The Resilience of Sports

As a graduate student at the University of Nebraska at Lincoln, I was the evaluator for a federal grant, working with educators implementing the newly passed Title IX legislation. We met for two summers over two weeks.

When we began our sessions, the administrators sat in the front, the counselors sat in the middle, and the coaches sat in the back. The coaches spent much of those first few days reading their newspapers.

One of my evaluation approaches was to go into the men’s restroom before our break and listen to their comments on the safety of a closed bathroom stall. (I sent a colleague to the women’s restroom.) The comments from the administrators and counselors focused on the new information they were hearing and how they could work toward implementation. The coaches had a different attitude.

“This is total BS,” they exclaimed. “How can they expect us to keep up our boys’ athletics accomplishments if we have to share facilities with the girls?”

It was a heated first week, and we were able to address some of the challenges they faced. Beyond that,  it came down to the message that you must do it because it is the law, and you are law-abiding (which describes most people).

The following year, everyone came back; this time, the coaches sat in the front. They wanted to share the stories of their daughters and female student-athletes’ accomplishments on the field.

Last week, 92,003 people appeared in the venerable Memorial Stadium in Lincoln to watch the Nebraska Women’s volleyball team play a match. It was the largest crowd ever to view a women’s sporting event.

The Nebraska volleyball coach commented, “Women’s sports are a big deal here.”

I thought about writing and letting him know it was not always the case.

The Resilience Advantage is all about overcoming adversity and growing from those challenges. I’m proud of those high school coaches who confronted their anxiety and, in doing so, changed the face of sports.

© Richard Citrin 2023

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