Thursday, December 14, 2006

NCAA Committee Limits Use of Male Practice Players

The NCAA regulates its member-institutions in, among other things, the use of male practice players by women's teams. Yesterday, the NCAA's Committee on Women's Athletics proposed stricter limits on the use of male practice players. According to this article,
The proposal being considered does not eliminate the practice, but limits it to the traditional season and in only one practice per week. The proposal also would limit the number of male practice players in team sports to no more than half of the number required to field a starting women's team (for example, only two male practice players would be permitted in a sport with five starting players).
This policy would apply to Division III schools only; as the committee is still working on proposals for Division I and II.

The CWA objects to the use of male practice players "because the message to female student-athletes seems to be 'you are not good enough to make our starters better, so we need to use men instead.'" This, the committee suggests, is a gender equity concern that violates the spirit of Title IX.

I am pleased that the NCAA is concerned about the ways in which collegiate sports inferiorize female athletes by "sending messages" to women they they are not as good or their sports are not as important as men's. I totally agree that issues like this fit within spirit of Title IX should be important to schools and the NCAA. (I'd love to see them take on the tiresome practice of male athletes and coaches insulting other male athletes by telling them they play like girls.)

But I see both sides of the male practice players issue. I get the point that this practice could indeed stigmatize the non-starting players. But couldn't a ban on male practice players also be interpreted as stigmatizing women athletes as a whole, by suggesting that a rigid separation of men's and women's sports is required for women's sake? Perhaps the use of male practice players is a step toward a more egalitarian future of integrated sporting practices?

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