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Athletes reflect on Title IX, forty years later

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Albany/HV: Athletes reflect on Title IX, forty years later
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Forty years since the passage of Title IX, women's sports have seen a fundamental shift. Our John Wagner spoke with the Hudson Valley's softball player of the year who says while things have gotten better, there's still work to do.

MARLBORO, N.Y. -- With 17 wins, 1 loss, a .79 ERA and a .667 batting average, Marlboro's pitcher Emily McDonough earned the reputation of softball player of the year - and a scholarship to St. Bonaventure.

"Every bit of it is real," said Scott Syska, who's the manager of the 18U Dutchess Debs, a travel league team that McDonough's a part of. "The kid is unbelievable, really you just can't get her out."

McDonough's scholarship is a possibility thanks to Title IX. By declaring that athletes must receive the same treatment, benefits, and opportunities regardless of gender, the playing field is slowly balancing and role models are emerging.

"When I was younger I always liked Mia Hamm the soccer player, that's also why I wear number nine," said Emily McDonough, who was voted softball player of the year by the Times Herald-Record, the Daily Freeman, and the Poughkeepsie Journal.

"As opposed to just taking a recreational approach or just something to fill their day, they're very competitively driven to reach their potential," said Syska, who has noticed an increased interest in women's athletics and travel softball leagues.

When the law passed, just two percent of athletic budgets were allocated for women's sports. By 2010, 40 percent were at Division I schools, but women made up 53 percent of student bodies. The odds are still not quite in their favor, and professionally, it's a longshot.

"I think most girls recognize that the professional opportunities are very, very limited," said Syska. "Probably their best case scenario is coaching."

"A lot of people don't watch things like the WNBA or professional softball games, but they never even existed a few years ago, so I think that it's a slow progression," said McDonough.

In 1972, fewer than 300,000 girls played high school sports, or about one in 27. Now that number has jumped all the way up to one out every two women, for more than three million total.

"It's certainly a pathway to an education," continued Syska, "and to give them a foundation from the teamwork that goes into playing the team sports--and the foundation to compete."

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