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Citizen's View: Athletes of both sexes deserve support

In reading the Lake Oswego Review article about the lawsuit filed by Lake Oswego High School women’s softball players (“LOHS softball players file Title IX lawsuit,” April 7), I am bewildered that this treatment of women athletes could happen in our city in 2016. I was surprised earlier to learn about the national women’s soccer team’s lawsuit demanding equity in pay, but this new revelation about LOHS women’s softball is truly shocking.

In the early 1960s, our high school athletic departments focused on the boys’ teams and girls’ athletic options were basically cheerleading and golf or tennis. We supported our boys with cheers and awards and raised money for the school teams. Any praise for high school girls was for our personalities or good grades, or good looks as homecoming royalty, or as members of exclusive clubs. We wore our boyfriends’ letter jackets with pride, but we didn’t have our own.

I was thrilled in 1972 when Title IX required that a school receiving federal funds must provide opportunities and support for women athletes equal to those of men (no longer referred to as girls and boys). I celebrated what a difference that would make for over 50 percent of the population.

Women’s self-esteem and personal sense of value and drive to succeed starts when they are children and must be nurtured by our public school system. Women who asked for equity in the 60s, 70s and 80s were derided as “bra burners” and “women’s libbers.” Sadly, I see that attitude still continues in sports as well as with workplace discrimination today.

Based on my own experience watching our children and grandchildren grow, I have no doubt that involvement in a team sport can be a significant element in developing a well-rounded adult who is able to work well with others, sometimes in a highly stressful environment. High school team sports, in particular, provide invaluable training for a student’s self-esteem, teamwork, courage and lifelong friendships.

I’ve heard the standard argument that men’s sports get more press coverage and funding because they are more exciting (read “physical”) and make more money for the school or league. This argument is laughable when speaking of our young women athletes in public schools. The reported response to the softball team’s request to use funds donated by their supporters to build a hitting facility (since they aren’t allowed to use the boys’ equipment) is that they would not get the funds “unless and until the . . . team wins the state championship” and those funds would be used for another sport. If true, this should be “Exhibit A” in the Title IX lawsuit.

Withholding resources until a team wins a state title is a “Catch-22” that probably results in lack of participation and/or performance, diminishing or even eliminating the benefit of team sports as an important element in these young women’s development.

Athletes of both sexes cannot be denied the respect they deserve as valuable members of the community who will become our future stars and leaders.

Laurie N. Lee, a longtime Lake Oswego resident, is a writer and retired attorney with a granddaughter who attends Lake Oswego Junior High School.