PHOTO BY JOHN STROHSACKER

More Work to Do: Foote, Sailer, Timchal, Kimel Share Thoughts on Title IX


As a middle school girl in pre-Title IX Mississippi, Missy Foote was allowed to play just one sport: basketball. She competed in gym class and for her middle school team, making it all the way to the state championship game.

“I got a taste of competition and success,” Foote said. “But that is pathetic — that’s all that was offered for us.”

Foote would go on to put together a career few could dream of coaching at Middlebury. Winning five Division III national championships in lacrosse and one in field hockey. Compiling a 422-114-1 record over 38 seasons of college lacrosse. Leading Middlebury to 10 consecutive NCAA semifinals.

But little of this would be possible without Title IX, which President Richard Nixon signed into law 50 years ago in 1972. The landmark legislation changed the athletic landscape in the United States, providing countless new athletic opportunities for American women. Women’s lacrosse has burst onto the national scene since the legislation passed five decades ago.

MISSY FOOTE

Foote was a junior at Springfield College when Title IX first passed. After moving to Long Island as a high school sophomore, she was introduced to an array of new sports: track, gymnastics, field hockey and tennis. This opened doors to athletic opportunities at Springfield, where she played tennis, field hockey and lacrosse.

But Foote said she initially knew little about Title IX.

“We didn’t hear anything about it except that it allowed women to go in the weight room,” Foote said. “Most of us were like, ‘We are not going in that weight room. It is disgusting.’”

By senior year, she and her teammates learned the rule could foster better athletic opportunities for women. So, she said they lobbied Springfield to make club lacrosse a varsity sport with little luck.

Just a few years out of college, Middlebury hired Foote to coach swimming, basketball and lacrosse. Eventually, she dropped basketball and picked up field hockey. But in the early Title IX years, challenges were abundant.

Swimming and basketball schedules overlapped. There was one locker room for the general public, visiting teams and all women’s varsity teams. The lacrosse and field hockey field was situated far from a locker room and a training room. Male coaches would sometimes coach women’s teams with little knowledge of the sport.

“I started to put on my activist hat and speak up,” Foote said. “I was advocating for me, but I was also advocating [to say], ‘No men are the head coaches of three sports. No other men overlap in a season. It’s not fair to me or to the student-athletes.’”

Over the years, Foote said she encouraged players to draw attention to athletic inequities at Middlebury. Word eventually got around to the school’s Board of Trustees, she said, who intervened and challenged the athletic department. From 2000 until her retirement in 2016, Foote finally coached just one Middlebury team: women’s lacrosse.

She said she often told her players stories about what the landscape was like when she first got into sports so they would understand how things were and the importance of moving women’s sports forward.

“If people hadn’t made noise, if people hadn’t made others aware of how inconsistent the opportunities were, we would still be there,” Foote said. “We need young women and men and old women and men to continue to pay attention and be advocates.”


“If people hadn’t made noise ... we would still be there.”

— Missy Foote


CHRIS SAILER

Playing lacrosse and field hockey at Harvard in the late 1970s, Chris Sailer felt fortunate to have plenty of opportunities and support.

There was meal money, practice uniforms, traveling in buses and hotel stays. She said her coach, Carole Kleinfelder, was a “staunch advocate” for Title IX.

“We had a much more professionalized experience than a lot of other women who competed in my era,” Sailer said. “Nothing close to what exists today for women college athletes, but for the time, it was pretty great.”

After graduating from Harvard in 1981, Sailer spent nearly the entirety of her career coaching in the Ivy League. She worked as an assistant field hockey and lacrosse coach at Penn prior to coaching at Princeton for 36 seasons. Sailer said the conference was a leader in Title IX and women’s sports from the beginning.

At Penn, her programs played competitive schedules and even took a spring break trip to Bermuda. One benefit at Princeton was Friends of Princeton Lacrosse, which collects donations and splits them evenly between the men’s and women’s lacrosse teams. This allowed the women’s program to update facilities, take foreign trips and add support staff.

“I don’t think that’s common throughout the country,” Sailer said. “It’s probably more uncommon than common. It’s been a big thing, and that has distinguished the experience I’ve had at Princeton and the experience of our student-athletes.”

However, several inequities in the sport have stemmed from the NCAA — not individual schools. The Kaplan Report, published in October 2021, detailed inequities between men’s and women’s lacrosse. Some of the biggest differences included the size of championship venues, money spent on marketing the NCAA championship tournament and overall money spent on athletes.

The NCAA championship has been a site of inequities over the years, Sailer said. She’s noticed disparities regarding the gear given to men’s and women’s student-athletes at the NCAA tournament, television scheduling and marketing. The women’s bracket also initially had fewer teams than the men’s, which Sailer said she pushed against as IWLCA president.

Some things have improved with time, however. Sailer said she appreciated efforts to get the women’s game on television, including broadcasting the quarterfinals on ESPNU and the joint Selection Show. More media exposure is key to growing the game, she said.

“People who watch this game on TV can’t help but be amazed by the talent of these players, by the teamwork on the field,” Sailer said. “We are athletes in the fullest sense of the word, and the game is exciting.”








CINDY TIMCHAL

When Cindy Timchal first arrived to coach women’s lacrosse at Maryland in 1991, she discovered her program had no locker room, no practice gear and old uniforms.

So, she set to work, lobbying the athletic department on behalf of her team.

“Her philosophy was, ‘How are we treating visiting teams better than our own teams that are coming off national championships?’” Duke coach Kerstin Kimel said. “She was a trailblazer in that regard.”

By the time Kimel graduated from Maryland in 1993, she said the program had new uniforms, practice gear and access to the football visitors’ locker room, all a result of Timchal’s efforts.

Timchal has faced similar challenges throughout her career in college athletics. She first enrolled as a student-athlete at West Chester University in 1972 — the same year Title IX passed. Her rise as a player, coach and pioneer of the sport has effectively coincided with the development of Title IX and the growth of women’s sports nationally.

However, Timchal said her hometown of Havertown, Pa., embraced women’s athletics well before 1972. She played sports like tennis, field hockey, softball and baseball growing up. Her excitement for athletics then led her to West Chester, where she lettered in three sports — track and field, lacrosse and tennis — and pursued a degree in physical education.

Timchal’s first college head coaching role came in 1982 as Northwestern’s inaugural coach. Inequities persisted. She was also tabbed as an assistant field hockey coach, and she was given no scholarships. But the program was still a milestone, she said.

“They were a pioneer in adding women’s lacrosse,” Timchal said. “There was nobody else in the Big Ten that played.”

With few Midwestern programs, Northwestern allotted Timchal a budget for flying or driving to play teams on the East Coast. But the program rarely hosted games in Evanston, and Timchal said she knew football was top of mind for the athletic director at the time.

When Timchal departed for Maryland in 1991, a new era of lacrosse took shape.

Among the biggest changes during her tenure was the addition of Gary Gait as an assistant. Timchal cold-called Gait, saying she hoped he would join her staff because of his innovative playing style. Between his role on staff, the Terrapins’ competitive schedule and the school’s support, Timchal said the program was able to raise the bar for women’s lacrosse.

Now Timchal, 16 years into coaching at the Naval Academy, is well past the days of lobbying for locker rooms and new gear. She said it’s been exciting to witness the development of women’s lacrosse over the past 50 years, from its grassroots, geographic growth to the rise of star players.

But there’s still work to be done, Timchal said, and supporting the growth of the sport at new institutions and in new locations is important.

“There’s an old ad, a cigarette ad for Virginia Slims, saying, ‘We’ve come a long way,’” Timchal said. “‘We certainly have a long way to go.’”




PHOTO BY RICH BARNES


KERSTIN KIMEL

Growing up in suburban Philadelphia, sports were central to Kimel’s childhood.

From the same hometown as Sailer and Timchal, Kimel had a wealth of athletic opportunities and strong female role models to look up to. In an era without club sports, Kimel said town-based teams brought the community together and made women athletes feel like their games mattered.

“Much of what we did revolved around [the] community, which generated incredible pride and rivalry,” Kimel said. “When your basketball team was going to the state tournament, the whole town turned out for games.”

Playing lacrosse in the 1980s, Kimel was among the first generation to reap the rewards of Title IX. Her path, from starring at Maryland to leading the inaugural programs at Davidson and Duke, is representative of the growth of women’s lacrosse over the past 50 years.

But, in hindsight, Kimel says she was surprised at the lack of support for women’s sports at Maryland when she arrived in 1990. She credited Timchal, who took the helm in 1991, with securing better resources for the program and transforming the sport at the collegiate level.

Shortly after graduating from Maryland, Kimel took the head coaching job at Davidson. She made $18,000 a year. Her program traveled in vans, and she shared a house with two other coaches. But she said she laughs about it now and is proud of today’s Davidson program.

“That was kind of the life back then,” Kimel said. “You didn’t have a lot of money, couldn’t do a lot, but you wrapped yourself up in the world that was campus and your team and your job.”

Since arriving at Duke in 1996, Kimel said there’s little she’s asked for that the school hasn’t given her. Duke has been committed to fielding a competitive program from the start, she said, and many ACC counterparts have been, too.

After years of involvement with the IWLCA and the NCAA selection committee, Kimel said she and others are well aware of the remaining inequities between the men’s and women’s game. But collaboration between both men’s and women’s coaches and countless conversations behind closed doors have been key to advancing the women’s game, Kimel said.

“In today’s world, you have to have an ‘if you build it, they will come’ mentality,” Kimel said. “There has been a big push to provide our student-athletes with the best championship experience possible.”


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