Fifty Years of Title IX and We Still Have Work To Do


By Siobhan King

The lives of young female athletes were forever changed on June 23, 1972. Former President Richard Nixon signed into law a bill that “[p]rohibits discrimination on the basis of sex in educational programs.” The bill is famously known as Title IX. The passing of this historic bill represented a beacon of hope for millions of young women across the country. 

Now, 50 years later, despite Title IX supposedly sparking change in women’s sports, female athletes are still having to fight for the same rights and respect as their male counterparts. In this past year alone, the U.S. Department of Education has been faced with roughly 1,300 ongoing investigations regarding non-compliance with Title IX, according to the Women’s Sports Foundation. Compliance with Title IX is still a very prominent issue, not only in our country, but in our community here at Tamalpais High School. 

Just by walking past the baseball and softball fields, you can see Tam’s obvious neglect of Title IX. While the up-to-date baseball field is decked out with luxurious dugouts, multiple new batting cages, plenty of storage, and a press box, the softball field looks like it’s being held together by duct tape and glue. The dugouts are crammed and lack the huge shelves that line the entirety of the baseball dugouts. The singular, overgrown batting cage at the softball field doesn’t hold a candle to the four state-of-the-art cages located at the baseball field. While the baseball team has a large shipping container to store all their equipment, the softball team has one 8×12 foot shed that pales in comparison. A press box isn’t even present at the field. 

Field maintenance is also a key disparity between the two fields. Since the baseball field is laid with new turf, it requires less maintenance. The dirt softball field has patches of weeds scattered all over it, as well as major flooding issues due to uneven surfaces.

Tam High’s neglect of the softball field and its facilities seems to instill the message that the team and its players are not worth investing in. This message is beginning to infiltrate the student body .Last year there was a student-led online petition to get more student parking, which prompted one student to comment that the softball field should be turned into a parking lot. This single comment gained lots of support from fellow students.

“I feel like our support doesn’t necessarily come from Tam. It comes from the parents and the coaches. Not the school itself,” Carly Waldeck, a senior on the softball team, said when asked about Tam High’s support of the softball program. 

Waldeck and fellow senior, Allie Bertolina, shared that the differences between the fields and their respective facilities, as well as the overall feeling of oversight from the school, leads to a lack of motivation among the softball players. “It’s definitely easier to play better when you feel like you’re supported … That motivation comes from within ourselves, but also from the support of the community,” Waldeck explained. 

Neither Waldeck and Bertolina believe Tam supports the softball and baseball programs equally, they said.

However, Nathan Bernstein, coach of the varsity baseball team at Tam and dean of students, disagreed. “I think they do offer equal support.” 

Bernstein spoke highly of the athletic department at Tam, as well as the boosters program. “I know students don’t see it behind the scenes, but at other [schools] they’ll have individual team fundraising and they’ll have individual accounts … We worked really hard the last five years or so to change that,” Bernstein said. He continued by sharing that while everything is fundraised into one pot, it is still up to the boosters board to decide how to divide it. 

Bernstein also displayed lots of pride for his players over the care they show to their field. “I think it is good when kids have pride in their facility. I think one of the most important things for any culture in any sport is that the students feel like it’s their responsibility to take care of the facility,” he said. Both the softball and baseball teams maintain their own fields. However, the school administration is responsible for maintaining equal quality facilities between fields and is not allowed to relieve themselves of that responsibility by putting it on the coaches and teams, according to Title IX Specialists.

When asked if he believes that poor quality facilities affect team morale and performance, Bernstein responded, “I don’t think facilities have that much to do with it.”

Bernstein went on to say that the baseball programs’ new facilities and equipment were due to team fundraising and donations made by parents. When speaking to the athletic director, Nathan Johnson, he too suggested that the reason behind the differences in facilities were fundraising and booster requests. 

“Maybe it’s possible, and this is my first year here, that the softball program doesn’t know that we can use these different avenues to build up the facilities,” Johnson said. 

The baseball program has 64 players and families to help fundraise and maintain the field, while the softball program only has 18. Waldeck shared that there have even been years where the softball program had as few as 10 players. 

Another element that can contribute to level of field maintenance and fundraising is that the softball team has coaches hired from outside the school who work only during the on-season, unlike Bernstein who is present at the school all year round. Having that year-round presence leads to a stronger community within the program, and can support the amount of fundraising being done and the maintenance of the field.

Having a teacher [as a coach], you see them often, you can build a relationship with them at school and off the field. Whereas with our coaches, we only see them during the season. So we just know them as our coach and they know us as a player, not as a person as much,” Bertolina said regarding this issue. 

Waldeck added that, “[Our coaches] have other jobs and things that they need to do. It definitely leads to a bit of a disconnection.”

According to Global Sports Matter, having strong and motivating female coaches is key to the success of young female athletes and the longevity of women’s sports programs, but only 27 percent of youth sports head coaches are women.

Despite having his own program to run, Bernstein has worked  to use his voice as a varsity coach to support the softball program as well. “At every boosters’ meeting, I’ve spoken up about it and I’ve met with the athletic director a lot about what we need to do,” Bernstein said. 

As well as donating paint and supplies to the softball program, he has also met with the parents of the softball players and helped them create a plan to tackle the maintenance of their field. Bernstein declined to comment on how Tam has addressed the disparities between the softball and baseball fields.

One of the most distinguishable differences between the fields is the batting cages. While the baseball team has four newly installed cages, the softball team has one, which is overgrown with weeds and frequently floods due to rain and king tides. 

We never use them. We never used it a single time during practice [last year],” Bertolina said regarding the condition of the cage. 

If the softball team is unable to use their single cage for batting practice, while the baseball team has four, that is a serious disadvantage, and a major Title IX violation, Title IX Specialists reports.

For storage, the baseball team has a large shipping container that comfortably fits all their equipment, the softball team has a small shed with no light that Waldeck called a “tripping hazard,” since it is nearly impossible to organize everything with such little space. Because of this, the team is forced to store its bigger pieces of equipment, such as their pitching nets, outside. This has lead to the metal frame of the nets becoming worn and weathered. However, Bertolina admitted that this is not an issue because, since their one pitching machine is broken, they “didn’t really use [the nets] because we couldn’t use our pitching machine.”

Another issue that Waldeck and Bertolina discussed was the crammed softball dugouts. The two shared that it is common for the dugouts to become an unorganized mess due to their layout and accessories, or more specifically, lack thereof. Since the dugouts barely have enough hooks for all the players and no other forms of storage, the players have to fill the bench with their school bags, bats, helmets, and anything else they may need to store. These things often spill over to the floor of the dugout. When asked if simply adding shelves similar to what the baseball dugouts have would help, Bertolina responded, “I think that would be really helpful.”

The Women’s Sports Foundation (WSF) has stated that one of the biggest reasons young girls drop out of sports is the “decreased quality of experience” caused by inequitable facilities, equipment, and uniforms between girls’ and boys’ programs, as well as a lack of trained, good-quality coaches. WSF states that the overall outcome of these combined disparities is that “sports just aren’t ‘fun’ anymore” for the young girls participating in them.

Despite the many obstacles that the softball team has faced, the team still had a winning season last year. The team made it to the Marin County Athletic League (MCAL) playoffs and placed the same as the Tam baseball team in North Coast Section (NCS). 

I don’t think many people really knew about it or came either,” Bertolina said. 

Part of that could be on the players, but I feel like it shouldn’t have to be,” Waldeck added. 

A big part of the team’s success last year was thanks to a family of one of the players that gave financial donations. Waldeck and Bertolina said the family has been working to help “revitalize things” in the program. These parents helped organize the painting of the softball dugouts as well as the building of the new snack shack. Yet another physical difference between the fields is that, for many years, the baseball field has had a press box they could use to MC their games, whereas the softball team does not. 

Bernstein, who has been coaching at Tam for eight years, said that the press box was there before he started working here. For years, this remained the case, until finally, the same family lent sound equipment to the softball team. Waldeck and Bertolina expressed their thankfulness for this family, but were also worried about the uncertainty of the next few years. 

“What’s going to happen when that girl graduates? Because right now it’s [her] parents running the show,” Waldeck said.


The new athletic director, Nathan Johnson, said he is aware that a change needs to be made. “There are things that need to be done to make this field better, all the way around. That’s part of what my focus is gonna be for athletics, is how do we make the facilities more equitable for everybody in every sport,” Johnson said.

Johnson started working at Tam this year. When discussing his plan on how he is going to tackle these issues, Johnson said, “My main focus is to see what we can do on a year-to-year basis. What can we do in the next five years? So smaller projects, [then] bigger projects.”

The changes that need to be made can’t happen overnight. The softball program and community understand that. Getting new batting cages may take multiple years to accomplish, but as the team has seen with last year’s season, just small improvements can help tremendously. 

Johnson believes Tam strives to comply with Title IX in relation to the softball and baseball programs.

“I think to say that we a hundred percent do, or any school in that sense, would be selling ourselves short,” he said. “We always have things we need to work on. We always have things we need to repair and get better [in order] to be more equitable, to be more accessible to everybody. I think that we strive to comply with Title IX, as well as we know how.”

The reporter of this article participated in the Tam softball program their freshman year.

Corrections: a previous version of the article reported that former President Richard Nixon passed Title IX into law. It has been corrected to state he signed Title IX into law.