EDUCATION

Colorado U.S. Senator Michael Bennet Recognizes National Girls and Women in Sports Day

Colorado U.S. Senator Michael Bennet took time this week to celebrate the 26th annual National Girls and Women in Sports Day, which marks the importance of sports participation in the lives of girls and women. This year’s celebration also marks the 40th anniversary of Title IX. In a statement submitted for the congressional record, Bennet, the father of three daughters, highlighted the role that athletics can play in young girls’ development and success.

“Studies show that participation in sports has a positive influence on the intellectual, physical and psychological health of young girls,” Bennet said in his statement. “ According to the National Federation of State High School Associations, by a 3-1 ratio, female athletes do better in school, do not drop out, and have a better chance to get through college.”

The full text of the statement follows:

M. President, I rise today, February 1, to celebrate the 26th Annual National Girls and Women in Sports Day, on which we praise the importance of sports participation and athletics in the lives of girls and women everywhere. This year’s celebration has special meaning as it falls on the eve of the 40th anniversary of the passage of Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972. For over 40 years, this historic law has furthered gender equality in sports participation in schools so that young women, including my three daughters, Caroline, Halina and Anne who all play soccer, may enjoy the benefits that come along with sports participation.

Studies show that participation in sports has a positive influence on the intellectual, physical and psychological health of young girls. According to the National Federation of State High School Associations, by a 3-1 ratio, female athletes do better in school, do not drop out, and have a better chance to get through college. Additionally, a study from the Women’s Sports Foundation showed that high school athletes are less likely to smoke cigarettes or use drugs than their non-athlete peers. Sports participation is also linked to lower rates of pregnancy in adolescent female athletes. With these statistics in mind, it is not surprising that a study from the Oppenheimer/MassMutual Financial Group shows that of 401 executive business women surveyed, 82 percent reported playing organized sports while growing up, including school teams, intramurals, and recreational leagues.

In my home state of Colorado, we are ahead of the curve with regard to the participation of girls and women in sports. The US Olympic Training Center, located in Colorado Springs, was created by an act of Congress in 1978, just a few years after Title IX was passed. It is encouraging to know that women like Gold Medal Winner Lindsey Vonn, now make up nearly half of all US Olympians competing at the games- representing more than 48 percent of the 2008 team. Colorado also supports the success of Paralympians such as Sarah Will, who after a skiing accident that left her paralyzed from the waist down, went on to help found the Vail Monoski Camp and won 12 gold Paralympic medals from 1992 to 2002.

Colorado is also a vanguard in providing early education and sports opportunities for women. The flagship all girls school, GALS (Girls Athletic Leadership Schools) has opened its first public charter school in Denver, Colorado. The school practices active learning that engages students in health and wellness activities in the belief that these are key contributing factors in optimizing academic achievement and self-development. There are also groups such as the Colorado Women’s Sports Fund Association that work towards increasing the number of girls and women who participate in athletics and reducing and eliminating barriers that prevent participation.

Despite the vast improvements with regards to sports participation for girls and women, inequalities and disparities still remain. According to the National Federation of State High School Associations, schools are still providing 1.3 million fewer chances for girls to play sports in high school than boys. These numbers have an even greater impact on Latinas and African-American young women. The Women’s Sports Foundation shows that less than two-thirds of these girls play sports while more than three quarters of Caucasian girls do. And three quarters of boys from immigrant families are involved in athletics, while less than half of girls from immigrant families are.

M. President, we have work to do. Part of our job is to promote the importance of this national effort to grow the rates of female athletes. Please join me in celebrating National Girls and Women in Sports Day by supporting efforts to expand equality in sports participation and education for women and girls around the country.

I yield the floor.

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