Gender Equality in High School Sports Started Here
I think parents with daughters here in CV would agree that the athletic opportunities afforded to girls are on par with those offered to boys. Today’s girls play on soccer teams, basketball teams, baseball and softball. Save for the last bastion of football, girls growing up in CV today play all sports with as much enthusiasm, and with as much support from the school and community, as their male counterparts. But that is a social change that has occurred only recently, and girls’ sports in the past were only tolerated, if not discouraged outright.
In 1967, Jan McCreery began her teaching career at Crescenta Valley High School as a girls’ physical education teacher. At that time, girls’ athletics were an after-school club activity. No funding was provided, and there was little participation. An ambitious McCreery, along with two other Glendale PE teachers, put together a true high school girls’ sports program – the first one in the state. The school district reacted with an unenthusiastic yawn. They didn’t interfere, but they didn’t help in any way either. No money was issued for uniforms. The girls made their own, hand-lettering “CVHS” on them. Bake sales paid for equipment. Trophies were hand-made. The girls’ games were cancelled if the boys needed the gym for practice, and real referees were rare. McCreery, now the athletic director of the school’s female sports program, still made less than the male golf teacher.
But it was a time of change in our country. The passage of the Civil Rights Act in the ’60s guaranteeing racial equality showed a harsh light on the gender inequality that still existed. In 1972, Title IX of the Educational Amendment became law. In part, it basically stated that public schools would be required to provide equal resources to both girls’ and boys’ sports programs. But nationwide, schools resisted. McCreery argued before the Glendale school board for an entire year but it remained apathetic about girls’ sports programs in the GUSD.
So in October 1973, McCreery mustered her courage and, along with Hoover coach Patricia Mack and Glendale’s coach Jackie Campbell, filed a federal lawsuit (without the help of attorneys) against GUSD claiming discrimination under Title IX. The next few months were a wild ride. This was the first lawsuit in the nation to demand that the guidelines of Title IX be followed, and its filing brought national media attention to the refusal by the GUSD to abide by the law. The pressure on McCreery was intense. The male coaches and the administration pushed her to drop the lawsuit, while increasing numbers of reporters and TV cameras cornered her for interviews. McCreery related that during that period she started each day by throwing up her breakfast before heading off to school.
But her cause began to attract allies, and further media attention was brought to bear when the GUSD female coaches and PE teachers went on strike in support of McCreery.
Exposed to increasing media scorn, the GUSD buckled and granted funding for the girls’ sports programs. In a domino effect, other school districts in the nation watching the lawsuit followed GUSD’s lead and created girls athletic leagues on par with boys. This was a major step toward creating an “equal playing field,” quite literally, for boys and girls in high school athletic programs, and progress towards that goal is nearly complete.
Before Title IX, about 7% of high school girls participated in varsity athletics. Today that figure is approaching 50%. At the college level today, 40% of scholarship money is awarded to female athletes. That’s an amazing amount of societal change in just 40 years. High school girls today are accustomed to the idea that they are equal to boys on every level.
In 2005, Jan McCreery retired from teaching at CVHS. She had entered her career with a simple goal in mind: to see boys and girls playing sports together on an equal basis. Her legacy is success towards that ideal. CV’s Jan McCreery is to be counted as one of the trailblazers in the quest for equal rights for women.