Facing the hard truth of girls high school athletics
October 17, 2017 by Paul Slobodzian , Arizona State University
Perceptions play a major role in modern society, and they are no less important in high school sports.
Gender equality in sports is a topic that has continually gained traction over the years, and athletes and coaches feel the effects of the growing discussion at all levels.
Softball and girls basketball, for example, do not get the recognition and attention baseball and boys basketball do in high school, and it comes down to the audience the sports attract.
“I’ve talked to some of the best coaches in the country,” Williams Field High School softball coach Kerry Reeder said. “Guys are just better athletes; that is the God’s honest truth. I support women’s sports more than anybody. But you’re trying to impress kids who are (high school age), and boys are exciting.”
When it comes to drawing crowds in high school, flair and heavy promotion go a long way toward intriguing teenagers. Girls sports have a tendency to fall short in both regards.
“I do notice that boys sports are more promoted than girls sports,” Williams Field senior softball player Natalie Castro said. “The crowds between softball and baseball (games) are much different.”
Castro says the lack of fan support is understandable, yet disheartening as a player.
“Since my freshman year, I’ve brushed it off and thought that softball wasn’t as good as baseball or we don’t have a lot of people who know or like softball,” Castro said. “(We softball players and parents are) a family and joke about it, but it can be frustrating.”
Williams Field girls basketball player Lacee Jenkins, who has verbally committed to playing in college, has similar feelings of vexation when it comes to girls sports.
“Basketball definitely is not a feminine sport,” Jenkins said. “It’s almost like a joke. I often get comments (from peers) about how girls (basketball) isn’t a sport. I know they’re joking, but sometimes it gets to the point where I say something about how hard I’ve worked.”
Reeder is aware of the stark differences between girls and boys sports, but also knows how difficult it could be change the mindsets of high school fans regardless of how much promoting schools do and how hard players work.
“By law, you have to support both (girls and boys games),” Reeder said. “But in terms of equity, it comes down to game receipts. We don’t even charge for softball games because it is not worth it.”
Castro is the president of the student-run group called “Big Red Rage” that provides school spirit and enthusiasm at games throughout the year. She has ideas about how to weave girls sports into the conversation.
She believes a card system where students attend five different games, like one game each for football, girls’ and boys’ basketball and soccer, for example, could bring more fans and overall attention to girls sports.
“I think (the cards) will keep bringing out crowds,” Castro said. “For Big Red Rage, I want to be more active and support all sports.”
People can try their best to promote female sports, but, in the end, it is going to come down to the societal perceptions in a broader sense. The same ideas apply to professional sports.
The NBA and MLB are more popular than WNBA and Major League Softball in basically every aspect. Fans and revenue are the name of the game, and boys/men’s athletics are the cream of the crop.
It would take quite a change for girls high school sports to experience a fan shift, but Reeder is doing his part to include everyone at Williams Field.
“I was the jock-teacher-coach and had two daughters, and it shifted my focus,” Reeder said. “We try to promote girls’ sports (with Big Red Rage). I’m not a super hero, but I try to make sure (everyone is represented).”