Title IX was signed into law on June 23, 1972 by Richard Nixon and declares that no person in the United States can be excluded from any education program or activity receiving federal financial assistance based on sex. This includes sports. As a result, women’s sports have come a long way in the past 40 years. With Title IX having such an immense impact on college athletics, I decided to talk to a few of the women’s athletes from various sports teams at UCSB.

Kirsten Tilleman (Basketball)

Q: How far have women’s sports come?

A: I think they’ve come incredibly far. I know they used to have half-court basketball for women and they played in corsets and things like that, so within that context, it’s taken a lot of strides. But I think they still have a [long way] to go because I think when people compare men and women’s sports, they are completely two different games and I think they always will be just by the nature of it. But I think that we still have a lot of respect as women’s athletes to earn and every day I think we’re getting a little closer to that, but we have a lot to go.

Q: What has been one of your favorite moments playing as a Gaucho?

A: Well, it’s really hard to overlook that Big West Tournament. Of course, getting that championship was in and of itself an amazing moment, but looking back at how we had struggled in the season and we had some people doubting us, but Coach Mitch never doubted us. Every day, she was like, “you wait ’til March.” We stuck together as a team. So, that moment was not just us winning a championship, but it was us also coming into our role as Gauchos and carrying on that tradition of winning.

Erin Ortega (Soccer)

Q: What does Title IX mean to you?

A: Title IX is really special. Obviously, it’s changed my whole life. Without it, I wouldn’t have been able to compete at the college level or even before that, really.

Q: What do you see as the broader effects of Title IX?

A: I think it’s a tool to celebrate women’s sports. I know it has done a lot for education as well, but especially women’s sports, I think we’ve had a greater opportunity and we’re very blessed to be able to have it.

McKenzie Kane (Softball)

Q: Do you have any female athletes you’ve looked up to?

A: Yeah. I look up to Hope Solo. I think she’s awesome. I also look up to Caitlin Lowe, a softball player who went to Arizona. I looked up to her when I was younger and aspiring to go to college. They inspire me because of their work ethics and they showed me I could take my talent to the next level and get to college. It inspired me. I knew if I worked hard like them, I could take myself places just like them.

Q: Where do you see women’s sports in the future?

A: Softball should be professional. I hope that younger generations have the opportunity to aspire to be professional athletes someday. And I still feel like some women’s athletes that do become more exposed — like for softball there’s Jennie Finch, she’s still respected as an athlete, but there’s still that stereotype that she’s just a pretty athlete. She’s not respected as an athlete. Many see her as a pretty softball player. I hope that they’re more respected as athletes instead of [being] stereotyped as feminine.

Emma Hunt (Swimming)

Q: What does Title IX mean to you?

A: I think Title IX definitely means opportunities. Title IX gives women more options and availability in terms of athletics. It allows women to go to med school and in athletics, it pretty much puts [women] at the same spot as the men. It affected scholarships and allowed women to go international, like the Olympics. It opened up a lot of doors that weren’t there prior to Title IX.

Q: Where do you think we’d be without Title IX?

A: Probably, there’d still be segregation between men and women’s athletics. I would be surprised if women were allowed to use the same facilities as men. I’m sure in terms of scholarships, women wouldn’t have nearly as many as the men.

Katey Thompson (Volleyball)

Q: What has been one of your favorite moments playing as a Gaucho?

A: Beating Long Beach at the Pyramid last year. Long Beach has always been a top competitor in the Big West and it was a big thing with the seniors last year because they’d never beaten Long Beach at home. It’s hard to beat Long Beach, in addition to playing on their home court, so that was a great moment. But also being surrounded by so many great athletes and also having such a great Gaucho family supporting each other and being there for each other.

Q: How far have women’s sports come?

A: An incredible amount. [Head Coach Kathy Gregory] has talked about it before and she said that women’s sports didn’t really have anything in that it was a lot harder to coach back then and get people recruited, so it’s come a long way not only for the players, but for the coaches, the program and the environment. Without Title IX, we probably wouldn’t be as successful as we are and wouldn’t have as great of athletes as we do have.