White Sox

Title IX: 40 years of progress?

785030.png

Title IX: 40 years of progress?

The facts are clear and indisputable. Since Title IX was adopted in 1972, 40 years ago, the federal civil rights law that prohibits discrimination on the basis of sex has dramatically changed the course of education for female students in athletics and academics in the United States.

In 1971 before Title IX, women earned less than 10 percent of law and medical degrees and only 13 percent of doctoral degrees. Only 1 in 27 participated in high school sports. There was virtually no money available for college scholarships. The Illinois High School Association didn't sponsor any sports for girls.

Things sure have changed. By 2001, 1 in 2.5, or 2.8 million girls were participating in high school sports. The number of girls competing in college sports increased from 32,000 in 1971 to 150,000 in 2012. There is 1 million available for scholarships and the IHSA sponsors 15 competitive activities for girls, 14 for boys.

But a gender gap still exists. Women hold fewer management positions than men and earn only 77 cents for every dollar that a male counterpart earns. There are 1.3 million fewer girls participating in high school sports. And that doesn't take into account who's watching.

Steve Tucker and Dave Power have been observing girls sports in Illinois and around the country since the 1970s--Tucker as an editorreporter for the Chicago Sun-Times and Power as basketball coach at Proviso East, Proviso West, Immaculate Heart of Mary and Fenwick.

They freely acknowledge the many pluses of Title IX. Power has sent 40 girls to college on scholarship. Girls have opportunities to go to college to compete in such sports as field hockey, rugby, lacrosse and bowling, activities that didn't exist at the time that Title IX was enacted.

"Title IX has given girls almost unlimited opportunities to participate on a team," Power said. "There are more sports, more opportunities, more scholarships. It has opened up a lot of pathways and doors that weren't open before. Girls have learned lifelong lessons that carry over into life beyond sports."

Power recalls the pre-Title IX era when girls participated in the Girls Athletic Association (GAA), which amounted to intramural competition. The Illinois High School Association didn't sponsor any championship activities for girls, only boys.

"There was always one girl in every school, called a Tom Boy, who was more athletic than other girls and even some boys and she competed with her older brothers and mixed it up with the boys in football, basketball and baseball. When Title IX began, she could take her team quite a way, like Pam Gant or Kathy Boswell or Tina Hutchinson or Jackie Joyner-Kersee. But that won't fly today.

"In those days, there was no athleticism. The skill set was very low. In basketball, nobody could make a free throw. That's what is different today. Now each team has four or five really good players. One great player isn't enough to take a team Downstate. The game is more uptempo. There is more athleticism, more good fundamentals, more skills."

But Power also sees a negative side. He describes a "glut in sports" that is created by parents who, frustrated that their daughter doesn't excel in one sport, find another sport that she does excel in, then organize a team. "That is what is hurting girls sports," he said.

"In girls programs, they don't cut so they keep 110-120 girls in a program, 40-50 on a team. There are too many sports and so many coaches are trying to get girls to play them full-time. In the old days, kids played more than one sport. Today, specialization is emphasized. More and more sports are popping up."

Power sees some sports booming while others are declining. Some teams boast such large numbers that many girls can't play or see little playing time. At Fenwick, Power said coaches share athletes, allowing them to participate in more than one sport. But many schools persuade girls to compete in only one sport, like a club sport.

He claims Fenwick basketball is thriving. He keeps only 15 players on the varsity. In 20 years at the Oak Park school, he has won over 400 games and two state championships.

"The game is still great, better than ever, better skills and athleticism and fundamentals, maybe too physical," he said. "From a team point of view, everything is going well. But are we producing the number of super stars or great players. Something is amiss. Maybe it's because we are producing a number of girls who are very good but not great. We're not seeing any more Candace Parkers or Devereaux Peters or Tricia Listons."

Power believes girls basketball is losing potentially great players because there are so many other avenues for them to take. "Kids go where they can get a college scholarship, where their best chance is. They are influenced by their families. For some, it's a status figure. Now it's a driving force," he said.

Tucker counts empty seats. He said he isn't sure that Title IX has turned out exactly the way the organizers and legislators envisioned it. He notes how it has impacted on college sports--how many programs are operating in the black?--and how attendance figures for high school girls and boys sports have declined.

"The biggest part is acceptance," Tucker said. "It is there and people do it. But girls softball, basketball and volleyball isn't like what they do for boys...no cheerleaders, no concessions. Very rarely do you see high schools conduct dances or other social activities after girls games like they do for boys games.

"Yes, there are scholarships for girls, which is why Title IX was created but it hasn't put people in the seats. There is not a huge fan base for girls sports, just family and friends and fans. At a boys football or basketball game, there is a social aspect to it, not with girls sports.

"Girls sports haven't found a niche with the public. There is no "oh boy, the girls are playing" attitude, even within their own community, high school or college. I don't see a lot of kids going to girls games."

Tucker also points out that Title IX has been a financial drain on high school and college programs. With the addition of so many more sports and so many participants, there are fewer qualified coaches. Budgets are being stretched. Who pays for all the equipment and facilities?

"It is good to have so many options but it has taken its toll," Tucker said. "Schools are strapped financially. Some schools are forced to eliminate some sports and cut back on coaches."

Colleges have cut back, too. Because of Title IX, some schools have cut wrestling and other non-revenue sports. In women's basketball, Tennessee, Connecticut and Notre Dame have done well. DePaul averages under 3,000 at home, fewer than the Northwestern men's team that hasn't qualified for the NCAA tournament in its history.

"After 40 years, It is a big disappointment," Tucker said. "It is the nature of society today. Boys sports aren't drawing as many spectators as they once did. There are more things to do and more things pulling at people to do. Remember the old Chicago Hustle, the women's professional basketball team in the late 1970s and early 1980s? They generated more interest than anyone now. And they're gone and forgotten."

White Sox prospect Micker Adolfo sidelined with elbow injuries

mickeradolfo.jpg
USA TODAY

White Sox prospect Micker Adolfo sidelined with elbow injuries

PHOENIX, Ariz. — One of the White Sox prized prospects will be on the shelf for a little while.

Outfielder Micker Adolfo has a sprained UCL in his right elbow and a strained flexor tendon that could require surgery. He could avoid surgery, though he could be sidelined for at least six weeks.

Though he hasn’t received the same high rankings and media attention as fellow outfield prospects Eloy Jimenez and Luis Robert, Adolfo is considered a part of the White Sox promising future. He’s said to have the best outfield arm in the White Sox system.

Adolfo had a breakout season in 2017, slashing .264/.331/.453 with 16 homers and 68 RBIs in 112 games with Class A Kannapolis.

Adolfo, along with Jimenez and Robert, has been generating buzz at White Sox camp in Glendale, with a crowd forming whenever the trio takes batting practice. Earlier this week, the three described their conversation dreaming about playing together in the same outfield for a contending White Sox team in the future.

Javy Baez can do anything defensively, but what's next for him at the plate?

0223-javy-baez.jpg
USA TODAY

Javy Baez can do anything defensively, but what's next for him at the plate?

MESA, Ariz. — You don’t need to spend long searching the highlight reels to figure out why Javy Baez goes by “El Mago.”

Spanish for “The Magician,” that moniker is a fitting one considering what Baez can do with his glove and his arm up the middle of the infield. The king of tags, Baez also dazzles with his throwing arm and his range. He looks like a Gold Glove kind of player when you watch him do these amazing things. And it’s no surprise that in his first media session of the spring, he was talking about winning that award.

“Just to play hard and see what I can do. Obviously, try to be healthy the whole year again. And try to get that Gold Glove that I want because a lot of people know me for my defense,” he said Friday at Cubs camp. “Just try to get a Gold Glove and stay healthy the whole year.”

Those high expectations — in this case, being the best defensive second baseman in the National League — fall in line with everything the rest of the team is saying about their own high expectations. It’s been “World Series or bust” from pretty much everyone over the past couple weeks in Mesa.

Baez might not be all the way there just yet. Joe Maddon talked earlier this week about his reminders that Baez needs to keep focusing on making the easy plays while staying a master of the magnificent.

“What I talked to him about was, when he had to play shortstop, please make the routine play routinely and permit your athleticism to play. Because when the play requires crazinesss, you’re there, you can do that,” Maddon said. “But this straight up ground ball three-hopper to shortstop, come get the ball, play it through and make an accurate throw in a routine manner. Apparently that stuck. Because he told me once he thought in those terms, it really did slow it down for him. And he did do a better job at doing that.”

But the biggest question for Cubs fans when it comes to Baez is when the offense will catch up to his defense. Baez hit a game-winning homer run in his first major league game and smacked 23 of them last season, good for fifth on a team full of power bats. But arguably just as famous as Baez’s defensive magic is his tendency to chase pitches outside of the strike zone. He had 144 strikeouts last season and reached base at a .317 clip. Seven Cubs — including notable struggling hitters Jason Heyward and Ben Zobrist — had higher on-base percentages in 2017.

Baez, for one, is staying focused on what he does best, saying he doesn’t really have any specific offensive goals for the upcoming season.

“I’m not worrying about too much about it,” he said. “I’m just trying to play defense, and just let the offense — see what happens.”

Maddon, unsurprisingly, talked much more about what Baez needs to do to become a better all-around player, and unsurprisingly that included being more selective at the plate.

“One of the best base runners in the game, one of the finest arms, most acrobatic, greatest range on defense, power. The biggest thing for me for him is to organize the strike zone,” Maddon said. “Once he does that, heads up. He’s at that point now, at-bat wise, if you want to get those 500, 600 plate appearances, part of that is to organize your zone, accept your walks, utilize the whole field, that kind of stuff. So that would be the level that I think’s the next level for him.”

Will Baez have a season’s worth of at-bats to get that done? The versatile Cubs roster includes a couple guys who split time between the infield and outfield in Zobrist and Ian Happ. Getting their more consistent bats in the lineup might mean sacrificing Baez’s defense on certain days. Baez, of course, also has the ability to slide over to shortstop to spell Addison Russell, like he did when Russell was on the disabled list last season.

Until Baez learns how to navigate that strike zone a bit better, it might make Maddon more likely to mix and match other options, rather than considering him an everyday lock like Anthony Rizzo and Kris Bryant.

But like Russell, Albert Almora Jr. and Willson Contreras, Baez is one of the young players who despite key roles on a championship contender the last few years still have big league growth to come. And Maddon thinks that growth is right around the corner.

“I want to believe you’re going to see that this year,” Maddon said. “They’ve had enough major league at-bats now, they should start making some significant improvements that are easy to recognize. The biggest thing normally is pitch selection, I think that’s where it really shows up. When you have talented players like that, that are very strong, quick, all that other stuff, if they’re swinging at strikes and taking balls, they’re going to do really well. And so it’s no secret with Javy. It’s no secret with Addy. Addy’s been more swing mode as opposed to accepting his walks. That’s part of the maturation process with those two guys. Albert I thought did a great job the last month, two months of getting better against righties. I thought Jason looked really good in the cage today. And Willson’s Willson.

“The natural assumption is these guys have played enough major league at-bats that you should see something different this year in a positive way.”