Sincerely, A female athlete

Personal stance on pressures that female athletes experience

Dear sports fans,

The ball doesn’t know the difference between a man and a woman, nor does it have favorites. I play the same sport as my male counterparts: basketball remains the same with consistent rules no matter the gender. Since that’s the case, why does it feel necessary to work harder just to feel equal?

At 6 years old, I competed on my first-ever basketball team with a roster full of guys because not enough girls played to have a full girls’ league. At 6 years old, I learned that even when I stood wide open and unguarded, guys wouldn’t pass the ball to me. It taught me that simply because my hair swung high in a ponytail instead of laying low in a buzz cut, I would get fewer opportunities to stand out. I would have to create the opportunities I wanted.

My love for the defensive side of basketball comes from being denied a chance on offense. If the guys on my own team wouldn’t give me the ball, I would simply retrieve it for myself by stealing it or rebounding it. This strong familiarization between myself and constantly playing defense translates to the social issues that surround my sport as well.

In 2021, for the NCAA March Madness tournament, the weight room reserved for the women’s basketball athletes looked more like a garage gym rather than a gym suited for collegiate-level athletes. The only supplies inside the women’s weight room happened to be yoga mats and dumbbells. The guys’ weight room, however, held barbells, inclined seats for lifting, heavy-plated weights and free-weight power racks.

What kind of message does this send to young, aspiring female athletes?

I shouldn’t have to admit it’s true that I could put in the same amount–or even more–of countless behind the scene hours on a court that a guy does, yet I would still have to sit with knowing that society will never deem my work as equally entertaining or worth respecting.

Our dedication shouldn’t be of less value because of our gender.

Even in high school, getting people to support women’s basketball like they do for the guys can be defeating. People will discredit women’s basketball by saying that we’re “more fundamental” or “we can’t dunk” or maybe it’s even because we “aren’t as athletic”, though none of these are actual reasons. They’re just qualities that differentiate the type of playing level between men and women.

Why not appreciate what both groups bring to the table?

Women’s basketball–and sports as a whole–is constantly evolving and becoming more fast-paced and aggressive to match the intensity of their male counterparts. As a high school athlete, it’s encouraging to be able to look up to these collegiate and professional female athletes and see many of them working to make a name for themselves despite the setbacks.

Women’s sports deserve more recognition. There’s no stopping what a woman has put on her mind. Whether the world decides to pass the ball or not, we’ll take it.

A female athlete