Gym Time Isn’t Always Easy To Come By, Nor Fair. Make The Best Of It •
Our freshman boys basketball team would beat our girls varsity by 20 — at least. But the girls get better practice times and more publicity than our boys varsity even though they couldn’t even get the ball across half-court against us. It’s not fair — we’re so much better but we’re treated worse.
You know I coach girls basketball, right?
OK, I’m a little biased, I admit, but the whole boy/girl practice times thing is an issue, and the question is legitimate. It boils down to this: Just like the varsity team gets preference over the JVs because the varsity is better, shouldn’t the boys get preference over the girls because they’re better?
Obviously, there’s enormous importance to give girls an equal opportunity to succeed, whether it be in STEM classes or in athletics. So giving girls an equal shot at good practice times is important. But do the boys really deserve better treatment because they’re bigger, stronger and faster?
This question really hits home when the boys team is really good, and the girls are really bad. But it’s important to remember that things change over time. I’m willing to bet there was a season when your boys team, relatively speaking, was much worse than the girls. So that year, should the girls have gotten better practice times?
I can hear the answer: Even the worst boys team would beat the best girls team, so that doesn’t matter.
At one level, maybe so. But at the high school level, it’s a lot different than in the pros — and not just because of the money. First, athletics is an extracurricular activity, like drama or music, that has an educational component and an educational value. It’s part of the school’s tool kit to engage and teach young people how to live as adults. From that perspective, the level of achievement is less important — much less important — than the process of learning.
So looking at it that way, the time spent in practice is equally important for boys or girls. So is the experience gained from playing interscholastic sports. Just because the boys can win more games and score 70 points, and the girls lose most of them and struggle to get to 30, doesn’t mean that the girls aren’t getting just as much from their participation as the boys.
I could also argue that interscholastic sports are more valuable for girls than boys. It exposes girls to competitive situations that are less familiar to them than to boys. Life after school is full of competitive situations, from trying to make a sale to standing up for yourself in a relationship. Boys, in general, start competing on the playground in elementary school. Girls, in general, tend to shy away from that kind of aggression. Sports is an opportunity for girls to fill in the gaps in their education. Just as boys can use time spent in class to learn how to function in group activities and apply themselves academically.
As for publicity, look at it this way: The worst junior college team would likely beat your varsity boys by 20 or more. The next time you see a headline about JC basketball this year will likely be the first. In the end, all you can do is take care of your own business, and get the most out of your own basketball experience. All this other stuff really doesn’t matter once you take the court.
Clay Kallam has been an assistant athletic director and has coached throughout the Bay Area. To submit a question for Behind the Clipboard, email him at email@example.com.