Longtime female prep reporter looks back on 40 years with Title IX
I stood outside the Snohomish High School locker room and waited.
The Panthers had just lost to Kentwood in the state football playoffs and coach Dick Armstrong was inside answering questions from reporters.
Male reporters, that is.
I was the lone female reporter covering the game and had asked a couple of the guys if they could bring Armstrong outside for the interview.
Sure, they said.
So, inside the locker room I went, where the legendary Armstrong was surrounded by several reporters. I started taking notes and prepared to ask my questions.
Armstrong caught a glimpse of me, stopped in midsentence and said, “Young lady, do you realize you are in the boys locker room?”
Indeed I did. I explained I was covering the game for the Valley Daily News in Kent and, because he had allowed the other reporters in the locker room for interviews, I needed to be in there, too.
He was clearly flabbergasted and he quickly led us all to another area, where showering boys were well out of sight.
It was 1982. Title IX – the landmark legislation that precludes sexual discrimination – was 10 years old, but we still had a long way to go, baby.
Thirty years later, Title IX is turning 40, and in many ways we’ve made some big strides, especially when it comes to females covering male sports.
Back then, I was a bit of a rookie. It was my first full year with the Valley newspapers and I had the primary prep boys beats – football, boys basketball and baseball. I don’t recall postgame interviews being a problem again.
As I established myself, coaches came outside on their own to take our questions, or one of the male reporters would go bring him out for all of us to talk to collectively. The same with athletes.
And, of course, I returned the favor for the guys when I happened to cover a girls event with a woman coach.
In those days, there were few female sports reporters, although I was hardly a pioneer.
Today there are many of us across the state, especially those of us covering high-school sports. With early deadlines, all prep reporters – male or female – generally try to interview players and coaches immediately following their contests, whenever possible.
I’d say gender is no longer a factor.
That certainly wasn’t true when I started looking for a job as a sports reporter upon graduating from Washington State University in 1975. I couldn’t find anyone who would hire me. I know of at least two positions I would have been offered had I not been a woman – from “off-the-record” feedback I received from references.
I wound up taking the long road, starting as a general-assignment reporter at a weekly newspaper in Madras, Ore. Oh, I covered sports, but also school-board and city-council meetings and everything in-between.
That only strengthened my commitment to becoming a full-time sports reporter. Covering football games was far more fun than reading financial reports. Ultimately, I achieved my goal and now am approaching my 25-year anniversary with The Seattle Times.
Some things haven't changed. Preps are still my passion.
If you’ve done the math, you’ve figured out I was pre-Title IX during my high-school days at Eisenhower of Yakima, where I graduated in 1971. I consider myself one of the lucky ones because we actually had girls sports at a time when many other high schools around the state did not.
I played volleyball and basketball and was the manager for the track team (there was no softball program, or I would have opted for that). What we played back then was a far cry from the level of volleyball and basketball I get to cover these days.
I marveled at the net play of Eastside Catholic’s Kameron McLain and Seattle Prep’s Olivia Magill this past volleyball season. And every time I see Mount Rainier sophomore Brittany McPhee on the basketball court, I can’t help but think how far the sport has come from the days when there were six to a side, and only two from each team could cross midcourt.
But at least we had something to play back then.
It’s easy for girls today to take sports for granted. Many did even 10 or 15 years ago. Sue Bird from the Storm admitted she was guilty of it, when I wrote a story on the 30-year anniversary of Title IX back in 2002.
“I’m definitely one of the beneficiaries of Title IX, no doubt,” Bird said back then. “I never had a problem where I wanted to play something and it wasn’t available to me.”
Read the story here.
Even I tend to forget what things were like back when I was left standing by myself out in the cold outside of a boys locker room.
We should all take time to celebrate what Title IX means.
Sandy Ringer has been a high-school sports reporter for The Seattle Times since 1987. She has won many state, regional and national writing awards, and is a member of several halls of fame for state high-school coaches.
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