Thursday, November 24, 2011

"Just Girls"

Participation in sports gives so much to men and women alike. From early development to adulthood, sports are a huge part of our society. Lately it has been appearing that women’s sports are slowly catching up to men’s sports in participation. Young girls are playing a host of sports in large numbers. To the general public, women's athletics may not be as popular yet as men’s sports and certainly there are not as many professional leagues or as much money invested, but we are getting the impression that the situation really is getting better. This is the impression that the media gives us and, quite frankly, what most people want to believe, but is it true? In today’s society we want to believe that sports are sports. Sports for both men and women, girls and boys. Sports allowing participation for everyone. Right? Right? Well, apparently not quite yet.

This year, 2011, for the first time since they opened, Gordie Howe Middle School (ironically named for an athlete) in Abbotsford, BC, is not going to field any girl’s sports teams. Yes, it's true. They don’t have money or coaches enough so they cut all girls' sports. All the boys' sports are still available (is anyone surprised?), but the girls apparently are just not as important. (After the school announced they were cutting girls' sports, one concerned person did step up and will donate his time to coach the girl’s grade 8 basketball team, but that will be the only sport played by girls this year.) While this is just one tiny school in one small town making a terrible decision, is it not actually a microcosm of sports in general? Yesterday on Fox Sports News, they were interviewing female boxers about the possible change in dress code for women in boxing. They were actually having a debate about whether or not women should wear skirts as their uniforms in the Olympics!

The shocking truth about both of these instances is that people are allowing it to happen. Now if you were to cut boys' sports from a school and keep girls' sports… Well, that would never even be considered so there is no debate.

Sports add amazing value to the lives of kids and adults alike. It is true that, on the whole, men are stronger and faster than women and that woman’s professional sports have not yet reached the financial and popularity level of men's. It is equally true that girls have not had, until now, the opportunity to learn and increase their skills from the same young age as boys. It is also fact that there is a huge resistance in professional sports to the idea of women in athletics. From a disparity in media coverage to an enormous inequality in pay, women's sports are still racing to increase their hold in society. There are, however, vast numbers of girls and women who are as dedicated and skilled as boys and men at their sport and they will continue to fight for the chance to do what they excel in and love. To further these dreams, the playing field, at the grass roots level, must be equal for all. When my stepmother was in high school, the only place on a playing field/court for girls was as a cheerleader. She remembers how she loved basketball, but there was no opportunity to enjoy that sport. Even today she talks about what she knows she missed, not only in terms of skill development, but also in terms of leadership, communication, and the value of working toward similar goals with a team. Interesting that the consequences of the sports void that existed way back then is still so present with her. Do we really want to return to that huge inequality and leave our girls in the back of the bus? We have made some progress and we simply can't allow girls' athletics to be set back so severely.

EVERYONE should have the same opportunity to play. Since the idea of publicly-funded sports is not realistic in most places, it is important for adults to step in and lend a hand. If you have ever had a coach or a parent who put time in to allow you to share in the fun and excitement of sports, you owe it to the youth of today to step up and donate some time!


S Stephenson said...

Wow, no girls sports, very sad. Another point to note about media. Women's professionally beach volleyball have minimum size requirements for their uniforms. Apparently it is thought that their skill in play is not enough to get male viewers to watch them.

Yoshia Burton said...

I have thought about that many times. Girls tennis and volleyball are the most popular and what do they have in common? The athletes are very "feminine" I guess that's what it takes to strike our true interest. Sad really.