Thursday, January 31, 2008

No longer an implication

Not too long ago I wrote about the push to add women's wrestling at a community college in Washington where the men's team was on the chopping block because of skewed proportionality numbers. I suspected that the motives were not exactly pure; that the idea came from a desire to save the men's team and that the benefits to women were secondary, which had the potential to actually hurt the women who got involved.
Well there must be something in the water in Washington. And that water is trickling down over the heads of high school coaches. One coach in the state told the writer of this article that girls were going to save the sport. Not save the sport by keeping it in the (somewhat dim) spotlight because of the decline in male wrestlers, but save the sport by saving men's teams when women's teams are established. Adding women's oportunities takes men's wrestling out of the cutting danger zone, so the theory goes.
Let me just reiterate that I think women's wrestling is a good thing. I hope the sport continues to grow. But I want it to grow for its own sake. It should not be the ugly stepsister of men's wrestling that is tolerated because it serves a purpose that benefits male wrestlers. Perhaps I am being too sensitive. Maybe this is an ends justify the means kind of situation.
But I cannot get over some major worries (some of which I wrote about the other day). But additionally I wonder if this plan that the Washington wrestling community has come up with is really going to work. Women's sports cost money. Women's wrestling costs money. It may help with a school's proportionality score but it may strain an already strapped budget; because who doesn't have budget issues these days? And why women's wrestling? A school could add any women's sport and better its proportionality. Women's tennis? Soccer? How about increasing the number of swimmers on the current women's team?
Again, I am not disparaging women's wrestling. And it's more cost-effective for a school to add a team if the facilities are already in place. But it seems like some of these coaches are thinking about men's and women's wrestling as a package deal. Adding a women's team is not guarantee that the men's team will remain. Budgets get tight and if a viable women's team is already in place and your school is not meeting Title IX's requirement for equitable participation opportunities then men's wrestling could go. There are schools all over the country where there is a women's soccer team but no men's; women's swimming, no men's; women's cross-country, no men's. And I know of at least one college where there's a women's wrestling team but no men's team. Just because there are men's and women's "versions" of the sport does not mean they must both exist at the same institution.
I hope the people in Washington who want to save men's wrestling 1) really have the best interests of women in mind, and 2) have thought through all the potential consequences of this plan.