Arizona, Montana, South Dakota, West Virginia, and Virginia switched their seasons (after being sued) to reflect the NCAA womens fall volleyball and winter basketball schedule. Alaska, North Dakota, Hawaii and Rhode Island voluntarily changed their seasons. Only Michigan will be out of sync with the rest of the nation in womens high school volleyball and basketball in the 05-06 school year.
Because of inequitable scheduling, MHSAA currently restricts high school females in ways it has not limited males.
For instance, many Upper Peninsula high school mens teams play basketball and football in Wisconsin; this provides many opportunities for male teams and less travel. Because Michigans female seasons do not mirror Wisconsins, our U.P. female volleyball and basketball players do not have equitable competition opportunities and travel farther. Furthermore, Michigan female basketball players have never experienced the true feeling of March Madness because in March our women are spectators on the sideline, not competitors on the floor.
Athletes often play in club sports such as the Amateur Athletic Union (AAU) or Olympic Development Programs (ODP). Michigan females suffer on a national basis because the interstate competitions and tournaments are geared around the traditional seasons for females. They also miss promotional events such as 3-on-3 tournaments and national shoot-outs for the same reason. Why? Because females are prevented by MHSAA rules from competing elsewhere when they are in their high school seasons.
GETTING LEFT OUT
Less media attention and recognition is given to Michigan female athletes whose state is out-of- alignment. Fewer are named to All-American teams and their schools are left off national rankings. At the state level, MHSAA schedules fall male and spring female golf, yet the annual Michigan All-State Honors Golf banquet is held after the boys fall season. Female golfers who were given Ms. Golf or all-state awards last year must wait until this school year to be honored. Not exactly an equitable athletic experience!
It is unfortunate the realignment of seasons will cause some coaches who train both genders in a sport currently held in different seasons to choose between coaching males or females. We will need more coaches and more referees. Easy, no. Possible, yes.
Alas, the argument that girls basketball wont have time to practice. Please do the math.Michigan schools already have freshmen, junior varsity, and varsity womens volleyball and mens basketball practicing concurrently in gyms in the winter season. If schools do not have time slots in which to schedule girls basketball it is indicative that these schools have been scrimping on providing opportunity for females in their volleyball programs--a clear violation of Title IX.
Volleyball and boys basketball coaches have been fine-tuning practice schedules since 1972; I am confident boys and girls basketball coaches can do the same in the future. Besides, the current mens basketball season is about three weeks longer, so the women will have additional opportunity in a lengthened season.
Womens basketball must not take a backseat to mens basketball. Varsity women and mens basketball teams have been competing on Friday nights for 50 years in Iowa. Its a great local attraction. Scheduling female competition on Friday evening also puts a stop to females competing on two school nights and maintaining the same grade point averages as their male counterparts in football and basketball who receive the spotlight at Friday night competitions (and no school the next day!).
NCAA National Letter of Intent dates for womens soccer and volleyball occur prior to Michigan women even starting their senior seasons. Few college coaches hold scholarships for Michigan female volleyball or soccer players when athletes from other states have completed their senior season by November.
Psychology plays a role in providing equity in scheduling seasons. The Michigan Department of Educations study The Influence of Gender-Role Socialization on Student Perception revealed students of both genders believe males and the positions they hold in society are more important than females and their role in society. Additionally, both genders believe a womans role in society is to look attractive and appeal to men. The most widely given response of high school students to validate these beliefs was the prominence given to male high school athletes and their sports.
WORTH LESS FEELING
Unequal shares of athletic prime time during the school year reinforces the belief women are worth less in society; that their participation and achievements are less significant. Both genders transfer this belief system into adulthood resulting in diminished expectations for females in their professional and personal life.
The realignment of Michigan womens high school athletic seasons has been ordered by federal judge Richard Enslen after he determined the Michigan High School Athletic Association (MHSAA) discriminates against athletes by scheduling female athletic seasons and tournaments during less advantageous times of the school year. This past spring the United States Supreme Court heard the case and remanded it back to the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals for review of the original appeal.
It is unfortunate a federal court order must provide equity in athletic seasons for females and males in Michigan. The legal decision awards to females what has been given to males for a long time. No more, no less. Not really too much to ask, is it?
The federal court opinion can be found at www.ca6.uscourts.gov.
About the author...
Anne Perry retired from teaching in Traverse City Area Public Schools last spring, but continues to work for TCAPS as the gender equity coordinator.
Her background in civil rights included being fired from a girls volleyball coaching position in 1984 for allowing five boys to play on the girls 7th and 8th grade volleyball teams at TC West Junior High. There were no cuts in volleyball at that time therefore all girls made the team; if they followed training rules they received equal playing time, she recalls. The teams and the parents supported the presence of the boys. Concurrently a boy was denied high right to play at the elementary level.
Tim Keenan, a parent of the elementary student, and Perry filed a state civil rights case based on Michigans Elliott-Larsen Act and a federal civil rights case based on Title IX on behalf of the boys right to participate and Perrys right to allow them to do so. We won based on Michigan law. The district spent $247,000 pursuing this case. I was reinstated in my coaching position.
Because of these cases boys and girls play on a coed basis at the elementary level; the boys junior high team was discontinued temporarily because a lack of interest and competition a few years ago.