In the past two years, many more female high school athletes have been receiving college scholarships. While the full impact of women receiving financial aid for their athletic endeavors is yet to be felt, the presence of Title IX is already changing the outlook of the players and coaches involved in the programs.
Title IX is part of the Omnibus Education Act of 1972, which prohibited sex discrimination in educational (and athletic) opportunities by any institution receiving federal aid. This was a boon for women's sports programs, whch essentially were raised from second-class citizenship at most universities to an upgraded - though not equal - role.
However, the altitudes about women's athletic scholarships differ greatly from those in men's sports. According to Patricia E. Barry, 34, a coordinator of physical education and athletics for Montgomery County, the major difference is that the goal of boys who play college sports "is to become professional athletes."
"It isn't that way with girls," said Barry. "Their goal is to get an education. They see it as a way to defray the cost of an education."
Barry coached six different sports during her 12-year career at Wheaton High School and assumed her present position last year. One of her athletes was Sherri Bleichner, 19, who played three sports at Wheaton before receiving a full scholarship to Ohio State University, where she is sophomore.
"I never thought about it (a scholarship). My coach thought of it," Bleichner said. "I just kind of joked it off until my senior year."
While most top male high school players are scouted by universities, Bleichner says she thinks that's not the case with a female athlete. She must contact the different schools and must take her high school playing seriously.
Bleichner offers a bit of advice to girl's now trying to get athletic scholarships: "I'd tell them to take it serious; have fun, but build up the state (statistics)."
Unlike many boys who can make it on their playing ability alone, a girl who plans on earning a college scholarship also needs good grades.Bleichner's 3.7 (A-minus) grade average made the recruiters that much more interested in her, she said.
By National Collegiate Athletic Association guidelines, major college football squads have 95 full scholarships to offer. Men's basketball teams have 17.
"If I were a male coach and I had 100 scholarships, I wouldn't care if I gave a few to boys who weren't going to (graduate)," said Barry, who has four girls she coached receiving some form of tuition assistance. "If I just get two or three (such as girls' teams receive), I'd be dare sure they were going to be able to stick around until they're seniors when they're supposed to be the most productive."
Girls needing scholarships, or just wanting to take the best financial deal, often have no control over which area of the country - or even what sport - they will play. Bleichner, who played basketball and field hockey at Wheaton, said she preferred to play basketball and was offered full tuition to play that sport at four different schools - Ohio State University, Temple University, American University and George Washington University. But the only way she could get a "full ride" was to pitch for the OSU softball team, she said.
"I wanted to go to college. I didn't want to play a sport for a career," Bleichner said. "So it didn't bother me to switch to softball."
Bleichner said her scholarship changed her attitude about sports.
"I played kind of differently when I got up there," she said. "I put in a little extra effort because they were paying for your school. It's your work. I think women appreciate them (scholarship) a lot more than men do. Men always got them easier. Girls have to work a lot harder."