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Title IX at 50: Landmark Legislation Has Continued to Shape Women’s Sports at High School and College Level

YORK, Pa. (EYT/D9) — Kate Hynes was 6 years old and was with her grandmother in Oil City when her life changed forever.

(Above, Kate Hynes dives for for Drexel University/photo courtesy of Drexel University)

She and her grandmother went to a public pool and Hynes climbed onto the diving board. Fearless, she flung herself off the board and into the water. Over and over again.

It just so happened a diving coach was also at the pool and watched Hynes with increasing awe.

“I was whipping myself off the diving board and a diving coach saw me and told me to go see Dave Hrovat at Clarion University,” Hynes said. “Right around my seventh birthday I did. That was it.”

Hrovat was a diving guru and Hynes took to the sport.

At Brookville High School, Hynes won three PIAA championships in the event. She parlayed that into a spot at Drexel University in Philadelphia where she was undefeated in dual meets in her four seasons there, was the Colonial Athletic Association Diver of the Week 23 times, was a two-time All-American and a four-time conference champion (2006-2009) in the 1-meter and 3-meter events.

None of that would have been possible for Hynes without one seemingly simple piece of legislation in 1972.

Title IX led to a women’s sports boom. In the 50 years since the landmark legislation, women like Hynes have been able to take advantage of opportunities they never would have had before.

“Title IX gave me a whole heck of a lot,” Hynes said. “It essentially allowed me to continue to participate in diving at the collegiate level led me to a scholarship to a university that there’s no way in a million years I could have afforded without it. It let me continue to participate at the highest levels, which pre-Title IX, would have never happened.”

Hynes said Title IX has helped her far beyond sports.

After graduating from Drexel with a degree in business administration in 2010, Hynes attended law school at Penn State University from 2010 to 2013.

She is now a partner at Stock and Leader law firm in York.

“I was aware of (Title IX). Pretty much any female athlete at the college level is aware of it, but certainly I didn’t really realize the impact that it had on my life until after college,” Hynes said. “Being able to participate in diving at Drexel was phenomenal, but being able to have an education at Drexel led me to being able to go to law school. It really set the direction of my life in a positive way.”

Hynes was part of the Colonial Athletic Association’s celebration of the 50th anniversary of Title IX.

She was picked as one of the five women from Drexel who made significant impacts during their time as a student-athlete, coach or administrator.

Each of the CAA’s member schools chose five women to be a part of the anniversary celebration.

Hynes was delighted she was one of the chosen.

“It’s a great honor, particularly because it’s been more than a decade at this point since I participated,” Hynes said. “To be acknowledged from that long ago, I was really humbled and honored and grateful to still be in the mix of names that are discussed.”

Hynes is one of millions of women who have benefitted from Title IX.

Before 1972, only 294,000 girls were participating in high school sports nationwide and just 15% of NCAA athletes were women.

Now, 3.4 million girls participate in high school sports and 44% of NCAA athletes are women.

Soccer has been one of Title IX’s biggest success stories.

Karns City girls soccer coach Tracy Dailey, who played at Slippery Rock University, knows that well.

“Growing up through our program, we were co-ed and we’re still co-ed at the junior high level,” Dailey said. “We didn’t have enough girls to play. We’re still playing co-ed in junior high, but now the girls outnumber the boys, hands down. We have 18 to 22 girls coming through the program at the junior high level, so you know, the opportunity for the girls is huge.”

It was softball, though, that had Dailey’s heart when she was younger.

“I grew up at the softball field,” Dailey said. “Actually, softball was my first love.”

But she and her friends were playing slow-pitch at the time. That didn’t diminish how hard they played, though.

“They could play. They were ballplayers,” Dailey said. “They were legit. They would go and win tournaments. Slow pitch went out and fast pitch came in.”

Dailey moved on to soccer and was a standout, both at Karns City and at SRU.

Dailey said Title IX also opened up the world of club soccer, which is huge at the youth level now.

Title IX also means more to Dailey because of her two daughters.

(From left, Karns City senior Emma Dailey, her mother and KC girls soccer coach, Tracy Daily, and freshman Hanna Dailey)

Emma Dailey will be a senior at Karns City and is a star soccer player and a tough-as-nails basketball player for the Gremlins.

Hanna will be a freshman and will also play soccer this fall with her sister and for her mother.

“Honestly, I cannot imagine our life without sports,” Dailey said. “Title IX provided that opportunity, and I think the more girls participate, the more people realize women should be there just as much as men.”

Title IX isn’t perfect, however.

A report from the Women’s Sports Foundation found that 86% of colleges are still offering a disproportionate number of athletic opportunities to men compared to their enrollment.

Ironically, the colleges with the most women have been found to be the least likely to comply with Title IX.

But Karns City graduate Mackenzie Dunn, who just completed her sophomore softball season at Chatham University, hasn’t seen such much of a divide between men’s and women’s sports.

Perhaps it is a sign that things are moving in the right direction.

“Growing up with my sister (Jess), my parents never held us back because we were girls,” Dunn said. “They always encouraged us to go after everything that we wanted. I never felt that because I’m a girl, I’m not going to get certain things.

“Title IX is a very big thing at Chatham because it was once an all-women institution,” Dunn added. “They’re very much about empowering women, so they do an awesome job in that sense. I think I’ve surrounded myself with very good opportunities where I haven’t felt the struggle other women have.”

Hynes said she is grateful for all the success she has had in sports, namely because she was given an opportunity to dive at the college level. Without Title IX, women’s diving at Drexel never would have been, she said.

She is also grateful for how sports has molded her into the person she is today.

“Pretty much all the skills I use — remaining calm under pressure, facing challenges — tie back to sports and Title IX. It pretty much means everything to me.”