FIVE DECADES OF PAM YOUNG
When the U.S. Department of Education leveled the playing field for males and females in 1972 by ratifying Title IX, the agency did more than open doors and gates for girls and women to make baskets, hit homers and score goals. It also unlocked opportunities for women to establish a higher visibility among the ranks of officials in various sports.
Pam Young has been a fixture in Chicago’s amateur sports officiating scene during the five decades since.
Young was a first‑year physical education teacher at Carl Schurz High School on Chicago’s north side when federal legislators passed Title IX of the Education Amendments. That national law protects the civil rights of students by prohibiting discrimination based on gender in any educational programs or activities that receive federal funding. It was like a software update that prompted a reboot of America’s sports culture.
“The significance of Title IX was beyond enormous,” said Young, who will embark on her 48th season as an official whenever COVID‑19 restrictions loosen and sanctioned sporting events in Illinois resume. “It presented a realm of abundant participation for females in athletics. We women and girls had the same access to funding and resources for athletics as men and boys.
“When girls’ sports started in Chicago Public Schools in 1974, I started coaching girls’ basketball, volleyball and track,” said Young, who competed in those three sports while completing her P.E. degree at DePaul University. “We had all these girls (at Schurz) who wanted to play these sports, but no one else wanted to coach them. Female athletes playing on school teams needed coaches and officials to work their games.”
Young did what she could to fill those voids by stepping into the coaching and officiating realms. Being active in athletics from her childhood into her college years, she parlayed those days of competition into illustrious careers blowing whistles as a teacher, coach and official.
At the recommendation of a teaching colleague, she started officiating basketball in 1973. She added track and field in 1974, then volleyball in 1975. Given her playing days and teaching responsibilities, officiating seemed a natural next step in her athletics evolution, but she ventured into it to as a way of managing her time.