Title IX, which has been on the books for 40 years this month, has gone lengths to improve opportunities for female athletes.
It’s hard to not know a girl who went on to play college-level athletics after high school. Gone are the ideologies that kept women from branching out and gave them one option: get married and have children.
“It’s giving them another avenue as far as post-secondary education is concerned,” said Matt Wilbert, Weyauwega-Fremont High School Principal Matt Wilbert said. “I think that is huge. I think it’s also giving them entitlement of the school and the whole sports program. The entire community comes out to support them at games. The teamwork aspect is a big thing too; you have to work with people you can’t get along with and I think that helps them be more successful later on in life.”
The opportunity to learn discipline is what W-F athletic director Jeff Fahser believes is important about athletics.
“A stronger person can accept the things that occur and excel,” whether on the court or field, or in everyday life, he said.
W-F volleyball coach Rena Tomaszewski experienced the benefit of Title IX firsthand and sees the difference in her athletic daughters every day.
“I grew up in a small town in western Nebraska called Lodgepole,” she said. “At that time, it was a town about the size of Fremont. We had about 60 kids in our high school. If you didn’t participate, it didn’t exist, so everybody did everything: sports, forensics, band and choir.”
Tomaszewski, now a resident in the town of Weyauwega with her husband Rich, grew up around a lot of boys, so she didn’t think it was difficult for girls to be accepted as athletes.
“I guess being a tomboy gives you that advantage,” she said. “If you could keep up, you were accepted by your brothers and their friends. I remember when I attended my first high school volleyball game in about fifth grade. I was hooked. What I saw was amazing. I didn’t think in terms of what was out there for girls. We all (boys and girls) played together, but then I saw the high school girls playing. I knew right then that I wanted to do just that, play like a girl.”
Tomaszewski attended Chadron State College in Chadron, Neb., and played four years of volleyball and participated in track and field for two years.
Now a mother of two daughters – Teal, 17, and Taylor, 19 – Tomaszewski has had a front-row seat to the changes over the last few decades.
“Times have changed, kids have changed, girls have absolutely changed,” she said. “Years ago, girls sat on the sidelines with their moms while their dads paced and yelled at the boys. Now we live in a time that girls dominate many sports just the same as boys.”
Since she and her husband have been life-long athletes, Tomaszewski said it’s hard to imagine life without athletics or their positive effect on their girls.
“The maturity and leadership they have developed over the years is amazing and something we are very proud of,” she said.
Taylor has finished her sophomore year at Lawrence University, where she is a member of the Vikings’ volleyball team. Teal has finished her junior year at Weyauwega-Fremont.
“Athletics have developed their sense of self-worth, pride, self-confidence, physical and emotional strength and their character and leadership skills,” Tomaszewski said.
Athletics was always a given, according to Taylor.
“I have never considered not being allowed to play sports,” she said. “To me, if one isn’t athletic or trying to keep one’s body physically fit, then that person is a lesser version of the person he or she could be. I know that athletics have sharpened my intellectual skills and social skills as well.”
Athletics keep Teal involved.
“I have had more opportunities to meet people through athletics, people I probably wouldn’t have met otherwise,” she said. “Athletics have allowed me to travel all over the United States. I am motivated to keep my grades up so I stay eligible. I think being involved in athletics helps me to read or understand people as well and I am more alert to my surroundings and I am confident around others.”
Rena Tomaszewski, who has been teaching and coaching in the W-F School District since 1992, echoed Fahser’s words regarding the lessons athletics teaches girls.
“Everything we do in life has to do with competition, so why not get that education through athletics?” she asked. “Whether it is who is going to get the job with the best salary and benefits or being able to do battle against an evil foe like cancer, we all have to compete for something every day of our lives.
“I know that when I leave this world, my kids will be strong and healthy physically, mentally, socially and emotionally,” she added. “They wouldn’t have that strength if it weren’t for their experiences in athletics.”