Wednesday, July 13, 2011
In Praise of Women Athletes
Anyone who watched the United States Women’s World Cup game on Sunday couldn’t be thrilled by the way the team played in spite of some poor calls against them. Women’s sports have come so far in the past 30 years with the progress made under Title IX. For those of us baby boomers we remember a time when women had very limited opportunities to participate in sports. When I was in high school the only opportunity for girls to letter was as a cheerleader.
As a guy who had played sports since I was a child becoming a father to three girls it seemed that dance and piano lessons would leave me longing for a son to play ball with. However the Columbia girls youth softball league (CYBA) provided the opportunity to share my passion for sports with my daughters. Our back yard became a pitching location in the Spring and a volleyball net location in the Fall. Spring afternoons and Summer weekends were spent watching the girls play softball. A few years I even coached some of their teams and learned how girls had a different orientation to organized sports. I was used to coaches yelling at you and even cursing sometimes. Fortunately those days are in the past and I saw how sports for girls were as much a social event as a sporting event. Not that some of the girls were great competitors but it was usually moderated with good sportsmanship. I saw this difference most clearly one year when I was coaching and my centerfielder came in after one of those never ending innings of walk after walk. She came up to me and said, “Mr. St. Clair look what I made!” It was a clover necklace. I asked her when she made it and she said during the last inning. I asked her if she was paying attention to the game but she said that no one ever hit the ball out to center field. I knew then that coaching girls was going to be different then I remembered. This attitude is seen in the You Tube videos that show the way girls play sports. Watch both of these video 1 video 2
This attitude of women was shown again when I spent 10 years as an ASA softball umpire. I umpired men’s, women’s and co-rec mixed women/men teams. I women games were always better to umpire than the men’s but the co-rec were the worst. When men played with women, many times their wives and girl friends, they could become real jerks. Arguing with the umpire must have been done to prove their manhood to the women. This led to one of the craziest experiences I had as an umpire. In one game with the husband playing shortstop and the wife pitching I heard constantly from the husband how awful my strike zone was for his wife. Finally I decided I had enough and at the start of one inning I went out behind the husband shortstop and told the wife pitcher to go ahead and pitch. She looked at me strangely and asked why I wasn’t going behind the plate. I told her that her husband thought that this was a better location to judge balls and strikes. She smiled and then told her husband to shut up and got my point across.