Updated: Nov 28, 2019
In 2015, the US women’s national soccer team won the World Cup and brought home a whopping sum of $2 million dollars. The women’s team then filed a wage discrimination act against US Soccer. Hearing this, most people become confused, that is until they hear that the US men’s national team brought home $9 million dollars after winning not first place, but eleventh.
In women’s sports, we talk a lot about equal pay. We focus on how women make less than men and how unfair it is that equal work is not rewarded with equal pay. Despite all this talk, when have we ever tried to do anything about it? We take the easy way out by believing the usual critics who say, “Women just don’t generate enough interest.” When we make equal pay the central part of the conversation, we miss the foundation of the system that hurts women’s reputation in sport. The same foundation could enable the opportunity to generate equal interest and therefore, warrant equal pay. Fostering gender equality in sport is about creating equal opportunities for both women and men, and it all starts in high school.
According to Gatorade’s “Girls In Sport” study, girls ages 14, drop out of sports at 1.5 times the rate that boys do, and by age 17, over half of all young women in high school stop playing sports completely. One of the most prominent reasons listed for dropping out of sports is a feeling of no future in sport, but it is not just a lack of opportunity that causes this feeling, it is also a lack of encouragement. In high school, the factor of equal pay is nonexistent. This is how we know that money is not the big issue here, marketing and promotion is. There is a systematic sexism in sports, which starts which how women are marketed by not only their own leagues, but by their high schools.
Sports are a huge part of our culture here at Heritage Woods. We have soccer, tennis, basketball, swimming, and ultimate teams, just to name a few. And while Heritage Woods sports teams can appear to support gender equality, when taking a closer look, it becomes apparent that this is not completely true. This week, Heritage Woods is hosting its annual Senior Boys Kodiak Klassic Basketball Tournament, something the school community looks forward to every year. For three days, the Heritage Woods gym is filled with passionate fans and teams working to win the trophy. Teachers allow their students to skip class and support the Senior Boys Kodiaks in their games. But what not everyone knows is that this exciting event actually occurs twice a year. January 10th, 2020 marks the start of the annual Senior Girls Kodiak Klassic Basketball Tournament, an event that has the potential to be equally as fun as the Senior Boys’, but “just doesn’t generate enough interest” right? Wrong. Every year, the Senior Girls Tournament is not given an equal opportunity to be as thrilling as the boys. I hear people around the school say, “Nobody cares about girls’ basketball” or, “Basketball is a boys sport.” But why is that? During the past 2 years that I have been attending Heritage Woods, my teachers have allowed me to skip class and watch the boy’s tournament. Never once have they allowed me to skip to watch the girls. This right here is an example of the foundation of gender inequality in sports, and it all starts in high school.
Gymnast Simone Biles once said, “I’m not the next Usain Bolt or Michael Phelps. I’m the first Simone Biles.” This quote suggests that it is not about women mirroring the success of male athletes, it is about allowing women in sports to simply compete on the same stage. Women in no way want to be better than men, they just want to be regarded equally. So, I’m asking one thing of you. No matter if you are a student, a teacher, or a parent, let’s give both Kodiak Klassic tournament’s an equal chance. Let’s treat basketball at our school as a program, not individual teams. Let’s prove the critics wrong when they say, “Women just don’t generate enough interest” by allowing women the equal opportunity to shine. We can talk about equal pay all we want, but it does not matter until we start investing equally in how we market and promote these athletes, even if it is just in high school. The Kodiak Klassic Tournaments are chances to encourage school spirit and another opportunity to bring the community together; no matter what gender is competing for the trophy.
Written by Maddie Falk