Title IX: Making Men out of our Daughters

by W.F. Price on January 27, 2014

Title IX is an atrocious piece of legislation, but it also exposes some of the excesses of college sports programs, which are run like semi-pro leagues today. Because Title IX ridiculously mandates parity in male and female sports programs despite the fact that young men are naturally far more interested in sports than young women, finding enough women to fill the rosters has proven to be difficult for colleges. The need to find girls who can compete has led schools to recruit girls before they even enter high school, which is reminiscent of the USSR’s systematic selection process:

SANFORD, Fla. — Before Haley Berg was done with middle school, she had the numbers for 16 college soccer coaches programmed into the iPhone she protected with a Justin Bieber case.

She was all of 14, but Hales, as her friends call her, was already weighing offers to attend the University of Colorado, Texas A&M and the University of Texas, free of charge.

Haley is not a once-in-a-generation talent like LeBron James. She just happens to be a very good soccer player, and that is now valuable enough to set off a frenzy among college coaches, even when — or especially when — the athlete in question has not attended a day of high school. For Haley, the process ended last summer, a few weeks before ninth grade began, when she called the coach at Texas to accept her offer of a scholarship four years later.

Haley is not a once-in-a-generation talent like LeBron James. She just happens to be a very good soccer player, and that is now valuable enough to set off a frenzy among college coaches, even when — or especially when — the athlete in question has not attended a day of high school. For Haley, the process ended last summer, a few weeks before ninth grade began, when she called the coach at Texas to accept her offer of a scholarship four years later.

When I started in seventh grade, I didn’t think they would talk to me that early,” Haley, now 15, said after a tournament late last month in Central Florida, where Texas coaches showed up to watch her juke past defenders, blond ponytail bouncing behind.

“Even the coaches told me, ‘Wow, we’re recruiting an eighth grader,’ ” she said.

In today’s sports world, students are offered full scholarships before they have taken their first College Boards, or even the Preliminary SAT exams. Coaches at colleges large and small flock to watch 13- and 14-year-old girls who they hope will fill out their future rosters. This is happening despite N.C.A.A. rules that appear to explicitly prohibit it.

The heated race to recruit ever younger players has drastically accelerated over the last five years, according to the coaches involved. It is generally traced back to the professionalization of college and youth sports, a shift that has transformed soccer and other recreational sports from after-school activities into regimens requiring strength coaches and managers.

The practice has attracted little public notice, except when it has occasionally happened in football and in basketball. But a review of recruiting data and interviews with coaches indicate that it is actually occurring much more frequently in sports that never make a dime for their colleges.

Early scouting has also become more prevalent in women’s sports than men’s, in part because girls mature sooner than boys. But coaches say it is also an unintended consequence of Title IX, the federal law that requires equal spending on men’s and women’s sports. Colleges have sharply increased the number of women’s sports scholarships they offer, leading to a growing number of coaches chasing talent pools that have not expanded as quickly. In soccer, for instance, there are 322 women’s soccer teams in the highest division, up from 82 in 1990. There are now 204 men’s soccer teams.

“In women’s soccer, there are more scholarships than there are good players,” said Peter Albright, the coach at Richmond and a regular critic of early recruiting. “In men’s sports, it’s the opposite.”

While women’s soccer is generally viewed as having led the way in early recruiting, lacrosse, volleyball and field hockey have been following and occasionally surpassing it, and other women’s and men’s sports are becoming involved each year when coaches realize a possibility of getting an edge.

Precise numbers are difficult to come by, but an analysis done for The New York Times by the National Collegiate Scouting Association, a company that consults with families on the recruiting process, shows that while only 5 percent of men’s basketball players and 4 percent of football players who use the company commit to colleges early — before the official recruiting process begins — the numbers are 36 percent in women’s lacrosse and 24 percent in women’s soccer…

Shoving girls into competitive contact sports like soccer is unnatural and dangerous. Girls who play soccer have a very high rate of devastating knee injuries, and basketball even higher. But because of Title IX, colleges that make good money on men’s basketball and football must create numerical and financial parity between male and female players. This results in a financial incentive for families to push their daughters into sports designed for male bodies, thereby injuring girls and wasting money and male talent. It is almost as stupid and wasteful as putting young women in combat, although it isn’t quite that bad.

I also have to wonder whether the scholarships are really worth the risk. If a girl gets a scholarship, but in the process blows out her ACL, is that a fair trade? Also, does it help her in terms of career and marriage? I doubt it. Men don’t generally care whether a girl played in competitive sports or not, and women don’t seem all that interested in the kinds of jobs athletes traditionally get after giving up sports (salesman, businessman, military officer, etc.).

I’d recommend keeping athletic daughters out of high-impact team sports, and instead giving them a choice of something like tennis, gymnastics, skiing, swimming or the like, depending on their talents, of course. There’s nothing wrong with young women using their bodies in a vigorous, healthy way, but they aren’t built for slamming into people while wearing cleats. I played soccer at a high level in high school (went to state championships), and it can be a very rough sport — I still have scars on my ankles and shins from being gouged by cleats. It isn’t as rough on the joints as football, which, seeing the knee and hip surgeries most of the men in my family have to get in middle age, I am now glad I never played, but it’s no pansy sport. Frankly, I wouldn’t want my daughter thrown into the game, and I sometimes wonder about parents who push their daughters into it.

But this article sheds a little light on the practice: the government, through colleges, wants them there on the field. Being feminine, it seems, isn’t good enough for our women; they have to act like men to get ahead. No wonder American women have such a gender identity crisis.

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