How One Law Made Me Who I Am Today

>>Melissa as childMy father would be described as a “man’s man.” He loves team sports, he knows his way around a car, and he loves to fish. And, as a father, he shared his passions with his children.

But this was the 1970s, and his two eldest children were girls.

My sister and I were born a few years after the passing of title IX in June of 1972. And while I may not have known at the time, it had a profound effect on my life and my father’s life as a parent and a coach.

Growing up, I played every sport. I was on the baseball and the soccer team. I played bitty basketball and tennis. I even played golf.

Some of these sports had established leagues that were for girls and boys. But sometimes, my sister and I were the only girls out there. I didn’t think anything of it at the time, but what I didn’t realize was that my father had made it possible for us to play at all.

I remember my sister standing in a row of plaid and pastel clad preppy boys, each taking their turn in a long drive golf competition. She addressed the ball with confidence, outdriving each and every one of them.

I remember getting hit with a baseball by a boy pitcher and having my father tell me that, even though my coach told me it was okay to walk the base, I could get up and hit again if I wanted to. I went back to the plate and swung as hard as I could.

I remember my sister and I being the only girls on an all boys squad of basketball players.

When opportunities were not available for us, my father made playing sports possible. Not just for us, but for all the girls that came after. He was our coach and our biggest fan.

As we got older, my father moved up with us. He coached Little League basketball, then Junior High, then J.V., and finally, Varsity girls’ basketball, where he stayed for a number of years long after we had graduated.

In coaching girls’ basketball, he found his calling.

No one was ever prouder of a team then Coach Hull; no one fought harder for people to come to our games than my dad. He made sure that his girls succeeded both on and off of the court, championing academic and athletic success in his players.

And while he may not have intended it, my father became a Title IX advocate and occasional activist.

What may have started as an insistence for equal treatment for his two daughters had turned into a demand for equality for his team, and for all of the girls who grow up in a world where men’s sports and men’s rights still enjoy a quiet and seemingly intractable privilege.

Now, my father is not one to call himself an advocate. But that’s what he is nonetheless.

When a recent President threatened to take away Title IX funding, my father talked to his team about it, telling them to speak with their parents about why the law was important.

When my school guidance counselor tried to steer me into home economics classes and less rigorous classes even though I had one of the highest averages in the class, my father read him the riot act.

Although he is no longer a coach, he still keeps track of his former players as much as he can, taking pride in their accomplishments as they take their place in this world. For some, they would not be where they are if it were not for my dad. I know that is true for me.

As fate would have it, five out of six of my dad’s grandchildren are girls. Papa takes them golfing, fishing, watches their soccer games, applauds their jump shots, and cheers them on at every step.

And thanks to Title IX, his daughters and granddaughters will have every opportunity to achieve their goals, and not just in athletics.

>>Title IX “requires gender equity for boys and girls in every educational program that receives federal funding.” This means that its application reaches way past sports: education, employment, sexual harassment, learning environment, educational resources for pregnant or parenting students, access to higher education are all impacted by the law. A law that we still need very much.

Title IX has its 43rd anniversary on June 23, 2015. And while it does not fall on Father’s Day this year, for fathers of daughters, Title IX really is a day for fathers to celebrate.

>>MelissaMelissa Geil is a freelance writer and English teacher. Although originally from New York, she moved to North Carolina the first time for college (go Tar Heels), and now she is back to stay. She enjoys reading, hiking, and gallivanting around the triangle with her family.

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