School Archives

March 2019, "Magnificat Athletics" Part II

Magnificat Athletics Part 2: Team Sports Before and After Title IX

By Mary Cay Doherty

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In the February “Archives Antics” column (see below), we looked at the early days of Magnificat’s athletic program. In the 1950s and 1960s, our program centered largely on Physical Education (P.E.) classes and intramural sports especially for volleyball, basketball, and baseball. This month we turn our attention to the formation of competitive athletic teams in the years before and after the passage of Title IX, a 1972 federal law that prohibited discrimination in schools based on sex.

Magnificat students’ opportunities for inter-school athletic competitions in the late 1950s and 1960s varied from sport to sport, were extensions of the intramural programs, and generally hinged on sponsorship and organization from outside parties.

For example, the January 21, 1959 Magnificat noted that Sister Mary Pius had organized Magnificat’s bowling team with the intent of competing against area high schools. And, in 1965, the November 15thMagnificat reported that some Magnificat students who participated in the weekly intramural bowling program at Westgate Lanes had been selected to compete in tournaments sponsored by the Suburban High School Bowling Program. This program was in turn sponsored by The Suburban Boards of Education, the Bowling Proprietors Association of Greater Cleveland, and the Cleveland Coca-Cola Bottling Company.

The Cleveland Catholic Diocese also provided opportunities for team competitions. The Winter 1960 Magnificat reminded students that parish level CYO teams for bowling and basketball were forming. And the June 1965 issue of the Magnificat reported that Magnificat’s track team had placed first in the Diocesan Track Meet which was held on May 8, 1965 at John Marshall Field.

While athletic teams at Magnificat often operated in concert with Diocesan programs, as always, we also took initiative in creating opportunities for our young women. The June 2, 1965 school newspaper, for example, noted that Magnificat was the only all girls Catholic school in the area with a golf team.

Researching the formation of inter-school athletic teams at Magnificat can be confusing. We have already noted that a track team competed at Magnificat in 1965. And even earlier, the November 4, 1958 Magnificat reported that two tennis team students defeated a doubles team from Rocky River High School in a 14 school competition held at Western Reserve University. Yet, school newspapers from October 1977 and April 1978 sing the praises of a newly formed tennis team and track and field clubs, respectively.

How could teams that existed in the 1950s and 60s be “new” in 1977 and 1978?

Enter Title IX.

The teams forming at Magnificat in the late 1970s were new. Not in the sense that Magnificat students hadn’t competed in these sports before, but new in the sense that athletic competition for girls was operating under a new banner of equity.

Title IX is one of ten “titles” in the Education Amendments of 1972 (also called the Higher Education Amendments of 1972). Because of a rejected bill that would have exempted school sports programs, Title IX is often associated primarily with sports equity for men and women at the high school and collegiate levels. But Title IX more broadly prohibits schools that accept federal funding from discriminating against on the basis of sex in any capacity. The law has even been interpreted to include sexual harassment as a form of discrimination against women.

In the area of sports at the collegiate level, Title IX meant that schools had to provide appropriately proportional opportunities (which would vary depending on the sport) for women. Schools were not only required to address equity in sponsoring women’s teams, but also in terms of funding them directly and through scholarships (again, not a dollar for dollar equivalent with men’s sports, but proportionally by participation).

As women’s teams and scholarship availability increased collegiately, athletic opportunities for girls at the secondary level also increased. The new law gave higher education schools six years to comply so it is not surprising that the effects of Title IX don’t appear in Magnificat’s records until 1977 and 1978.

In 1977, Magnificat was a charter member in the Greater Cleveland Catholic Girls’ Athletic Conference. Sister Donna Fiore, HM helped to organize the Conference and represented Magnificat proudly. In the fall of 1977, when Magnificat’s varsity tennis team formed, we were already fielding teams in basketball, slow-pitch softball, volleyball, and gymnastics.

The April 13, 1978 Magnificat noted accomplishments for basketball and track and field. Our varsity and junior varsity basketball teams had finished first in the Western Division of the Great Cleveland Catholic Girls Conference, and our track and field club were preparing for their inaugural season. Just a month later, the Magnificat reported track and field successes an April 24th meet with Avon Lake and Lorain Catholic and at the Warrensville Twilight Relays on April 28th. One of the first coaches of Magnificat’s track and field club was Miss Anne Carmody of our English Department! The May 1978 Magnificat also highlighted the softball teams 6-1 record in the Western Conference of the GCCGAC.

Magnificat left the GCCGAC around 1990 when Gloria Polzer was the Athletic Director. Miss Polzer felt that an independent schedule would provide competitive opportunities and lead to sectional district and state competitions. Under her leadership, the Magnificat athletic program expanded to include freshman and junior varsity teams to the existing sports and added soccer and swimming and diving teams to the school’s offerings.

As Magnificat’s athletic program grew in the wake of Title IX, we endeavored to provide our athletes with the equipment and facilities to promote their success. In 1976, Magnificat made plans for regulation field hockey, soccer, baseball, and football fields as well as 4 tennis courts and a ¼ mile track. Less than a decade later, during Magnificat’s first capital campaign in 1985, an athletic field for soccer, softball, and track and field was completed and in 1987, a gym and outdoor tennis courts were added. Most recently, in 2017, our athletic complex grew to include the newly renovated Coyne Tennis Courts and Karnatz Family Field. We are the only all girls Catholic school in northeast Ohio to provide a synthetic turf field for our student athletes. Our commitment to the holistic development of girls means providing our students with the resources they need both on and off the field.

Today, Magnificat has 15 different sports and most include freshman, JV and Varsity levels. Since 1989, Magnificat teams have won over 100 District Championships, 25 Regional Championships, 14 State Runner Up Finishes and 18 State Championships. In 2018, our varsity soccer team was a regional champion and our tennis team had a state championship player and our soccer team made it the state finals.

Title IX was a game changer for female athletes at Magnificat and in the United States as a whole. While the law forbids discrimination based on sex in any educational capacity, Title IX’s effects are most visible in sports. In response to Title IX, Magnificat student athletes’ competitive opportunities expanded exponentially, but even before Title IX’s passage, our students were competing and thriving athletically. As always, we can be proud of Magnificat’s commitment to the education of young women.

Join us next month for a look back at the history of recreational fitness from “slenderizing” and yoga to jogging and aerobics!


Holzheimer, Mike. “Lakewood, Westlake residents decorate the Magnificat High School (Rocky River) Athletic Hall of Fame.” Cleveland.com, April 30,2013. https://www.cleveland.com/sun/all/index.ssf/2013/04/lakewood_westlake_residents_de.html

______. “B-ball Wrap-up.” Magnificat Vol 19, No 4. Rocky River: Magnificat High School, April 13, 1978.

______. “Bowlers Spin; Tourney Ticks.” Magnificat Vol 9,, No 2. Rocky River: Magnificat High School, November 15, 1965.

______. “Iceskating, Bowling, Drama Head C.Y.O Winter Doings.” Magnificat Vol 3. No 2. Rocky River: Magnificat High School. Winter 1960.

________. Magnificat Blue Streaks Athletic Hall of Fame Induction Ceremony (Rocky River: Magnificat High School), April 17, 2015.

______. “Magnificat Girls Place in Meets; Enjoy Track, Field Competition.” Magnificat Vol 19, No 5. Rocky River: Magnificat High School, May 26, 1978.

_______. “MHS Tennis Smashes onto Scene.” The Magnificat Vol 19, No 1. Rocky River: Magnificat High School, October 21, 1977.

______. “Sophs Take Tourney.” Magnificat Vol 2, No 1. Rocky River: Magnificat High School, November 4, 1958

______. “Sports Field in Future Plan.” Magnificat Vol 17, No 5. Rocky River: Magnificat High School, May 28, 1976.

______. “Swing Cares Away: Pro Discusses Golf’s Medical Aspects.” Magnificat Vol 8, No 5. Rocky River: Magnificat High School, June 2, 1965.

_____. “Track Team Wins First Place Trophy; Tops Meet for Third Consecutive Year.” Magnificat Vol 8, No 5. Rocky River: Magnificat High School, June 2, 1965.
Magnificat High School, a girls' Catholic college-preparatory high school, founded and sponsored by the Sisters of the Humility of Mary, educates young women holistically to learn, lead, and serve in the spirit of Mary’s Magnificat.