The trick is getting them to participatePosted Wednesday, July 27, 2011, at 8:45 AM
I don't see much merit in the complaint filed against the school district for not complying with the Title IX law.
I honestly believe the district tries its best to provide equal opportunities for male and female athletes.
The days when female athletes were considered nothing but "tomboys" and looked down upon as gender aberrations -- something "not appropriate" for traditional "female" pursuits, is long, long gone. Today, female athletes have as much standing in the sports world as male athletes. They are simply considered athletes. Adding a gender adjective means nothing.
Women have come a long way since the Title IX law was created 40 years ago, when it was probably needed. The law helped give many women the opportunity to achieve in athletics. I doubt, for example, that we'd have a top-ranked world cup women's soccer team if it weren't for that law.
But to contend the district is discriminating against female athletes because the participation numbers don't match those of the boys teams is silly. The opportunities are there. They just have to turn out.
Historically, the turnout for sports at the high school level often is tied to the success of those programs in previous years. Win, and more kids want to take part. Lose, and the glory and glamour of being on the team tends to fade considerably. I've seen years when the football team had a hard time getting enough kids out to fill full offensive and defensive units -- a lot of the kids had to play "iron man," going both ways.
Despite the complaint, the most successful of all the athletic programs at the high school has been girls softball. They have the only team state championship banners flying in the gymnasium and the girls who play on those squads are very good. This community is very proud of its female athletes.
And it's not so much a matter of "feeder" programs, either. The junior high offers both girls and boys sports, and there are summer camps now for almost all the sports programs, open to both boys and girls from elementary age on up.
I haven't ever heard anyone put down a girls sports program as being "inappropriate for girls." There just isn't any discrimination of girls programs over boys programs.
Nor is there any attempt any more to "coddle" girls, who pull muscles and get bruised just as often as the guys. Just go to a volleyball game and tell me if you'd be willing to make a stretched out dive onto a hardwood floor. Those girls are tough.
It really is simply a matter of participation, not a lack of opportunity, that causes more boys to be in sports than girls at present. Boys tend to be a little more interested in athletics (although that gap has closed considerably over the last 40 years), so there is a slightly greater tendency to turn out for a sport (often to impress the girls). But not much.
I just can't see the district going down the hallways and strong-arming the first girls they run into to take part in a sport. The girls have to want to.
And I've got some problems with not including cheerleading as a qualifying "sport."
First of all, it's coed, although, like football and wrestling, its participants are primarily of one gender.
But I've raised two girls who were high school cheerleaders, and I can tell you there is some serious athleticism involved there. I think I slapped more Ben Gay on their strained muscles than I did on my boys.
In fact, cheerleading is the closest you're going to get to a gymnastics program, which is one of the things the civil rights office recommends the district add to its offerings for girls.
The dozen or so cheerleaders who take part won't close the 61-student "gap" between boys and girls participation by any significant degree, but I swear, it's almost discriminatory to contend that members of the cheer squad aren't athletes (simply because it's a "girls" activity?). They are athletes. No doubt in my mind.
When I talked to the district's athletic director, John Clark, he stressed that his goal is to get every student involved in two activities a year, whether it was sports or something else.
That's a laudable goal. But some kids just don't want to get involved. They don't want to make the effort.
And you can't make them.
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