Title IX winners: Women discuss how law impacted their lives

Published: Sunday, June 24 2012 12:00 a.m. MDT

Kendra Tomsic , Director of Athletics at Rowland Hall St. Mark's High School, coaches girls' volleyball at the high school in Salt Lake City on Friday, June 22, 2012.

Laura Seitz, Deseret News

SALT LAKE CITY — It was just one section of a huge education package referred to as Title IX, signed 40 years ago Saturday by then president Richard Nixon. But those few paragraphs forever changed the landscape of sports by offering girls and women opportunities they'd only dreamed about having before that summer day.

It would take years and hundreds of court battles, but eventually Title IX would be credited with bringing gender equity to one of the most male-dominated aspects of our lives – athletics. Those changes are not without controversy, they are not confined to sports and there have been many debates in the past decade about the necessity of some aspects of Title IX.

But in spite of the issues and arguments, there is no doubt Title IX changed the lives of thousands of people. On the 40th anniversary of Title IX, the Deseret News asked some local women to reflect on how and whether this landmark law impacted their lives. These are their Title IX stories:

Kendra Tomsic

Kendra Tomsic graduated from high school a year after Title IX was passed.

"I had no clue what that legislation was until years later," she said of how the federal law would impact her life. "All I knew is that I didn't get to play (sports) and my brothers did."

The daughter of a Carbon County coal miner, Tomsic, 57, learned to play baseball thanks to her older brothers. They gave her a glove and she tagged along whenever they went to practices and games.

"Sometimes the coaches would let me do some of the stuff with the team, but I could never play," said Tomsic, now the athletic director and head volleyball coach at Rowland Hall St. Mark's High School. "I was the scorekeeper for the Little League when I was 9 because it was the only way I could be close to the game.

When she was 12, an older girl started a slow pitch softball team and recruited some of the other girls and women who were willing to play in a recreation league.

"That was my first organized sports experience," Tomsic said. "We played with a 16-inch softball. … We had to shot put it to first because there was no throwing that thing."

And while Tomsic wasn't allowed to play organized sports, she still pursued athletics as a profession.

"I don't know what I was thinking," she said, laughing. "It was just something I loved. I just loved to play. From the time I knew you could have a profession as a gym teacher, that's what I wanted to do."

The salutatorian of her high school graduating class, and the valedictorian at CEU and USU, she was repeatedly asked by professors why she wanted to be a P.E. teacher "when you could do anything," she recalled. "But it was my passion. It's what I wanted to do."

In college there were many opportunities to play sports, and Tomsic took advantage.

"I played everything I could play," she said, noting there was one woman in charge of every athletic squad at CEU.

"I do feel I benefited from Title IX because I actually had an opportunity to play sports in college," she said. "I played volleyball, I swam, I did gymnastics, played volleyball, field hockey and softball. I played and loved everyone. I think I learned a lot of what I carry into my coaching."

More than the chance to compete, Tomsic believes Title IX is responsible for her accomplishments professionally.

"It's because of Title IX that I'm in the position I'm in today, and that I've been in for the past 25 years," she said. "Women athletic administrators were few and far between."