We tell our children that they can do anything they put their minds to, yet when it comes to athletics there are a lot more challenges that face female athletes than their male counterparts.
Our society does not respect female athletes enough to support them at the ticket office or on television. Female athletes are perceived as weaker, less talented versions of male athletes.
Title IX has done an incredible job of providing girls and women with equal opportunities to play sports in high school and college, yet it isn’t being reflected through fan support.
The U.S. Soccer Federation celebrated its centennial this summer, and to highlight it there was a “friendly” held between the U.S. men’s national team and Germany. In the contest, the team that didn’t get recognition was the team that has accomplished much more international success: the U.S. women’s team.
The U.S. women’s national team is tied for most World Cup wins by any nation (two), has earned four gold medals and has set the record for most consecutive weeks at No. 1 in FIFA rankings.
Last year the NCAA women’s basketball final only grossed 3.2 million viewers while the men’s championship game held the night before raked in 23.4 million viewers.
Here at Virginia Tech, the Rec Sports rules give women more points than men for every basket, goal and touchdown they score. That rule just fuels the fire. The system is set up to disrespect and undercut women’s abilities when compared to men’s.
Women’s games, in many cases whether soccer, basketball, hockey are perceived to be not as “good” as the men’s games, citing reasons that include the speed of play being slower, women’s teams not being able to dunk and the reduced emphasis on attending games as a social activity.
Instead, women’s athletics often stick to the fundamentals, with teams focusing on passing and movement off the ball to create greater opportunities for the team to find success.
In women’s basketball games, the emphasis is on motion offense with picks and back door cuts to create openings rather than one person dribbling the entire opposing team.
For women’s soccer it is about possession and movement off the ball to generate scoring opportunities.
In women’s lacrosse and ice hockey, checking is not allowed (although women didn’t ask for that rule), which forces athletes to become better players. Making a good defensive stop isn’t all about checking the opposing player out of possession.
One of the greatest basketball coaches in college today is Geno Auriemma, the head coach of the University of Connecticut women’s basketball team. He has said, “I don’t coach women, I coach basketball players.”
Anson Dorrance, the most successful women’s soccer coach in the country as head coach at University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, has been successful because he encourages his players to be aggressive. Mia Hamm said "I grew up always good at sports, but being a girl, I was never allowed to feel as good about it as guys were. My toughness wasn't celebrated. But then I came here, and it was OK to want to be the best,” talking about her experience with the UNC team.
We live in a culture in which women’s perspectives and abilities are often undermined because they are different. But since when does different mean worse?
In our society we need to start accepting things for what they are and not what we expect them to be. It is the nuances of women’s athletics that are interesting and make them just as exciting as men’s.