Monday, December 13, 2010

Interest, equity, funding, facilities--what's the connection?

Being interested in both how the media covers issues of sport and equity and the cultural construction of gender, this article out of Florida had my interest piqued this morning.
On the heels of the NWLC's filing of 12 Title IX complaints last month, it seems local newspapers, at least Highlands Today out of Tampa, are taking an interest in how their local schools are doing in terms of equity in sports.
Thorough, but with a couple inaccuracies, this article touched on the issues of funding, boosters (good to see money equally distributed!), facilities, coaching, and participation levels.
The big problem many administrators and coaches want solved is the question of why more girls do not participate. Administrators recount their largely unsuccessful efforts at recruitment and say that the desire is just not there. Also the fact that Florida counts cheerleading as a sport apparently is pulling potential athletes away from other sports, say some.
I do not necessarily believe this to be untrue--the part about desire; I'd rather not take up the issue of high school cheerleading in Florida right now. But I also do not see this as an innate female characteristic.
Reading other parts of the same article I see that, for example, at one high school the softball facility is (admits the athletic director) not nearly as nice as the baseball facility. The explanation given is that baseball has been around a lot longer and draws a greater crowd. Also while volleyball is noted by one source as being popular, at the end of the article, the reporter writes that Title IX is to blame for putting smaller sports--like volleyball, he says--in danger of being cut.
So if you're a girl here's what you see: in addition to the fact that more people support boys' sports, that apparently you go to your boyfriend's events, but he won't come to yours (according to one AD), you hear from school administrators that the reason a facility that you might play in is not as nice is because of "tradition"; and that even a popular sport that does draw a crowd is in danger of being cut because it's considered minor.
And then if you read this article you see that some believe the reason for the disparity in participation is because boys and girls have different role models:
"Boys might emulate Tim Tebow; girls might choose Miss Florida"
And then you realize just how limited the choices are.