Female athletes deserve equal recognition

Girls teams show same dedication as male peers, but receive less support

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Female athletes deserve equal recognition

Emma Trone, Editor-in-Chief

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It’s boys basketball senior night, and fans are packed on the bleachers.

In the stands, students, faculty and parents eat popcorn, rise to their feet when a U-High player cleanly sinks a three-pointer and collectively groan when a Latin player makes a free throw. When senior Mohammed Alausa dunks, the din in the gym grows so loud you can hear it from Kenwood Mall.

The atmosphere is exhilarating both as a spectator and as an athlete. But unfortunately, for many of the girls sports teams, that type of emphatic support is almost impossible to achieve.

I’ve been fortunate enough to be a member of Lab’s swimming, track and volleyball teams at various points throughout middle and high school. What’s linked those three sports is the unique motivation that comes with representing your school, regardless of the self-deprecating jokes about the competitiveness of Lab sports.

Whether it’s a track whoosh at the end of the 4x400m relay, the waving arms of supporters at the wall of the pool during a flip turn, or chants for a “side-out” on the volleyball court sidelines, the support of your teammates and your community both consciously and subconsciously changes the way you perform as an athlete.

Last month’s girls basketball senior night passed with little fanfare, while a week later boys basketball senior night was decked out with rally towels, temporary tattoos, and a directive from the U-High Spirit Council, a coalition of parents and students, and the alumni development office to “Pack the Gym.” This apparent imbalance of resources isn’t just about the social culture around sports games; it alters the mental component of competition for the athletes.

As a member of both single-gender and co-ed teams, I know female athletes work just as hard, are just as crushed by losses and just as elated by wins as our male counterparts. We have the same early mornings, late nights and sore muscles. Our bodies are pushed to the same limits. And we represent our school just as proudly and well. But oftentimes, the literal blood, sweat, and tears female athletes endure to represent U-High well go unnoticed and unsupported, and that’s inevitably demoralizing.

The promotion and support at boys senior night was a confluence of active choices and logistical coincidences. However, the net effect on the support of female athletes and the athletes themselves is the same as it would be if those choices had been entirely conscious.

Girls sports teams shouldn’t have to fight what seems like twice as hard to build support, yet it often takes performances as remarkable as the girls soccer team’s historic advancement to state semi-finals last season to arouse anywhere near the excitement of the boys soccer team reaching the sectional final earlier that school year.

I’m ashamed to admit I’ve spectated more boys basketball and soccer games than girls basketball and soccer games throughout high school, because boys games often turn into more of a social event.

The U-High Spirit Council and the Athletics Department both have a role to play in ensuring that both boys and girls games have the same resources to build excitement in the community and create a supportive atmosphere for athletes and spectators alike. But it’s equally, if not more, important that we, as students, collectively and individually make the choice to spectate and support our girls teams.

Not only will we be able to witness our female athletes compete well and advance far into the IHSA State Series, as many teams have consistently done over the past few years, but our girls teams will receive the equitable attention and support that is long overdue.