn’t do that back [when she was growing up]. My grandma would talk to me about basketball where you could only take a couple steps. It’s funny to hear now. Title IX to me means equal opportunities. TI’s getting a nice locker room like the boys team has and not seeing some sort of a difference that the reason they have that is because they’re the boys team. It means I can go to school here in and study and travel and represent [Canisius].
Interview: Allison Braun

Reggie Witherspoon
Men’s Basketball coach, University at Buffalo

Ya37c7we5t4zmxpeWitherspoon’s two daughters decided they didn’t want to play basketball, but they’re still huge sports fans. As a coach and a father, he notes the importance of his girls being able to see women in the world of sports:

I think it’s absolutely huge to be able to see someone that looks like you have an opportunity because the reality is it’s not just the opportunity to be an athlete but the opportunity to engage yourself in sports, in athletics. It could be as an official. It could be as a coach. It could be an administrator. I think it’s good. It’s tough to aspire to something you’ve never been exposed to. They’re being exposed to athletes now and exposed to it by looking at it and seeing someone that looks like them.
Interview: Reggie Witherspoon

Vicki Mitchell
Cross-country and track coach, University at Buffalo

I make it a point that the women, particularly the distance women, understand we’ve been in order to appreciate what they have. ….. It’s important to know where our women can go out and do a long run in a sports bra and its acceptable, 10 years it wasn’t. …. I tell them in 1972 the longest distance they could run in the Olympics was 800 meters and they’re dumbfounded over that. The first time the women ran the [Olympic] marathon was 1984. Al though to them, because that was before they were born it seems like a gazillion years ago, but when I put it in perspective of how long the men were able to do it and that we had to fight to get the opportunity, they can appreciate that.
Interview: Vicki Mitchell

Jim Crowley
Women’s basketball coach, St. Bonaventure University

There are two things I love. One, it’s OK now for female basketball players to watch basketball and discuss it and get into those conversations and be valued in them. Our players have arguments with the men’s players about college and NBA games and that’s a great thing. The other thing is that it’s OK for female athletes to be competitive and that’s beautiful. It’s OK for them to knock each other down and battle and have this burning desire to win. That’s the way it should be.
Interview: Jim Crowley


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