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Title IX helps level the field for girls’ athletics

Paula Mohr Paula Mohr's school athletic jacket
OUR TURN: Girls who played varsity athletics earned sports letters, same as the boys. Naturally, we wanted to have letter jackets, too.
Five decades ago, we were grateful to finally have teams to join.

Local high school sports continue to be a key source of community pride. Win or lose, there is strong support from families, school districts and local businesses.

This year, we’ve been hearing and reading a lot about Title IX and its 50th anniversary. On June 23, 1972, President Richard Nixon signed into law the Education Amendments of 1972. These amendments contain Title IX, which prohibits sex-based discrimination in any school or education program that receives federal government funding. As a result, the new law prompted schools to offer sports programs for girls.

The Minneapolis Star Tribune has been providing special Title IX coverage, and it recently ran a story about the top 50 high school girl athletes who played from the mid-1970s through today. Among those early athletes selected were basketball queen Janet Karvonen of New York Mills, the first 3,000-point scorer who led her team to three consecutive state championships (1977-79); net swisher Kay Konerza, Lester Prairie, who scored 2,715 career points during her basketball career and held the record for most points scored in a game — 58, in 1982 — until 2018; dual-sport player Kelly Skalicky, Albany, who led her basketball team to four state tournaments and the 1980 state title, as well as winning the girls’ individual state golf championship in 1981; sprinter Heather Van Norman, Windom, a one-person team in leading her school to state team titles in 1987-88; and all-round athlete Annie Adamczak, who in her 1981-82 senior year led her Moose Lake girls’ basketball, volleyball and softball teams to undefeated records —and claimed state championships, too, in all three sports.

Good times, fond memories

It’s been a trip down memory lane for me as I take in these stories of girls’ athletics back in the day. In our small town in the 1960s, there were plenty of ball teams for boys, but none for girls and women. It wasn’t until the summer of 1969 that some forward-thinking moms got together and decided it was time for the girls to play ball, too. So, for the next several years, my mom signed us all up for leagues and drove us to town several times a week for ball practice and games for me and my brothers — and for herself.

At my parochial grade school that same decade, we had girls’ basketball, so I had been fortunate to play in from sixth  to eighth grades. I played forward and enjoyed that position. But I was so bummed when I became a high school freshman, because no girls’ athletics were offered. The only way to be involved with sports? Be a cheerleader. Not for me.

Yet, as my freshman year came to a close, Title IX became law, and our school district offered girls’ basketball, volleyball and softball in time for my sophomore year. We considered ourselves lucky that we had team sports and that school buses were made available to take us to away games. No funds were allocated for uniforms, so one mom made about two dozen one-piece polyester suits for us — varsity and junior varsity — that we wore for both basketball and volleyball for two years. By the end of my senior basketball season, we finally got two-piece basketball-volleyball uniforms.

Back in the day, I was an above-average athlete — a solid basketball rebounder and decent shooter and our softball team’s consistent pitcher. While we had the occasional big win, our teams were usually around the middle in standings. The crowds in the bleachers were sparse and usually contained several parents and maybe a handful of classmates. There were no cheerleaders, no concessions, no pep band.

No matter.

We could play — finally!


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