I competed before and after Title IX as a swimmer on a summer swim team, and a couple years of diving, as a 7-year-old to a 13-year-old. In high school I played tennis, volleyball,  basketball, field hockey,  and golf, all as a part of the Girls’ Athletic Association, which was intramural. I also served on the board of GAA. 

Title IX happened as I went off to college as a freshman. At Elmhurst College, a DIII school, I played volleyball and tennis and also was a cheerleader. Our coaches those first years were awful,  but we were so very happy to be representing our school, playing other teams, and traveling! There were no experienced coaches who would take the job, so those first coaches had no coaching experience and males with experience were not going to jump in at that point.  

Now, it’s nice to see more and more female experienced coaches coaching girls’ teams, after reclaiming them, so to speak, from experienced male coaches. I spoke to a high school player about being so grateful that girls can compete at these levels thanks to Title IX, and she looked at me as if I was from a different planet, not understanding … [girls her age] were born, thank goodness, into sports opportunities!

I fully appreciated the female sports teams I was able to participate in, especially rowing at UVA. At that time (1998-99), women’s rowing was a Division I sport, fully sponsored, while the men’s team was a club due to Title IX.  The men rowed out of the same bay but had no gear, no sponsors, no travel funds, etc. It definitely felt strange to have our counterparts struggling to get to races and to get money to fix boats and other such things. We did not compete against each other, however. The women’s team was top in the nation that year and very competitive. When I transferred to Carnegie Mellon, our DIII club team was all genders together at practice, but separate boats for competition. I loved both teams for different reasons. We had no trans athletes that I was aware of on either team. 

I have coached 10 sports since graduating from college. At the high school level, I’ve coached badminton, tennis, dance, field hockey, diving, lacrosse, and cheerleading. At the youth level, I’ve coached softball and artistic (synchronized) swimming.

 Last year, when I coached a youth program in artistic swimming, there were a handful of 10-and-under boys competing in team routines. The masters’ events I now attend/compete in have taken on male categories and mixed-duets categories (one male, one female). Because of strength and power abilities, the males typically can generate more force for lifting a partner and have stronger “showy” items in routines. However, women tend to possess the artistry required of the sport. 

This movement of males into the sport is just starting to take off, and I’ve not seen or heard of any trans categories, nor do I think we would need it if we have mixed categories (if more than half the swimmers are male, it becomes a mixed routine as of now). That could be inclusive for any gender. Honestly, most masters’ artistic swimmers are just enjoying the fact that people want to participate, and that’s great for our sport overall. There are separate events for athletes with disabilities at this time as well. 

The issue of creating more and more categories around ages has been an area of discussion in artistic swimming on the masters’ level, which is potentially going to be a similar issue if adding trans-male and trans-female categories to sports. It makes so many categories that competition becomes very thin (1-2 routines in a category, for example). Winning medals was becoming meaningless. Some of my friends have boxes of medals that mean nothing to them.

The US artistic swimming association has collapsed some age groups to make this more reasonable. It will probably take several years for sports to develop categories that are robust enough for appropriate competition, and there will temporarily be athletes winning everything simply because they’re alone in a category. That may be a growing pain we as an athletic society need to accept to attain inclusivity.