X-ercise: High school sports before Title IX — #AtoZChallenge2023

X is for X-ercise: High school sports before Title IX. Twenty-fourth of 26 posts in the April 2023 Blogging From #AtoZChallenge. Theme: Endwell: My High School Years — adding my story to the family history mix. Please join me on the journey.

Last year marked the 50th Anniversary of Title IX – a landmark expansion of US Civil Rights law that opened a path to competitive sports for girls and young women. Alas, Title IX had not yet taken effect when I was in high school at Maine-Endwell (1965-68) .

That meant my athletic female classmates were relegated to being on our award-winning Junior Varsity or Varsity Cheerleading team to cheer on the male athletes — and joining the few female-friendly sports clubs, such as the Girls Athletic Association, the GAA Leaders Club, Ski Club and Synchronotes (synchronized swimming).

USPS Title IX stamps (2022). Last year marked the 50th Anniversary of Title IX – a landmark expansion of Civil Rights law that opened a path into competitive sports for girls and young women. Alas, when I was in high school at Maine-Endwell, Title IX had not yet taken effect. Image: USPS

Female teens like me, who were less athletically inclined, could participate in Intramurals, where we enjoyed team camaraderie, gained experience in after-school sports, and could even earn an athletic letter to emblazon a jacket or sweater — though it was not as official as the varsity letters the guys got.

Intramurals for female students

I was in Intramurals freshmen year, and I remember having fun sampling a variety of sports – both after school and in gym classes. Here are a few:


LACROSSE. The game of lacrosse is based on baggataway, a sport that originated with the Haudenosaunee — the Native nations residing in New York State and lower Ontario. I loved this game for its history as much as for the challenging play itself. Keeping a ball in the lacrosse stick is no easy feat. In fact, European settlers were trounced so regularly and resoundingly by Native teams, that they were allowed a few extra players to even things up. Click here to read more about the game and its history.

SWIMMING. I learned basic swimming at my family’s camp at Page Lake. But in Maine-Endwell swim classes, the instructors taught us how to tread water, dive, and float – all vital to safety and expertise in the water. I did best at swimming underwater, which I did a lot of at the lake – but as an adult I find I can’t do it anymore and bob to the top whenever I try!


GYMNASTICS. By my teens, I was pretty much adult size and lacked the upper body strength to swing from rings or do pommel-horse routines. But I loved vaulting over a handle-less horse and enjoyed learning trampoline techniques as well.

TRACK. Running was an adventure in discovery. Stopwatch in hand, our instructors would put us through our paces for long and short runs – and that’s when I found I was better at short sprints than long, endurance runs. The same holds true today, albeit at a slower pace. I do a great dealt of walking in my urban New York City setting — and I still prefer short fast walks to long endurance treks.


WALKING. Walking was not a high school intramural sport, but it was an exercise I engaged in regularly. In the teen netherworld between childhood bike riding and getting my driver’s license, the most acceptable means of transport was walking – and I did a lot of it.

I’d walk over town to nearby Endicott to shop or go to the movies. I’d walk to the post office to send letters to pen pals and post fan mail to pop stars. I’d walk to my classmate Barb’s house, where she, our classmate Jackie and I would sing and play air guitar in the garage to our favorite songs.  

And sometimes, in my later teens, I’d walk with my neighborhood or school girlfriends — and we’d keep count of how many teen boys beeped their horns at us as they zoomed by in their cars!

Fortunately, after Title IX went into effect in 1972, female students could finally participate in competitive sports on an equal footing with their male counterparts. Such a shame this didn’t happen until after I had finished high school.

Up next, Yes! Accepted to college. Please stop back.

© 2023 Molly Charboneau. All rights reserved.

10 thoughts on “X-ercise: High school sports before Title IX — #AtoZChallenge2023”

  1. I was nifty at netball but hated hockey, and lacrosse was the preserve of the private school stories I loved. In the summer we played tennis and rounders, and occasional athletics – I dreaded dropping the baton in the change over in relays. So physical activities were not my forte! I was always a bit fearful too of my glasses getting hit.

    1. Same here. I would not have competed, but getting a good Intramural grounding helped me embrace weight training, bicycle commuting and lots of walking in later years.

  2. I had no idea that lacrosse was a Native American sport. Unfortunately I was never really a sporty person though I walked “everywhere” since we didn’t have a family car. I went to a girls school where gym was a no-no but swimming and tennis were both played. It’s not an Australian tradition to have the athletic letters. Only the first team of the boys sports had blazers which noted this.
    Interestingly it’s now my granddaughter who plays football and hockey and dances while the boys do other sports.

    1. Good for your granddaughter! Although I might not have been on a competitive girls sports team, I wish we’d had Title IX sooner for my female classmates who were athletic.

  3. I benefitted from Title IX my last two years of high school when we got a Volleyball team as a fall sport for girls.

    I was never a great athlete, but I think it did make a difference when I compare my lifelong devotion to exercise with my mother and mother-in-law’s experiences where they were never convinced that exercise was something a lady should be engaged in.

    1. Glad you got a couple of post-Title IX years in high school. I didn’t become exercise-focused until moving to NYC — where I was a bicycle commuter in my 20s, and took up weight training in my 30s when it became a craze for young women. Systematic walking came later in my 40s. But I agree — women of our generation are generally more exercise-focused than older generations of women.

  4. I was on the swim team in high school. We swam against other girl teams. I don’t know if any of the others on the team got letters. I know I didn’t.
    I used to walk everywhere when I lived in Detroit.

    1. Ah, another walker! I put on many miles — more than usual — during the early Covid 19 days, and took up swimming, too. But alas, in high school, I was not as sports oriented as you.

  5. I only knew lacrosse from reading about Native Americans until I moved up to the area where you grew up. I am also pre title IX. I was not athletically inclined and I went to a high school (Bronx Science) that had sports teams, but sports were a small part of the overall scene at that school. In gym, we played basketball and volleyball, danced, and had a gymnastics segment. Nothing really appealed. But, my New York City upbringing made walking second nature, and that is still my exercise of choice.

    1. Yes, let’s hear it for walking! I do it even more now that I live in NYC. I think lacrosse may have been more of an upstate New York game, since it was indigenous to that area.

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