Right On Time
As Title IX turns 50, female athletes are helping the team market back into scoring position.
With few exceptions, 2020 and 2021 were not banner years for team sports participation or sales, female or male, but as the pandemic enters the endemic phase and spring arrives, renewed hope and fresh opportunities for the team market are blossoming.
Yes, supply chain and labor issues persist, but even so female players are at last getting back to regular action and that’s certainly a welcome change from the gloom and frustration of the recent past.
“Our women’s category is growing every day and women’s sports have always been a big and important part of our overall business,” exclaims Jerry Lavender, owner of Sports Specialty, Inc. in Columbus, MS.
“Regarding team sales, when you take football out of the equation, which is a huge sport for boys, there’s really no difference between our girls’ and boys’ businesses — they account for about the same percentages,” Lavender adds. “COVID and masks are fading into the past and our spring sports are all outdoors, so that’ll make a difference.”
Adding to the positivity, this year marks a special milestone: June 23, 2022 is the 50th anniversary of Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972. Title IX, which paved the way for girls and women to play sports in school, is one of the most significant pieces of civil rights legislation in America’s history. It is the first comprehensive federal law that prohibits sex discrimination in education programs and activities that receive federal financial assistance and it has resulted in huge gains not only for female athletes, but also for the sporting goods industry and society at large.
“While progress is being made across intercollegiate athletics, including with our championships, the journey is not over.” – Amy Wilson, managing director in the NCAA Office of Inclusion
To honor the occasion, many festivities are in the works. For example, the NCAA began its “Title IX at 50” celebration during the 2022 NCAA Convention in Indianapolis and the organization will host programs, tributes and other activities through Spring 2023. The efforts will culminate at the 2023 Women’s Final Four in Dallas, where Divisions I, II and III will hold their basketball championships.
“Title IX is turning 50 years old and we are taking this opportunity to celebrate, motivate, encourage and support women and everyone engaged in improving equity for all,” says Amy Wilson, managing director in the NCAA Office of Inclusion. “While progress is being made across intercollegiate athletics, including with our championships, the journey is not over.”
Meanwhile, the Women’s Sports Foundation recently held events to celebrate the annual National Girls & Women in Sports Day while commemorating the 50th anniversary of Title IX. The first-ever NGWSD Virtual 5K and 50 Mile Challenge, held in February, featured a broadcast event with WSF Athlete Ambassadors and was followed by virtual congressional meetings.
In the months ahead, the WSF plans to release a national research report on the 50-year impact of Title IX, hosting a virtual town hall meeting series and culminating with its Annual Salute to Women in Sports.
“As the ally, advocate and catalyst for girls and women in sports, the Women’s Sports Foundation is driven and determined to continue leading girls and women forward — in both sport and life,” says Deborah Antoine, WSF CEO. “We reach another major milestone this year: WSF has invested over $100 million since our founding [by Billie Jean King in 1974] to expand access and opportunities for girls and women in sports.
“We are optimistic about the future, yet our fight for equality must continue,” she adds. “We are proud of our legacy of protecting Title IX while also illuminating the gaps where more work is needed to fulfill its promise.”
It is everyone’s hope that the positive trajectory of female sports will continue for another 50 years and beyond and there is certainly much cause for optimism.
“The women’s team market is impressive,” says Matt Brunyansky, owner of Waterbury, CT-based B&G Sports. “Female athletes have had to struggle sometimes, but women’s sports are very successful.”
Howard Schweibel, owner of All Lacrosse in Montclair, NJ, concurs: “Women’s sports are very healthy. The country has become sensitive to needing a level playing field and that’s good.”