Disparity between boys’ and girls’ sports fan culture needs change

Maddie Coyle, Staff Writer

On Sept. 8, Serena Williams and Japan’s Naomi Osaka went head to head in the finals for the US Open. During the match, a controversy erupted changing the tenor of the game. The umpire accused Williams’s coach of coaching from the stands and he gave her a violation. Then, after a frustrating lost point, Williams smashed her racket. The umpire used that as her second violation, costing her a point. She then confronted him saying “You stole a point from me. You are a thief too.” That was used as a third violation costing her a game. Osaka eventually won the match, causing a large controversy that even exceeded the tennis world.

In light of the Serena Williams’ controversy, many have heard talk about the difference in perception of men’s sports and women’s sports. Had a man reacted the same way Serena Williams did, would he have received the same extreme consequences? Would he have been ridiculed by the media and made into an arguably racist and sexist cartoon?

The controversy that took place at the women’s championship in the US Open speaks to the unjust nature of how we perceive women athletes. However, more specifically, it is a reflection of how society has historically viewed black women. They are not angry black women just because they show anger towards an unjust situation. In general, female athletes face many injustices in the world of sports, but these injustices cannot be fully addressed without acknowledging how race plays a role.

As a result of men’s sports being more popular, sports have never been equal in rules, support or recognition. Men’s sports get more public attention because historically only men were allowed to play sports. It was not until female athletes spoke up and worked to create their own leagues that women could actually play. However, even today they have much lower attendance rates and overall amount of fans than their male counterparts.

In 2017, the Chicago Bulls had an average home game attendance of 21,680 compared to Chicago Sky’s home game average of 6,853. The vast difference is partially due to lack of coverage.

Women’s sports need to have two essential factors to make it into the worlds of viewers. Broadcasting on major networks could increase viewership while giving the network valuable press. News outlets like ESPN or Sports Illustrated could publish more articles about women’s sports to help readers engage into a side of sports that many are unaware of. Teams could also acquire more major corporate sponsors to help promote their team.

Another reason that people do not attend as many girls’ sports is because of the outlook that many male athletes are looked at not as people but more as pieces in an exciting game which is the bigger issue.

In the world of athletics, we forget that all of our favorite players are people: far beyond looks, athletic talent or athletic integrity. We tend to over-glorify players without learning more about them, we overlook their character. The world of sports exceeds the different leagues, players, and teams; it is about the people behind the leagues, players, and teams. We forget about that when we walk into a stadium, and that is a part of the problem. We need to remember that these players are people too and that others play the same sport, but go unrecognized.

In ETHS athletics, there is a culture that surrounds sports, specifically boys’ sports. For football games, they have cheerleaders, the marching band and color guard. The games are on Friday nights, they have the bright lights, and the cheering of the crowds. While this is an effective way to get people to boys’ games there is not an equal sport for girls. There is not a game that has the same pep, lights, and atmosphere.

“Obviously when you go to boys’ games you get to see great athleticism, you see dunking and we don’t have that in our games but were still a very entertaining team,” says Brittany Johnson, varsity girls’ basketball coach.

During the basketball season, there is a definite difference in the teams, however it is not just how they play the game. The girls’ and boys’ are mostly back to back, with the girls playing at around six and the boys playing around seven. While this may be great, it can also be problematic in terms of equal attendance and support. At the beginning of the girls’ games, not many show up, then when the third quarter hits people flood in. The reason for this is to be able to get in early for the boys’ games.

“I feel like a lot of people go to boys’ basketball games because the teams were doing well and because there’s been more hype for football games, there always has been,” says Kate McClintock, senior varsity tennis player. “Most boys’ basketball games were televised and people were very encouraged to come, whereas [for] girls’ games there was an announcement or two but that was all.”

That is one example of boys’ basketball and football being in the limelight, which leads to girls’ sports getting overlooked.  Gender and race inequality within sports do not occur solely among professionals, rather starts on a more local level. When the boys’ basketball team obtained their third-place spot in the state, the school was flooded with announcements, school spirit, and even a marching band that led the boys to the bus that would take them to Peoria.

The student body and administrators need to show its determination and pride for its girls’ sports to prove to girls athletes that they are not forgotten in the world of ETHS athletics.

At Ridgewood High School in Norridge, students who play on the boys’ teams have to attend the girls’ teams and vice versa. That was because girls’ games were so low in attendance; they made the boys go to support their girls’ team and help boost overall attendance.

 During practices, teammates are told to cheer each other on to help motivate them, so wouldn’t more students in the crowd help motivate teams to push harder? It could give them more determination to persevere through a play they may not have done before.

The ETHS athletic community is working to make sure that people go out to support girls’ teams. Many boys’ coaches work hard to get their athletes out to support girls’ sports. That shows progress, but there is more that can be done. It should be a policy, making sure that all boys come out to cheer on the girls.

“Our boys’ programs and our boys’ coaches do a great job of getting their kids to come to the games. I was at the volleyball game the other night and the entire boys’ soccer team was there cheering them on which I think is awesome that they do that,” says Johnson.

Many girl athletes and coaches believe that having more people cheering them on will help promote their game, while also making the experience more enjoyable.

As a school community and as a country, we need to help make sure we go out and support our female athletes. We need to show our pride and use our voices to support girls’ sports. They deserve better than having just a couple of people show up to their games. The more people that cheer them on, the more opportunity there is for an exciting and intense game. This upcoming school year, we need to show the girls that their athletic efforts matter just as much as the boys’.