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The Milton Measure

Investigating Perceived Gap Between Milton Boys’ and Girls’ Sports

by Brie Lawson on Friday, April 28th, 2017

Many athletes at Milton have pointed to perceived inconsistencies between the treatment of girls’ and boys’ athletics at Milton, whether surrounding funding, recruitment, or fan support. In a poll sent out to Milton’s student body, 70% of respondents answered “yes” to the question “Do you think there is a disparity in Milton’s attention to and investment in girls’ athletics in comparison to boys’?” Another 70% of students answered “no” to whether they think “boys’ and girls’ athletics are equally respected at Milton.” And out of the 243 respondents, only one student went to only girls’ games during Nobles Weekend. These results suggest a gap in Milton’s investment in and respect for boys’ versus girls’ athletics, but does such an issue really exist on campus?

“We don’t go by Title IX,” says Athletic Director and Boys’ Basketball coach Mr. Reddicks, “but we try to fund everything exactly the same, so like boys’ soccer and girls’ soccer would be the greatest example. There’s no difference in terms of what we provide for girls’ soccer and then what we provide for boys’ soccer.” Coach Reddicks reveals that on a budgetary level, despite potential student belief, teams regardless of gender are to be equally treated. While funding for boys’ and girls’ programs collectively may not be exactly the same, athletic administrators try to ensure that, for teams in the same sport, girls’ and boys’ have the same opportunities.

Ms. Grant adds, “If you asked me 10 years ago, I would have said yes, [the disparity] is a huge issue, but it feels to me that there’s really equality in the programs as far as game schedule, uniforms, fields, things like that.” She explains, “The only thing I would say is–this is what I’ve heard anyway–some of the girls feel that where the field positions are might be a little farther away than some of the boys’ fields, but I’m not sure that that feels to me inequitable because it feels as though the fields are still good fields… It just feels as though the investment, especially the financial investment, feels as though it’s equitable.”

Still, according to Coach LaRochelle, Assistant Varsity Girls’ Soccer and Swimming coach, “Traditionally there are certain teams that get more attention. There are certain teams that have bigger budgets, but I think that’s mostly because they require bigger budgets, like football.” Teams such as football demand and receive more funding because of the equipment, field maintenance, and coaching staff. While not intentional, Boys’ Football probably ends up with a larger budget than Girls’ Field Hockey, which struggles without a turf field. Coach Hickey, Head Field Hockey Coach, calls not having turf a “big inequality,” because “it is a big disadvantage by playing other teams who practice on turf, especially since the stamina, fitness levels, and skill sets are different on turf and grass.” In the details, distribution of funds between girls’ and boys’ programs may not be completely balanced.

Because team funding often also comes from parents or alumni, teams with longstanding traditions of donating will tend to receive more money, having larger outside donation forces. Boys’ Football and Boys’ Hockey, therefore, might have a larger resource of funds than, say, Girls’ Field Hockey and Softball. In other words, outsiders associated with a team, and not Milton’s Business Office, might be behind the monetary differences which students sometimes perceive as inequality between Milton’s treatment of boys’ and girls’ sports.

When asked whether he thinks recruiting is evenly distributed among boys’ and girls’ teams, Coach La said, “I think that totally depends on the coach… I think certain coaches are really good about [talking to potential recruits], which I think is a good thing.” He went on to list Coach Cannata, Mr. Reddicks and Mr. MacDonald (Coach Mac) as talented recruiters for their respective teams. In addition to these coaches, Coach Stone heavily recruits for the Varsity Girls’ Hockey team–evidence that recruiting is not limited to boy sports. Since recruitment varies from coach to coach, the number of recruits that a team attracts depends on a few variables, such as the interest of the coach, the interest of the student, and the student’s academic record as well as financial standing. Taking into account all of these variables, it is no surprise that certain coaches emphasize recruiting while others opt to take a significantly less active stance.

Coaches and administrators do not seem to report unjust inequalities between girls’ and boys’ athletic programs, at least from a financial or recruiting standpoint. So perhaps the gap students identify between the two programs stems from fan support. Although Milton has been known to have a very supportive, rowdy group of fans, this year’s fan section surpassed the norm, calling themselves the Hooligans and attending both Wednesday and Saturday games throughout the winter. The Hooligans were undoubtedly a benefit for the school’s overall spirit, and because of their high energy, many teams wanted the fan group to attend their games. While this positive reception from the student body was certainly a compliment to the Hooligans, it also presented a problem: with so many teams wanting their attention, they were unable to attend all games.

When asked how they decide which games to attend, Head Hooligan Jack O’Brien (I), responded, “We’ve probably gone to more boys’ sports I think. I think so. We’ll admit that… We like to support our friends.” The Hooligans, a predominantly male group, cheered at a majority of boys’ games because they were interested in watching their close friends play. Although they also attended a fair amount of Girls’ Hockey and Squash games, teams like Girls’ Basketball felt excluded from the Hooligans’ support. Assistant Coach Patrick Owens shares his findings surrounding support from the community for girls’ teams versus boys’, reporting that “Yes, boys receive more fan support. At the Thayer versus girls home game, it was deflating for the girls when the student body fan group was choosing to go to an away [boys’] game rather than [their] home game.”

On being asked her opinion about fan support at boys’ versus girls’ games, tri-varsity athlete as well as Captain of both Varsity Girls’ Hockey and Girls’ Track, Jen Costa (I) says “It’s frustrating that people always go to boys’ games more than girls’ games when there is the same — or more — amount of talent among female players. People don’t appreciate girls’ sports as much and tend to lean towards men sports because they believe that they are more interesting and aggressive when that is not always the case.”

Jen’s opinion is rooted in frustration over the student athletic culture at Milton. Head Girl’s Soccer Coach Kahn states, “A piece of it that I see in the student culture goes a little bit with the way we refer to the sports sometimes. [It] is typical that a student would refer to ‘the basketball game’ and mean the Boys’ Basketball game and say ‘the Girls’ Basketball game’ if they meant the Girls’ Basketball game.” Boys’ sports games are inherently viewed as the main athletic event, while girls’ are the side show. This widespread preference for and emphasis on boys’ teams is not unique to Milton, of course, but universal throughout the country. Coach Kahn identifies the “physicality piece” as part of the attraction to boys’ sports, perhaps contributing to why 77% of Measure poll respondents reported that they would rather watch a boys’ than girls’ game.

By limiting financial differences between girls’ and boys’ athletic programs and ensuring that recruiting does not promote one sex over another, the administration and faculty do their best to make athletes, female and male alike, feel equally respected at Milton. However, it feels as if the student body could work on its perception of and attitude towards girls’ sports. A preference for attending and supporting men’s sports is ingrained in our school’s culture and society in general, and alienates female athletes as a result. Whether by hiring more than five head female coaches, adding a training program more tailored to the needs of female bodies, or actively promoting girls’ games, Milton could help reduce the number of students who feel boys’ athletics are prioritized at Milton and help shift some students’ mindsets that girls’ events should not be supported as boys’ are.

Short URL: http://miltonmeasure.org/?p=9048

Posted by Brie Lawson on Apr 28 2017. Filed under Featured. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. You can leave a response or trackback to this entry

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