The story is by no means a new one. For as long as sports have existed there has been an undeniable divide between men’s and women’s leagues that can be traced from novice leagues for young athletes all the way to the professional stage, the severity of the gap only becoming more dramatic with the level of the sport.
The women of the University of Maine field hockey team found themselves subject to this particular phenomenon two weeks ago during a match rivaling Temple University hosted on the grounds of Kent State University. The game had run its traditional duration, both teams reaching what would normally be the conclusion of the face-off without a score on either side, plunging the game into overtime. After the completion of a single 10-minute overtime period, the game was interrupted by the entrance of Kent State University officials onto the field. The pause of play that had originally stood as the turnover from the first to second overtime period transitioned into an abrupt end to the game that has now been widely ridiculed both by those directly involved and many others across social media.
The issue at hand: a firework display set to occur on an adjacent field to the one the women were playing on. The field was playing host to the Kent State football game against Kennesaw State later that same day. The women’s game became yet another casualty in what can almost be called as much as a tradition as the fireworks themselves,: the preferential treatment of men’s sports over women’s.
The communities closest to the two teams impacted, those of UMaine and Temple University, have both made their opinions heard in the form of official statements released from both schools’ Director of Athletics and social media. Hundreds of posts on various sites regarding the incident have caused a ripple effect across the U.S., drawing attention from female athletes at other colleges voicing their outrage to calls from professional female athletes for widespread organizational change.
The support of fellow female athletes to the players involved in this occurrence has not only been heartwarming but telling of the environment that for so long has plagued women’s athletics. The sense of community among females in sports has been, in part, forged in the name of the pursuit of equal treatment in their profession and each time that pursuit is impeded, their voices come back louder and louder.
Beyond the direct impact, a statement from the National Field Hockey Coaches Association (NFHCA) published in the Bangor Daily News brings to light the concerning, yet realistic, implications of the events of Sept. 7: “[It] sends a terrible message to female student-athletes. This decision was extremely damaging not only for the participating athletes, their coaches and their families but for all female student-athletes.”
These harmful and misleading lessons that have the potential to be imparted on young female athletes, and young females in general, are worrying. If a young girl sees that no matter how hard she works to succeed in her sport, and no matter what level she plays at that every time the option is presented, a men’s team will be given preferential treatment, she is sent the message that her effort is not valued and that she as an athlete and a person are not valued the same as her male counterparts. Not only is that incorrect, but incredibly detrimental to the self esteem of female athletes and youth in general.
Let these events not be just another momentary flicker of anger on social media that dissipates with time but serve as a potent lesson to the athletic community that perhaps it is time to value the hard work, discipline and dedication of female athletes more than a firework display