As you already know, I was the last kid picked in gym class – back in the day.
While I was the last kid picked in gym class at Elden Elementary School, Karen H. was the first kid picked in gym class. She was a strong, fast and well coordinated – an all-around natural athlete who had the motivation and discipline to make the most of her skills.
And she never made fun of me, although I would have made an easy target for a lesser person. In high school, she was a good student who graduated with 16 varsity letters and set several school records. Karen H. was every coach’s dream.
My niece Brooke is the Karen H. of her school.
The first inkling I had that Brooke was a “jockette” (as we used to call sporty girls, back in the day) was when Brooke and I were walking her dog, Mr. Snippy. I had Snip’s leash and was keeping a close eye on him when Brooke hurled a basketball at me.
Which I didn’t catch.
“Aunt Betsy, you don’t have skills.”
She didn’t hurt my feelings because she didn’t tell me anything I didn’t already know. And I didn’t know a basketball would be thrown at me. Perhaps brother Doug didn’t make Brooke aware of my athletically challenged childhood?
Not only was I athletically challenged as a kid, but I didn’t really hang out with athletes. A few of my band/drama friends were also good at sports, but they weren’t the girls who played a different varsity sport every season.
But because I grew up with Karen H., I knew that girls could be not just good, but great at sports and sometimes better than the boys.
It can be tough for girls to find their way. It wasn’t always easy when I was growing up, and from what I’ve seen, it’s even more challenging for them now. I grew up in the Dark Ages compared to Brooke.
Title IX passed in 1972, when I was ten years old. Title Nine isn’t just a women’s active clothing brand, it’s also a portion of the Educational Amendments of 1972 of the 1964 Civil Rights Act of 1964, which states:
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.
It’s because of Title IX and female athletes like Karen H. and Kathrine Switzer and Mia Hamm and Tracy Caulkins that the young women of today can follow their dreams in sports.
Brooke just started her junior year at a small high school in North Carolina, where she’s received several accolades for her softball skills, including: All-Conference, 2013-2014 Team Captain, 2013 Team MVP, 2014 NCAC Player of the Year, 2014 East Wake Academy Female Player of the Year, and 2014 East Wake Academy Offensive Player of the Year.
She’s also a sweet, smart, funny young lady. I’m excited to see what the future holds for her. And I’m excited that her future will be whatever she wants to make of it.