Sanford supports women and girls in sports

Title IX anniversary has athletes & providers reflecting on sports’ lifelong lessons

A teen volleyball player is focused on the volleyball she just hit into the air. Three teammates watch from the sidelines.

Jeremy and Sara Tims will confide that their three daughters’ commitment to sports can make for a hectic family life occasionally but they make it pretty clear that is not a bad thing.

Lauren Tims is a golfer at Augustana University, her sister Sydney is going to begin playing volleyball at Augustana next fall and sister Brietta is a 15-year-old athlete at Sioux Falls Christian who plays varsity-level volleyball at the Sanford Pentagon.

All three have improved as athletes, building friendships while also building character and life skills, at the Sanford Sports Complex.

Get in the game: Personal and team fitness with Sanford Sports

This summer marks the 50th anniversary of what we know as Title IX, the legislation that opened the door for girls and women to be involved equally in sports. Sanford Sports is a part of that in terms of opportunities for young athletes via Sanford POWER, its sports academies and tournaments.

500K female athletes

Over the last year, Sanford Sports operations in North Dakota, South Dakota, Minnesota and California have opened their doors to more than 500,000 visits from female athletes. That ranges from strength and conditioning training to sport-specific work and tournament hosting.

Numbers like that clearly confirm what this legislation’s early advocates asserted: The values and joys we associate with athletics are not based on gender.

In this case, a change in law precipitated a dramatic change in culture. Because of it, a family with three athletic daughters in 2022 like the Tims family can talk about how sports have helped them the same way a family with three sons can.

“The first word that comes to mind is ‘busy,’” Jeremy Tims said. “It gets a little crazy sometimes. I will say it’s not always easy to balance all of it but learning time management skills and learning to make choices is very important.”

The Tims family likely does not spend a lot of time talking about Title IX at the dinner table but they’ve been the beneficiaries of this portion of the Education Amendments of 1972 just the same.

Title IX’s impact on sports

Title IX, which was enacted on June 23, 1972, prohibits federally funded educational institutions from discriminating against employees based on sex. Surprisingly, the official language connected with the amendment makes no mention of sports. Generations of women and girls, however, have since then embraced the sports opportunities it created for them that weren’t there before.

“I remember my mother, who grew up in southwest Minnesota, talking about how she had the opportunity to be a cheerleader but that was about it,” Sara Tims said. “There was not really anything else available to girls at the time.”

Thankfully, those limits would seem incredibly strange to the Tims sisters. That in itself is a sign of progress. More to the point, access to the personal growth that can come with sports participation is present, too.

“Sports for girls really helps with self-confidence,” Jeremy Tims said. “Especially when you’re working your way through junior high and high school. Being part of a team is a very important piece, too. They’ve learned to be both team members and team leaders.”

Sports as a career

Melissa Moyer began working as a physical therapist at Sanford in 2009. She now serves as director of therapy and rehabilitation for the enterprise. As a physical therapist she specialized in sports rehabilitation and biomechanical assessments of running-related injuries.

Moyer sees girls leaving sports in their teens who would likely benefit from staying with them.

“It’s that critical age — 13, 14 and 15 years — where they need to feel like they belong,” Moyer said. “They should not have to feel like they have to be the best athlete out there in order continue with the sport. A college scholarship does not have to be the reason they’re participating.”

Moyer left organized sports herself when she was in her teens but sports never really left her. She wanted to be a physical therapist and to that end worked as an athletic trainer in college prior to going to PT school.

She enjoys being part of the Sanford team working in support of athletes. Their motivation can become her motivation.

“They’re driven to get back to the things that they were doing,” Moyer said. “When you have competitive kids like that they’re often competitive within themselves. They do the homework, in other words. They want to do all the things that will get them back to enjoying sports.”

Sports as an outlet

Dr. Josefine Combs grew up in Germany, outside the influence of Title IX, though her experience as an athlete was similar. The opportunity to play college volleyball brought her to the United States. A career in medicine has kept her here.

As a Sanford neuropsychologist, Dr. Combs helps athletes assess, manage and treat concussions at Sanford. She also serves as a sports psychologist. In both roles she helps athletes get past barriers.

“The most obvious benefit of being involved in sports is physical health,” Dr. Combs said. “But beyond that, it provides kids with new experiences. It can help them find things they’re good at — things that receive positive attention.”

In answering questions about how Title IX legislation has reshaped the sports world from the perspective of women and girls, Dr. Combs keeps returning to the lessons sports pass along. In so doing she is also bringing to light why Sanford has made access to athletics such a prominent emphasis, regardless of gender, over the last 20 years.

“I always want to impart to the female athletes I work with the message that they can do anything they set out to do,” Dr. Combs said. “This whole idea that women need to be meek and shy — that’s not true. They can be strong. That’s the beauty of sports for females, right? They can be just as passionate about sports as males. It can provide an incredible outlet. It adds a whole other world of things to learn while developing lifelong skills.”

Commitment to goals

At the Tims’ home, they occasionally talk about goals with their daughters. It does not always pertain to sports, but this is a sports household so it gets its share of airtime.

Title IX and the people who brought it about have played a role in creating a need for those conversations.

“We joke that we’re either going to pay to keep them out of trouble or pay to get them out of trouble,” Sara Tims said.

“Whether it’s through the Sanford Pentagon or through other organizations, as parents you put money into it but the kids also have to make a commitment. I know it has helped them and will continue to help them with time management skills and being able to manage a lot of different things.”

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Posted In Community, Inclusion at Sanford, News, Sioux Falls, Sports Medicine, Women's