In the days before some much-needed time off, I made my way to the sidelines of a big basketball doubleheader between Monomoy and Nauset. Just as the girls game was wrapping up it happened, again. Someone (coming in late) made the comment about girls sports not being as worthy of their attention as boys.
“They're just not that exciting, ya know?”
Nope. I don't know. In fact, after more than a decade of covering all manner of high school sports, I can say with certainty that the above comment is simply wrong and I've had enough of it. I hope I don't hear it again.
Since the statement was made I've spent a fair amount of time pondering it, probably too much time in the opinions of many who would likely wish this spotlight redirected back at the boys. Tough. Ever since competitive sports became a part of a high school's makeup, the boys have basked in the glow of the overhead lights, while girls were encouraged to concentrate on becoming part of the pep squad no matter how well they shot from the crease, swung for the back fences, or sunk that perfect three-pointer.
Many thanks and high praise to the pioneering young women who demanded equal footing on the playing fields. I wonder if they knew back in the early days of girls varsity teams that the battle to be taken seriously would still rage on so many decades later.
For a brief, and I do mean fleeting moment, I considered the possible truth of what I'd been told. Then, in a flash, my mind traveled back across more than 10 years of games in which I saw a determined young woman dive across a goal to stop a puck in a game that led a team to its first-ever state championship victory. I saw others give it everything they had in soccer matches, basketball games, and swim meets, sweat pouring, and in many cases, blood running, if not on the surface of someone's skin then underneath as one heck of a bruise blossomed as the result of a well-placed cleat to the leg.
I've seen girls launch softballs nearly 60 miles per hour and hit home runs well past the outfield fences. I've seen them wrestle for control of a basketball with unparalleled ferocity, and soar to the hoop in a layup that would make Swoopes and Taurasi proud. I've seen them race the full length of the field hockey pitch, all the while maintaining control of the ball and fending off opponents en route to a crucial goal.
Before anyone comments on the accuracy of my memories, know that I can offer photographic proof. Yep. I've got the pictures to prove it. Girls working their tails off in games. Girls working their tails off in practices. Girls playing games with nearly empty stands that filled to capacity when the guys stepped onto the court.
Even when they've lost, I've seen girls teams give their games every possible effort, leaving everything – including the aforementioned blood and sweat (and yes, tears) – on the field, the court, the pitch, the ice, or in the pool. Even when they've won I've seen the majority of recognition go to the boys team.
It's well past time this stopped, especially at the high school level. Why? Because these young women deserve support for their tireless efforts, regardless of the score. They deserve whiteouts and blackouts and everything in between. They deserve cheerleaders and cheering fans packing the stands. They deserve to know their school communities have their backs because, ultimately, it's not about the score or perceived excitement. It's about the girls who are willing to play the game.