I often describe myself as a Title IX child. That is, I was born just in time to reap the benefits of the 1972 Education Amendment Title IX Pass. Of course, today Headline IX is mostly associated with sexual harassment and sexual harassment, for which new rules have just been published by the Biden administration that provide clearer language on how we define sexual harassment and extend student protection based on gender and sexual identity. . The rules instruct our colleges on how to investigate and punish sexual misconduct on our campus. Yet in its early days, Title IX’s prohibition of gender-based discrimination was best known for opening up collegiate opportunities for women to compete.
My first deep exposure with the title IX was in ninth grade, a few years after it passed. I wrote an article on a high school newspaper topic that won bronze recognition in a competition organized by the University of Maryland’s School of Journalism. I knew, as a three-sport athlete, that title IX was my ticket to college. My parents did that. None of my family, on behalf of my mother or father, went straight from high school to college. My dad graduated with his undergraduate degree when I was in fourth grade using the GI Bill with funding for eight years which was then labeled “night school”.
Back then college athletic programs for women were in the early stages of their development. My mother and I wrote letters to the athletic directors of several colleges, including competitive field hockey, basketball, and softball programs. Many have responded. And, with my scrapbook in hand, my mom and I went on a college tour trying to convince the coaches that this 5’5 “, 95-pound athlete has the skills to be a program change maker. Many more have opened the door.
Sometimes we underestimate the impact of our hobbies on our leadership outlook. On the field, especially in my position as center midfielder, I learned the importance of holding a panoramic view of the whole field. I learned about speed, when to go slow and when to go fast. I’ve learned about failure and recovery and the two ideas really go together. I’ve learned that winning is temporary and what stays with you is the relationships you built to reach that point of excellence. I learned what it takes to set up a play and what it takes to finish a play — and these are different and equally important skills.
In January, I returned to the field hockey field, not to celebrate the 50th anniversary of Title IX, but because of it. Eager to fill the uncomfortable places of the last two epidemic-filled years, I followed the advice of two long-time and former teammates — I picked up the stick after not playing for 21 years, practiced a few times, and tried the USA Women’s Masters Field Hockey Team. I found out in early May that I had formed a team.
Unfortunately, however, at some Memorial Day weekend cross-training activity, I had my Achilles tendon ruptured and recovered from the surgery. I will not be representing the United States at the Masters World Cup in South Africa in October.
But I still think coaching it again is a real learning experience. This time, I was listening to the response more attentively – not just to improve my game, but to fill the gap between what my mind thinks and what my body can do, but the response revolves around life lessons. These include:
- Remember to take the ball with your head up, always looking for the next option.
- Move the ball on a diagonal – this creates more space for decision making.
- Change your speed. The change of pace creates spontaneity and is unexpected to the opponent.
- Show your availability. Your movement outside the ball is more important than your movement with it. You have to give your teammates a choice. They themselves can’t take the ball too far forward.
These rules do not lend themselves to a single translation led by the college. Rather, each rule can be used in countless ways.
For example, in advancing an organization’s strategic planning, a leader must look at what is on the horizon to identify new strategies and locations or determine where the labor market is going and what that means for workforce development programs and curricula.
Moving diagonally – not rushing to the goal – is how change happens. This helps ensure that multiple perspectives inform decisions. It allows cross-sector teams – including students, faculty, technologists, community partners and others – to have input when it comes to implementing improvements in operations, programs and policies. This ensures that the necessary support can be staged and that key stakeholders are in sync as major changes are implemented, and this leaves room for midcourse correction when change has unintended consequences.
Similarly, different speeds are essential. There are times when leadership means taking the back seat to allow others to move an agenda (this may not be the direction a leader can go, but change is valuable). But also, there are moments when the main division and the players need to take quick action one after the other to execute. And even the fastest moves need to be choreographed; The most decisive steps need to be planned most carefully.
Teamwork is learned. It doesn’t happen overnight. By implementing the key aspects of a master plan according to a schedule, people and departments solve challenges, become more familiar with each other, develop greater responsiveness to change, and learn to work effectively and interactively.
In sports, we all need to be open to the next step and accurately guess where they can expect from others. We often want multiple players to touch the ball on the field, because it creates a sense of shared speed and the opportunity to use talent in the best way possible. We can hit from unexpected places or turn the field organization towards a certain advantage. The same goes for an organization. For example, creating cross-departmental teams and working across borders helps achieve organizational goals, improves the organization’s ability to transform things that go beyond the department and can touch the lives of every student.
And the first lesson of teamwork and leadership is that no one, especially a leader or a star player, can take their ball too far forward. The group coalition within the organization must work in partnership, and the organization must partner with others outside their boundaries, achieving transformative goals.
As the nation celebrates the 50th anniversary of Title IX this month, I’m reminded that it wasn’t just the law that opened the door for me. It was also an instructor and a higher education institution that saw something in an optimistic young woman and her scrapbook and invested in who I was and could be.
If I had the privilege of representing the United States in South Africa this autumn, I would not only be proud to represent my country but also be a beneficiary of the country’s ongoing (albeit sometimes stopped) commitment to equity. Proud to strive to recognize and support new talent regardless of age, race or ethnicity, gender, adaptation, or (disability).
The talent is still there. It is up to us to find, nurture and continue to develop it. It is up to us to do what Title IX has done for baby boomers like me for our current and future generations of students.