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50 years of Title IX: ‘We’re competitive and we want to play’

KOLO’s Ashley Grams sits down with three generations of female athletes at Nevada to hear their stories.
Published: Jun. 23, 2022 at 5:57 PM PDT
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RENO, Nev. (KOLO) - Growing up in Fallon, Wolf Pack Hall of Famer Ellen Townsend saw the passage of Title IX as a teen, 50 years ago.

Townsend says it was a slow start, especially in rural communities.

“Things don’t just suddenly boom there’s programs. You know most of those things have to be developed, you know you have to have budgets,” Townsend said.

She worked her way to the University of Nevada, where the landmark civil rights law had picked up steam.

“My eyes bugged out you know, you mean I can play volleyball? And basketball and there’s softball? And not only that but there’s other girls as passionate as I am about this,” Townsend said.

Those early days were over by the time Amanda Levens played in the 1990′s. But she’s seen even greater strides toward equality as Wolf Pack Basketball head coach.

“When I was growing up, there was two games a year that maybe I could see and now it’s everywhere,” Levens said. “If you have access to the internet, you can watch women’s college sports.”

“I think a lot more young girls are playing because they’re able to see people that look like them doing this on TV.”

Generations of women have fought for these athletes and these games. Townsend says an appreciation for what it took to get here requires asking questions about the past.

“Why am I here in sports? And what about grandma? Did she ever do anything?” Townsend said.

“I hope that female athletes, you have to understand where these things came from so you don’t take them for granted.”

Nevada volleyball player Lexi Applebach says it was alumni who taught her about the meaning of Title IX.

“Past athletes, they come and say hi to our coach and we’d meet them and it was just an eye opener for me personally because I understood that what they had to go through for me today and what I get to do for this school is really awesome,” Applebach said.

But even standing on half a century of change, many female athletes continue to face an uphill battle.

“There’s still more work to do for sure,” Levens said. “I think there’s things we still need better equity involved with.”

“I think sometimes the belief of, well if we give girls and women this it’ll pacify them but we’re not just looking for kind of a token game and things like that we’re competitive and we want to play,” Townsend said.

Townsend believes the next era of women in sports will do just that.

“It’ll just be a standard that you participate in sports, and you’ll be able to go on to these different careers and professions,” she said.

“That’s what women do, it’s expected. It’s not well maybe we’ll give you a shot. It’s the norm.”

As the fight moves forward, it’s important to appreciate those who were on the front lines more than five decades ago, like Ellen Townsend.

“This would not be possible without so many people that fought for something that they never got to be a part of,” Levens said.

“They never got the benefit but without their fight and commitment to this we wouldn’t be where we are today, and I think it’s important that we never lose sight of celebrating that.”

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