When Sport Becomes Too Complex for Women

When Sport Becomes Too Complex for Women

When Sport Becomes Too Complex for Women 4104 2736 CWESN

In February, the President of Cricket West Indies, Dave Cameron, said that; “Firstly, we only have female PE teachers, which is a problem. Most of them don’t know cricket. The game of cricket is very complicated. They don’t know the history and neither are they interested. That becomes an issue. When we went to school, most of our PE teachers, if not all, were male. So they coach cricket, football, track and field, and we’re not getting that any more.”

He followed it up with this: “The issue is we need more men if we are going to grow the game of cricket specifically for the male side because boys learn from men, which is a specific issue.”

Last week a young U19 cricketer, when asked in an interview: “Do you think it’s difficult being a woman in this sport?”, responded by saying: “Yes, I think it’s difficult, because we women get injured pretty easily and it’s very hard to maintain a healthy diet.”

Before all of that, a friend of mine, having heard me speak about the self esteem and body issue challenges young girls deal with in sport, on numerous occasions, finally googled it and discovered that it was an actual problem. As a female athlete herself, she never knew it was a ‘real’ thing, much like Kwanieze John, who couldn’t relate to such a thing, until she started coaching young  girls. Yet, this is a well documented challenge for girls and women in sport.

Recently, I was observing a T&T U20 national women’s football team training, when a parent, standing on the sideline asked me: “How do you think you can get the ‘girl’ out of them (the players) so that they can play better?”

In a world where women are fighting for equal pay and equal rights and National Sporting Organizations (NSO) such as Cricket Australia, understand the simple but huge significance of having their women’s team be named the Australian Women’s Cricket team, and their men the Australian Men’s Cricket team, so that the men are not synonymous with the sport, while the women are ‘othered’, these things make me realize that we have a very long way to go in the Caribbean where gender equality in sport is concerned.

Had the leaders of say England or Australian cricket made the statement Cameron did, just a few months before hosting an ICC Women’s World Cup in their country, the public at large would be calling for their head. In the Caribbean, we saw this as an issue of how qualified PE teachers in Jamaica and the Caribbean, by extension are.

Far from that, it is an issue of how we devalue women in sport and cannot even begin to understand how the statement plays into gender stereotypes and perceptions that contribute significantly to the stagnation of the development of women’s sport.

The fact that the president of the CWI could not only make such a statement, but that the general public did not address it as the issue it is, says quite a lot.

When I listened to a young girl list a challenge of being a woman in sport as ‘women getting injured easily’, it saddened me. Women do not in fact get injured easily when compared to their male counterparts. This is not a thing. When however, girls and women are not provided with the same resources as boys and men and are forced to prepare and play competitive cricket at a high level in a very short space of time due to limited funding, they get injured easily. Because they do not have the resources boys and men are afforded to manage their bodies, they do not have the time, they are asked to play two T20 matches in a single day and on back to back days and play an entire tournament in a week.  In such a situation, any athlete, male or female, will be at an increased risk for injury.

Unfortunately, she probably heard some uninformed person spew this garbage and repeated it herself, because such is often the case when it comes to women in sport.

Without affording women opportunities and resources to improve themselves, many continue to believe the archaic perceptions which point to women not being able to be as competitive in sport as men.

Yet, we see, in other places, that when afforded these resources and opportunities, the performances of female athletes actually skyrockets and they break previously known barriers and perceptions.

How do we address these things? How do we get people to stop buying into the idea that women are not interested in sport (never mind the fact that we don’t market sport to women, don’t encourage girls to play sport at a young age and don’t have ample professional opportunities for women to make sport their career)? How do we get the President of the CWI to understand that a woman’s brain is not incapable of understanding the ‘complex’ nature of cricket (forget Stafanie Taylor’s exploits, because clearly she does not understand the complexity of cricket given her substantial achievements in the sport)?

How do we do this? We need to begin the process of highlighting the issues that people do not even know or understand to be issues. We need to neutralize sport so that it is not a male thing that some girls just ‘happen to be good at’. We need to do more for our girls and women in sport in the Caribbean and it needs to be done at all levels.

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