College Sports

Penn State VB

So, another January 1st, another day of college football and the celebration of the bowl season, college athletics and the positive side of sports (I don’t want to get into all the violation craziness): the sheer joy of victories, the real tears of upsets.  2010 should be remembered in NCAA world for two historic markers: the UConn women’s improbable win streak ended at 90 in basketball,  and the Penn State women’s volleyball team had an over the top win streak of 109 ended then went on to win their 4th straight Division I volleyball national title.

There will always be debates about parity in women’s athletics versus men’s athletics, that it’s “harder” to win 30 games men’s hoops than women’s hoops but the reality? A 30 win basketball or volleyball season is to be celebrated: without debate of gender.

The young women playing high school and college sports today are the daughters of Title IX.  They didn’t grow up when young girls playing a sport was an anomaly. Drive through the suburbs of Chicago, Dallas, SF, Denver on a Saturday: just as many pig-tailed girls playing soccer, t-ball, basketball as boys.  When I signed up to play t-ball at 5, I was the first female to ever play for the park league in my medium-sized Chicago suburb.  The next year, my sister was the second.  My oldest niece plays 3 sports and is widely thought of to be the best athlete in her school.  She asked if she could play football, and was told yes.  She would have been the starting quarterback but alas, discovered that her other passion, cheerleading was FOR football (sigh).  She doesn’t know an era where young women cannot receive college scholarships for athletics or academics.

From Division III swimmers to Division I fencers, most play for the love of the sport, with little opportunity after college aside from rec leagues, teaching others and the lessons learned from playing a team sport, being part of a team in predominately individual event sports and the dedication and time management to be a student-athlete.  Like any other group, there are a few that break the rules but there are so many more that compete to compete.  And yes, it’s still fun to discover that a friend of yours holds the college record at your school 20 years later.

What makes the dominance of Penn State and UConn in their respective sports so amazing is that for the first time, there was a glare of a spotlight, there was expectations of “never loosing” and there were grown men and women as well as children watching.  For the first time, two sports showed the fulfillment of Title IX.  Their accomplishments were celebrated on ESPN, national media outlets and on their college campuses.  The “streak breakers” of Stanford (for both!) had a 4 year undefeated dual meet swimming record of its own back in the mid 90’s.

Sports and the lessons learned in competition carry over.  And as the Penn State campus celebrates its 4th straight volleyball title, and as UConn learns from its defeat by Stanford, the greater lesson should be learned.  Throwing, spiking and passing like a girl? It’s something to be celebrated.  Just as the bowl season is to be enjoyed: it takes commitment, dedication and a passion to play at the collegiate level.

Kick back and enjoy watching your favorite team and sport. But remember, these really are just kids playing for the love of a sport.  And somewhere, I am certian, John Wooden enjoyed watching the fall sports season.

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2 Responses to “College Sports”

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