Girls sports have come a long way, baby

Series: Hinsdale 150 | Story 48

With the Hinsdale Central girls wrestling team in the early days of its first regular season, it seemed appropriate to look back at the days when hardly any girls had the opportunity to compete in any sport, much less wrestling.

Below are excerpts from a column 17-year-old Sandra Bucha, a senior at Hinsdale Central, wrote for The Doings in November 1971. She opened by quoting Article II, Section 14 of the Illinois High School Association Official Handbook.

"Provisions Governing Contests for Girls: No school belonging to this association shall permit girls to participate in interscholastic athletic contests with the following specific exceptions: interscholastic contests in golf, archery, badminton and tennis may be permitted, and sports days may be held in field hockey, volleyball, softball, swimming, bowling, and track and field ... (One must also note that at these sports days, there can be no organized cheering or extensive publicity of the sports day.)"

"At first glance, these state high school rules may seem to be quotes from an antique law book," Bucha began. "Actually, they are incredible rules in the 1970-71 Illinois High School Association handbook.

"There is widespread interest displayed by many people concerning sports for girls, yet any action to make amendments to aid this concern is certainly lacking in results. While there have been some states that include interscholastic sports for girls, Illinois is not among them. ...

"Hinsdale Central has won state titles in both swimming and gymnastics. I really have to congratulate our boys. They prove that hard work pays off. However, there is one thing that discomforts me quite a lot. The boys are the ones with teams and state titles and the girls are not even recognized.

"There are many age-group programs around the country for various sports. These programs are open to any boy or girl who may wish to participate. However, only the males are able to continue their individual sports on high school teams. I am distressed by the fact that many capable girls have to be cut short of their athletic ambitions just because there is some archaic rule prohibiting them from an active amount of sports in high school.

"I wonder if it would be such a terrible crime to include females on some of the different male athletic teams of the noncontact sports. I feel there should be equal opportunity for a girl to try out for a team based on her ability, not on her sex. ...

"Girls and athletics do mix. For this reason, they should not be discriminated against but be considered equally as important as the boys. Besides, if Sen. McGovern feels women are qualified to sit on the Supreme Court bench, then perhaps a girl really isn't that bad."

Bucha graduated in 1972, a year before Congress passed Title IX legislation required school to provide, among other things, equal athletic opportunities for both sexes.

After graduation, she became a professional marathon swimmer. Between 1973 and 1975, she starred in the male-dominated sport of marathon swimming as the top-finishing female in the nine races she entered, in which only three men finished ahead of her.

As a principal in a successful lawsuit against the Illinois High School Association, her actions as a social justice advocate helped create opportunities for thousands of girls to participate in swimming and other sports.

She graduated from Stanford University with honors as an undergraduate and earned her juris doctorate at Indiana University. She was inducted into the Hinsdale Central Hall of Fame in 2012.

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Pamela Lannom is editor of The Hinsdalean