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Equality in Sports: Women in a Man's Game

December 31, 2020

Marianne

Will 2021 be the year?

That is, the year that women finally achieve equality in team sports?

Thanks to the simply stunning US Women’s Soccer team, there has been a lot of press about inequality in pay between make and female professional athletes. But that’s just one issue, and the reality is that the vast majority of girls (and boys) will never make it to the pros.

 

Equality in the game

“Sport is one of the most powerful platforms for promoting gender equality and empowering women and girls,” says the International Olympic Committee. As a unique sanctioning organization, the IOC “has an important responsibility to take action when it comes to gender equality – a basic human right of profound importance and a Fundamental Principle of the Olympic Charter.”

They point to progress in their own efforts to:

  • Balance the number of men and women who participate in the Games
  • Promote broader leadership development, advocacy and awareness
  • Add more women to the IOC’s admin and governance leadership

 

The IOC’s ultimate goal is “achieving gender equality on and off the field of play, sooner, rather than later.” We think girls everywhere would agree with that.

In fact, little girls and young women just coming up in their favorite sport (or still deciding which sport will become their favorite) have a wealth of opportunities their mothers and grandmothers never envisioned. Not just playing – perhaps even professionally – but coaching, officiating, or covering the sport as a journalist, announcer, or analyst.

Take Jessica Kleinschmidt, for example

She learned to love baseball from her dad and brothers. She played little league and Babe Ruth but switched to softball in high school so she could pursue college scholarships. After all, women weren’t allowed to play on the men’s team. She says re-learning how to hit a softball instead of a baseball was harder than she expected, but like Crystal Hogan, she persevered.

After college, she started a blog about baseball and was discovered by a sports writer. Would she like to be a reporter? Oh, yeah, she would! Jessica now covers baseball on both radio and TV. She says “there’s still a stigma” in baseball especially, but she hopes that “one day a woman can walk into the press box or locker room and not feel uncomfortable.”

 

Hey, is that ref a woman?

Ladies, raise your hand if you’ve ever heard the phrase, “If you were a guy, I’d hire you today.” Maybe not in relation to sports, but you’ve been there, right? Crystal Hogan, too, heard this exact comment from a men’s college basketball officiating coordinator.

She did not give up. A former college basketball player herself, Crystal worked her way up the ranks, from ref’ing high school and junior college women’s basketball to the NBA’s development league, Division 1 women’s basketball to her current position as NCAA Division 1 men’s basketball referee. Men’s.

Crystal Hogan made history, the lone woman ref in the top echelon or men’s college basketball. Out of 900 officials. In 2020-2021, she is joined by Amy Bonner, doubling the population or women refs.

Will this be the year we see many more women wearing those famous striped shirts at every level of boys’/men’s and girls’/women’s sports?

 

Equality in apparel

At least women’s sports uniforms have improved considerably in recent years. In the past, the emphasis was either on looking "sexy" or on covering up so as not to appear immodest. (An interesting dichotomy, when you think about it, though neither approach gave much consideration to play-friendly design.)

Now, thankfully, the emphasis is on fabrics and fit that specifically support player movement and comfort. You have only to check out our SquadLocker All Season Uniforms Catalog to see that top brands have made it their business to design a variety of practical, versatile apparel for women and girls to wear during practice and competition.

 

 

It’s the same story for spirit wear, but in reverse

It used to be that if female fans wanted to wear something with their favorite team’s logo on it, they had to buy men’s styles in men’s sizes. But women want to “one of the guys” without always looking like one of the guys.

Teams and manufacturers realized they could sell more apparel (translated: make more money and expand team awareness and promotion) if they offered styles that were more, you know, stylish. More flattering -- trimmer, fit, shorter sleeves and pant legs, more “girlie” colors.

Finally, women could show their team spirit in a way that's inclusive of all tastes.

 

But let’s get back to the game

We’re hoping 2021 is the year we see more women in every aspect of team sports, at every level. And Jessica Kleinschmidt has some advice for girls who might want to follow in her footsteps: “Do it! You don’t have to be the next Katie Nolan or next Sarah Spain, just be the first you!”

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