On Tuesday, Goshen students had the opportunity to attend a convocation to hear from Kelcey Ervick about the history of Title IX and its importance to the history of women’s sports.

These problems continue, and we're still fighting them.

— Kelcey Ervick

Title IX 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.”  

Ervick, the writer of  “The Keeper”  and director of creative writing at Indiana University South Bend, said that she and Title IX “grew up together.” 

She began her speech by discussing her interest in sports as a child. Growing up in the 70s, she found that sports were inaccessible for girls, as they were often placed on co-ed teams with boys or, more commonly, left out entirely. 

However, when Ervick got older, she began to play for a travel soccer team and found herself playing with some of the best girls’ soccer teams in the nation. 

She initially thought the reason behind her playing sports was that it was a shared interest she had with her father, but she went on to note that she “just didn’t understand how Title IX shaped that.” 

Ervick pointed out that, in reality, Title IX created the opportunities for her and many other girls who had an interest in sports. Before Title IX, the discrimination faced by women overrode their autonomy and limited their opportunities. 

Bernice Sandler, the so-called “Godmother of Title IX”, felt out of place in a society that so strictly oppressed women. After she had a job opportunity denied on the basis of sex, she asked other women about their own experiences and found that her situation was not uncommon.

“In fact,” Ervick said, “there were all sorts of women experiencing similar problems.” 

With this information, Sandler began to rally for an extension of women’s rights — something that would protect them from discrimination based solely upon the fact that they were women. This movement found an ally in United States senators, resulting in the implementation of Title IX in 1972.

“No one seemed to know what the implications would be,” Ervick said, “but Title IX would change everything.”

Following the implementation of Title IX, there was a wide range of reactions, including fear. Ervick addressed a specific ideology that “Title IX was going to ruin sports,” and similar veins of thought appeared that also equated being a woman to being weak.

While Title IX garnered negative attention, it ultimately uplifted the lives of women everywhere, giving them hope for a brighter future. 

For Ervick, Title IX gave her the opportunity to live out her dreams of being an athlete, even though she has since moved on from her time on the soccer field. 

For Ervick’s old teammate’s younger sister, Abby Wambach, Title IX gave her the opportunity to become a member of the National Soccer Hall of Fame and the highest all-time goal scorer for the US with 184 goals.

In her closing statements, Ervick addressed that, while Title IX has greatly aided women athletes, there is still work to be done. 

She called out specific instances of inequality that still occur in the treatment of men’s and women’s teams, including the difference between the gendered training facilities for the National Collegiate Athletics Association and the way that women athletes are consistently objectified by the media or uniforms. 

Even as we continue to encounter these disparities between athletes, organizations have frequently drawn attention to Title IX in light of its 50th anniversary.

“I appreciate that celebration, but some of it is self congratulatory when we’re still having these problems,” Ervick said.

“These problems continue, and we’re still fighting them.”