Inclusion, opportunity and other fun things

It seems like a curious time to be a female athlete.

In the world of basketball, we have a proposal to lower the rim. In the world of winter outdoor sports, we have women ski jumpers fighting for inclusion in the Olympic Games while the Nissan Freeride World Tour dropped women from its professional events. In the world of media, we have the upcoming creation of espnW.

Let’s start with hoops where earlier this month a women’s basketball summit attended by 50 countries discussed the state of the game. Among the topics — lowering the rim. The idea? To increase the number of dunks, reduce the number of missed shots and make the game more attractive to a wider audience. But would more dunks bring more fans to the game? That’s a leap of logic and while I’m all for non-linear thought, it’s a distinct possibility that making the women’s game a mini-version of the men’s game in pink won’t make much of a marketing difference.

Next up, the female ski jumpers who just want the chance to compete in the Olympics. Women have been denied an Olympic competition although men have a long history of ski jumping. The sport has an international following and an increasing number of participants with a world championship scheduled again for 2011 and 2013. The sport is making another push for inclusion as the International Olympic Committee will take up the topic at its executive board meeting in Acapulco later this month.

While the women ski jumpers are fighting for inclusion, women on the Nissan Freeride World Tour are being demoted. Technically, the tour states it is creating a separate men’s and women’s tour. But as an article from Outside magazine pointed out, the “women’s tour” includes less prestigious venues, little to no prize money for athletes who now must pay their own way to the 12 qualifying events.

“If they were creating a separate pro tour for women that would be one thing, but this,you can’t say it any other way, is a demotion for women,” Elyse Saugstad, the 2009 Nissan Freeride World Tour champion, said in the article.

And now enter the creation of espnW — the latest platform from the sports media mega giant. Currently the platform is Twitter-only with plans (as I understand it) to launch a blog then possibly a television channel.

This caused much brew-ha-ha in the blogosphere. Some were outraged, feeling that ESPN was trivializing women’s sports by putting it in its own pink ghetto, so to speak, of media news. Others were completely jazzed, rejoicing in the fact that women’s sports might finally get honest, serious attention and coverage.

A big part of me wishes that plain old ESPN would diversify it’s coverage to include more substantive stories on sports other than the NFL, NBA, MLB, college football and men’s college basketball.

But another part of me knows that having a voice is often half the battle.

All four stories have threads which tie them together — it’s about women feeling legitimate about their athletic identity.

It’s about inclusion. It’s about opportunity. It’s about setting the bar high and letting people amaze you with their ability to meet it — and surpass it.

Because as I watch them struggle, achieve and succeed, I find myself inspired to raise the bar in my own life, in my own ways, as well.

(P. S. Special thanks to Matt for the link to the Outside article.)

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~ by amymoritz on October 14, 2010.

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