Moody: Sisterhood of sports

Susan Moody, Emerald Coast Insider

I have a feeling that we are about to enter a brave new world.

There’s a new season brewing and my household is anxiously anticipating tomorrow night’s South Carolina football game. Aside from the “Hail Mary” glory days of Doug Flutie and Boston College, college football wasn’t something we generally got excited about in New England, so the fervor that surrounds the SEC and other “big time” college football games is something that has been completely foreign to me. But sports are something that I have been a part of for as long as I remember.

I’m a Title IX baby. My entire youth, adolescence, and college years were shaped, in some part, by involvement in athletic activity. Title IX, which was passed in 1972, banned gender discrimination in education. While the law applies to all aspects of education for schools receiving federal funding and aid, it has most popularly and successfully been associated with increasing opportunities for young women and girls to play sports.

In 1972, only one out of every 27 young women played college sports. One of these women was Crestview volleyball Coach Cathy Combest. She was one of the first women to sign a Division One basketball scholarship.

Later, she was inducted in the William Carrey Sports Hall of Fame and she was drafted in 1981 by the New Orleans Pride of the Women’s Basketball League. She is a local legend who continues to mold and shape female athletes. Today, girls make up more than 41 percent of all student athletes, and participation continues to rise. As a former college athlete, I owe a debt of gratitude to Coach Combs and the other women who blazed a trail so I could reap the rewards.

According to The Women’s Sports Foundation, and numerous other studies and independent research, girl’s participation in athletics and team sports has a positive effect on most areas of her life.

Female high school athletes get better grades, are less likely to get pregnant, and are less likely to be involved in an abusive relationship. Anecdotally, female high school athletes have higher levels of self-confidence and self-esteem, a more positive body image and are less likely to have an eating disorder. Participation in sports teaches girls leadership, team work, and time management, all which will benefit her later on down the road.

In a sports-obsessed household, I’m proud to say my kids are almost as interested in women’s sports as they are in the major men’s sports. They’ll watch women’s track and marvel about the strength and speed of the women, gasp at the high flying gymnasts, and give a flip turn a try in the pool.

They were just as likely to cheer for Missy Franklin as they were for Ryan Lochte during the last Olympics.  With an impressionable five year old at home, I’m pleased as punch that she wants to play soccer in her fairy wings and that her baseball glove is pink. Women athletes are redefining beauty and helping young girls develop a truer and stronger body image.

So while I’ll participate in all the pomp and circumstance of big time college football, I’ll politely nod and smile as talk turns to Heisman trophy winners, BCS playoffs, and bowl games. I will also be cheering the women playing volleyball, soccer, field hockey and running cross country. The commitment and dedication to their sport and their school is important, and their influence on young women is immeasurable.

Follow Susan Moody on Twitter @susanjmoody and visit her blog, The Emerald Coast Insider, at www.emeraldcoasttreasurebox.com.