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What if there were no women’s sports?

A fitness (and apparel) pioneer honors Title IX's 40th anniversary, reminding women how the legislation has shaped their athletic opportunities today.
Missy Park
Missy Park (in white) on the court. "We were wearing the men's uniforms back then!" says Park, which inspired her to start her women's fitness apparel company

You may not remember a time when standing on the sideline cheering was the only way girls could get involved in sports. But Missy Park does.

Park had no outlet for her athletic inclinations until, during her freshman year of high school, the landmark “Title IX” legislation went into effect.

Title IX, which passed in 1972, guaranteed gender equality in education programs receiving federal funding. Which meant, suddenly, that schools had to start supporting and shelling out for girls’ sports. (It allowed Park to kick off a sports career that would later place her on Yale’s basketball, tennis, and lacrosse teams.)

This year is Title IX’s 40th Anniversary, and Park, who went on the create the women’s-only fitness apparel line Title Nine (you and every American woman has probably owned one of their awesome sports bras), is spearheading a year-long campaign called “The Power of Nine.”

To remind women of the impact it had on their opportunities to run, throw, and kick, Park and Oiselle collaborated on a line of commemorative fitness tees, designed by women who were asked to express what the legislation meant to them. The cute, inspirational tees ($35), feature images like sports equipment arranged in a heart, to a “Get out of cheerleading free” card. (No offense, cheerleaders!)

Power of Nine tees, Title IX

Nine percent of the proceeds will benefit Starting Block, which funds sports programs for at-risk girls, and Title Nine is also hosting a series of 9Ks in San Francisco, Boulder, and Chicago as part of the campaign.

“A lot of girls now, like our children and grandchildren, have never heard of Title IX, which is awesome, because they’ve never known it any other way!” says Park. But the knowledge empowers women both on and off the court. “We want women taking that confidence they get on the playing field and bringing it into board, conference, and court rooms.” —Lisa Elaine Held