Commentary: A Child of Title IX

People, Sports
on April 11, 2012
Courtesy of Lipscomb University Kelsey Neumann, 21, graduates this May from Lipscomb University, where she played Division I volleyball for the Nashville, Tenn.-based school.

My morning alarm sounds, and my only light source during the pre-dawn hours are the large digital numbers on my clock that show 5:15. I sigh, knowing that I have 45 minutes to get to the weight training room on the campus of Lipscomb University in Nashville, Tenn., where I am a proud but sleepy member of the Lady Bison volleyball team.

I lie in bed for a minute longer and think, “Now would be a great time to quit. A few more hours of sleep.”

I don’t quit, however. Just as I’ve done many mornings for many years, I get up, down a bowl of energizing oatmeal, and wash my face, slapping it a few times to wake up but also to scold myself for staying up so late the night before. I am on my way.

Such has been the pace of much of my college life—not to mention the many years prior as a young female athlete pacing myself through all kinds of sports, conditioning and training that allowed me to play several years of Division I college volleyball.

As a child of Title IX, I don’t take lightly the privilege of playing competitive sports as a female. In 1972, some 18 years before I was born, President Richard Nixon signed Title IX into law and, with the stroke of his pen, forever changed our nation’s sports landscape. The law required that, for any schools that receive federal funds, its boys and girls must receive equal educational opportunities, including sports.

While I was blissfully ignorant of this history-making law for most of my life, my life has been impacted by Title IX from the moment I picked up a tennis racket at age 3 or took my first wobbly steps toward a basketball.

When I was 5, I was out on the soccer field and running and running until my legs went numb—but energized thanks to the juice boxes and strawberry popsicles that parents supplied. Then, one day, it happened. In a showdown with a 6-year-old goalie who was examining an ant colony in the grassy field, I kicked the winning goal. The satisfaction and exhilaration I felt at that moment was far beyond any emotion I had ever experienced.

Such was the transformational moment that officially began my sports-crazed life. I would be able to compete in many sports and even earn an athletic scholarship—opportunities that generally were not available to the girls and women of the generations before Title IX.

As my athletic career unfolded, I fell in love with volleyball, which fortunately was a good match for my eventual 6-foot-2 height. It seemed I was born to spike the ball.

After my coordination caught up with my awkward, lanky body, I began to excel at the sport. I strived to reach the highest level of the game and signed in 2008 with Lipscomb University, which started its women’s volleyball program in 2001 to join the Atlantic Sun Conference.  

Over the next few years, I learned how to balance athletics and academics, and maybe squeeze in a bit of a social life. It was a challenge, but I learned to make it fun. I basically spent 24-7 with these 13 teammates. Put 13 girls in one room and, well, it can be a challenge. But we each learned to work out our conflicts for a common goal—our team.

I cannot say that playing collegiate sports was always the most fun experience of my life—6 a.m. weight training comes to mind first—but it was hands down my biggest growing experience.   

Among the lessons and skills I’ve learned are the importance of punctuality and time management, endurance, a never-give-up attitude, building relationships, accepting differences in others, and working hard as a team for a common goal (something greater than self). I believe these skills and lessons have helped me immensely, not just in the sports arena but also in the classroom, on the job and in life.

As I prepare to graduate from Lipscomb University, I continue to have a childhood love for sports, and I believe with all my heart that I would not be the same person today if I had not been able to play the game.

Thank you, Title IX.

Neumann, of Thousand Oaks, Calif., is an American Profile intern who graduates in May from Lipscomb University with a degree in English.

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