Thursday, January 25, 2007

A Change of Pace

So, I was surfing around YouTube while looking for something in particular, and I found this television clip. If you don't want to watch, basically it's a discussion of the current trend of college women's basketball teams having members of the men's team scrimmage with the women's team during practices, and the pros and cons thereof.

I don't talk about sports too much, although I enjoy rooting for Cleveland professional sports teams, as much as one can enjoy watching your team find ways to lose. My body is definitely not made for serious athletic pursuits, and my daughters have other aptitudes as well. But as far as basketball goes, I've always had a fondness for girls' high school basketball. This is probably partially because my mother played basketball herself for Lutheran High, back when girls were only allowed to play half court ball, so as not to strain their delicate constitutions.(!) Also, I attended Lutheran West High School, where the girls' basketball coach, Karen Wittrock, is the winningest girls' basketball coach in the state of Ohio, with over 600 wins and less than 200 losses.

This video, however, offers some interesting things to think about beyond the realm of females playing basketball. For starters, the coaches talk about how it is great for the women to be playing basketball against the men, because the men are "bigger, stronger and faster." Okay, hold on. Aren't women and men supposed to be absolutely equal in every single way already? No?

It also brings up issues related to Title IX, wherein legislators attempted to create desired results by mandate, in this case, making sure women had absolutely the exact same opportunities to play absolutely the exact same sports as men, whether the women want to or not. Of course the result, as so often happens when legislators try to force their own visions to come to pass via a law, seems in my not so humble opinion to have hurt more than it helped. For updates on the follies of Title IX, the International Women's Forum seems to be the best go-to site I have found. In the case of the issue we're currently discussing, the argument is that benefits to women athletes from Title IX are being erased, as second-string women's players get less playing time while the first-string women are playing against the guys. As is to be expected from a brief television blurb, this issue is not resolved adequately. One coach says, actually, all the women get more playing time under this new practice. This makes no sense to me, since who would the first-string women be scrimmaging against, if not the second-string women, if the men were not there?

Overall, I found this issue intriguing because the thing I like about women's basketball, particularly at the high school level, is that it is different from men's basketball. Women are different from men, and while I think women can excel in athletic pursuits, women are different physically and this may result in different things. Women's softball has its differences from men's baseball. Women figure skaters have cut back on the relentless pursuit for more rotations in jumps, opting for difficulty in combination jumps instead. Jumps require a certain level of upper body strength to muscle the body through the jump, and men do have the advantage in this area. I saw all the serious knee and ankle injuries to the girls who played basketball while I was in high school, and I wonder if the goal of playing more like men will only make this worse, or if better conditioning and new conditioning techniques will offset this. While I don't think girls should be limited to half-court ball, and I like the idea of girls and women in basketball being more aggressive for the rebound or on defense, I don't think changing their style of play to be exactly like men is something that should be striven for. Anyone else out there have an opinion?

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