Patrice Frazier-Watson fondly recalls her time spent at Fairmont Heights High School.
Now the girls’ basketball coach at Charles H. Flowers High School, Frazier-Watson was a member of the 1984 Fairmont Heights team that won the Maryland Class A championship.
That doesn’t mean, however, the girls had championship-caliber accommodations.
“I can remember we were kind of pressed for our uniforms. We used to get whatever was left over,” said Frazier-Watson, who later attended Morgan State University and has been coaching at Flowers since the Springdale school opened in 2000. “I can remember our polyester small uniforms. There wasn’t an abundance of resources there, but we still enjoyed ourselves. We didn’t know whether or not we were being deprived.”
Frazier-Watson is one of many former players who have observed how far accommodations and opportunities for female athletes in high school have progressed since the enactment of Title IX in 1972. The law, which celebrates its 40th anniversary Saturday, requires equality for boys and girls in every educational program that receives federal funding.
Its impact on girls’ sports in Prince George’s County has been far-reaching.
In the 1981-82 school year — the first year that accurate participation numbers were available from the Maryland Public Secondary Schools Athletic Association — 2,585 females played high school sports at Prince George’s County public schools. That number accounted for 30.98 percent of the county’s public high school athletes. During the 2011-12 school year, 3,189 females participated in high school sports, accounting for 40.53 percent of the county’s athletes. More girls played public high school sports in Prince George’s County during the 1997-98 school year than any other, with 3,408 participants.
Nationally, only 7 percent of 3,960,932 student-athletes were girls in 1971-72, according to the National Federation of State High School Association’s yearly participation survey. In 2010-11 there were 3,173,549 girls in high school athletics, 41 percent of the nation’s high school athletes.
Lester Butler, the girls’ basketball coach at Bladensburg High School, also noted differences from when he first began coaching to present day.
“At the old Bladensburg, we would have to practice in the small gym and the boys were in the big gym,” said Butler, who has coached in the county for 28 years. “I took advantage of that fact because the big gym always had a lot of activities in it and was crowded. In the small gym, we could practice all day long.
“We practiced until we got it right. I told them, ‘We’ll stay in the small gym, you go in the big gym,’” Butler said with a laugh.
Now, Butler said, the gym time is equal. And if Frazier-Watson wants new uniforms for her team, she won’t have a problem getting them.
“At least in terms of the equipment, uniforms and equal access to all the accessories for the sport to come alive, I’ve always been fortunate to get whatever everyone else has gotten. It’s never been truly a Title IX issue for me at Flowers,” Frazier-Watson said.
The history of girls’ sports in Prince George’s County is proud. There was the dominant run of 11 indoor track titles in 12 seasons under Central High School coach Ed Bowie; Eleanor Roosevelt High School’s run of 18 indoor track titles in 20 seasons; and five basketball titles for Roosevelt from 2005-09 under Rod Hairston, among many others.
Frederick Douglass High School Athletic Director Adaya Powell, who played high school basketball at Surrattsville and had the same position at Douglass for two-and-a-half years, also grew up feeling accommodated in Prince George’s County. If anything has changed, she said it’s an increase in the crowd support the teams receive.
“Before, it must have been, ‘We have to have girls’ basketball. Let’s just go ahead and have it,’ as opposed to now where females have a vested interest in what they’re doing from a very young age,” Powell said. “I think we’re at a good place where both girls and boys know that if they want to pursue this, they’ll have the opportunity to do it. But I do think we still have some opportunity to grow.”
Powell was one of eight female athletics directors in the county during the 2011-12 school year. Ten years ago, there were two.
“The application process and number of females that actually apply for the jobs has increased,” Prince George’s County Public Schools Athletic Director Earl Hawkins said. “Those female applicants have great experience in athletics.”
Frazier-Watson, who stresses the academic aspect of the sport while coaching as much as the physical, realizes that perhaps none of this would have been possible without the landmark legislation in 1972.
“I’m fortunate that Title IX exists and that I wasn’t a part of not having it throughout my sports career,” Frazier-Watson said. “It’s providing more and more females an opportunity to participate in sports. That’s the bottom line.”