By CARISSA IHM
In 1920, the 19th amendment was passed giving women the right to vote.
Since 1920, women’s rights have been improving, but in terms of athletics, the process has been a bit slower.
Only in 2012 did the first woman referee an NFL game.
Kyle Pollard, a Mount Mary College post-baccalaureate student, drew on his background as a cross country and track coach to reflect on the stigma of women in typical “male sports.”
“I think that the NFL possibly more than any other American sport is charged with masculinity … traits such as strength, aggressiveness, and strategic thinking that people don’t think women have,” Pollard said.
Pollard acknowledged that there is belief women are not capable of performing well alongside men because of a lack of skill, but he said from his coaching experience, there are physical differences to take into account that affect athletic activity.
For example, women tend to develop curvier figures that can contrast their performance levels from a man.
“The general perception of how we see female athletes … comes from the truth of physical ability,” Pollard said. “It’s not a general truth. It becomes very much a stereotype and is blown way out of proportion of what the truth is.”
Michelle Guyant-Holloway, athletic director at Mount Mary, believes women have come a long way in terms of sports recognition, particularly in the news. “Media-wise, I would say there’s much more coverage,” she said. “I think that certainly women have become more athletic, more skilled as players. I think the understanding and knowing of what women’s sports is is growing. It has a much greater group that sees the value of women and what sports does for women.”
According to Guyant-Holloway, women might have the skill to play on the same playing field as men, but normally don’t have the body structure to ensure safety.
“It’s not as driving as a nature for women to play that way … with men it’s more innate for them to play that type of sport,” Guyant-Holloway said. “Women are more community-based … A man has more of a ‘How can I beat that person no matter who they are or what they do.’”
Overall, there is a different approach athletically for men and women based on how they learn and how they are built.
“You have co-ed on more of the recreational side of spots, but on the professional side there is a big difference between what a man and a woman can do,” Guyant-Holloway said. “On the professional level you can have a higher risk of injury just because of the physical differences between a man and a woman, and there’s a mental approach for how you coach a man versus a woman … the two motivate differently, so how you approach them is different.”
In the arena of sports, women seem to be making a breakthrough via the acceptance of female referees, the women’s ski jump at the next Winter Olympics, media coverage and the cultural perception of female athletes.
“Many of our players grew up playing sports,” according to a statement from the Wisconsin Warriors. “Having the opportunity to play football, a true ’men’s game,’ we have turned the tables a bit. We’ve even earned something many men dream of having – a championship ring. If we ever were given the opportunity to have the media coverage and corporate support, we truly believe this sport could go viral and give us a chance to truly be in the sports spotlight.”