It’s crazy to think that women’s sports was not always a thing in schools in America. Until Title IX was passed in 1972 I can’t help but feel that most of the thinking at the time about women in education and sports was not that far of a leap from the Taliban.
By the time I started playing or noticing sports as a kid in the mid 1980s, my grade school had girls sports. My younger sister not only played basketball, volleyball, and track there, but was a state champion in the mile in 1989. She’d go on to four years of varsity cross-country & track, before getting a scholarship to college for those sports. Unknown to me some of these options for her and my female classmates had barely been around for a decade when she first started.
So as Title IX hits the 50 year mark I’ve been even more excited about covering girls high school sports than I was in the past. I’m not going to lie, as recently as a few years ago I’d feel snubbed by my editors when I’d get sent to cover a girls basketball game over a boys game, but seeing the girls play almost a more physical game than the boys really started to change my mind the more games I covered. However nothing has got me on the female sports bandwagon as much as The Daily Southtown’s sports writer Tony Baranek.
Tony Baranek is an unsung advocate for girls’ sports
Shooting high school sports for the Southtown is almost a regular job for me and makes up the majority of the freelance photojournalism work I do. Which has me working with Tony quite a bit. His beat has been girls sports for as long as most of us can remember; volleyball in the fall, basketball in the winter, and softball in the spring. From Bridgeport to Beecher that aren’t may girls’ coaches that don’t know him and unlike some sports writers I don’t think there’s a coach that would say a bad thing about him.
Sitting with Tony during a game or after, working on who he needs photos of and which aspect of their game he’d like to highlight, inevitably comes with stories of the girls, the coaches, and the programs their part of. He’s told their stories for so long, he’s got longtime coaches who he wrote about when they played and shares how good they were. I have a hard time remembering which teams I photographed last Tuesday!
When Tony was asked by Richards’ softball coach Julie Folliard to be one of the people to throw out a ceremonial first pitch for their game where they commemorated the 50 years of Title IX, he of course showed up at 9am on a Saturday to do so. So did I, and so did a few other sports journalism colleagues of his, because if you know Tony he’d rather be covering girls high school softball than being a beat writer for the Cubs or Sox. And I can’t blame him.