February 02, 2017
We walked into the arena, immediately stepped-up to a ticket salesperson and bought two tickets for the game. There was no waiting in line and there was no assigned seating. There were plenty of good seats available. The game was exciting; it went into overtime. The crowd was enthusiastic and almost equally divided between the home and visiting teams. This was the biggest crowd that the home team would have for a game all year. By my estimate, there were 1,500 people in the 5,000-seat arena.
This game was between two schools that have the most intense rivalry in Division III (DIII), Hope and Calvin. This was a women’s basketball game and first place was on the line. Both teams were 18-2 on the season. It was a great game, but very few people witnessed it.
When the Hope-Calvin men play, either of the home arenas is standing room only. In fact, once a year the Hope-Calvin men’s game is broadcast to satellite locations where alumni from both schools gather to cheer their teams on. They never have such an event for the women’s teams.
You can legislate equality, but you cannot legislate interest and support. Since Title IX went into effect, institutions are required to offer a measure of equality in men’s and women’s sports. Hope and Calvin are among the leaders in average attendance at women’s basketball games. Hope has led the nation in average attendance for several consecutive years averaging 1,300 spectators in an arena that seats 3,100. Calvin averages 800 in their 5,000-seat facility.
This lack of interest is not just a DIII problem. If you pay attention during DI women’s game broadcasts you will notice many empty seats. In fact, in most arenas a curtain blocks-out most seats to force people into an area and make attendance appear better.
When I coached girl’s high school basketball, attendance was paltry. Only parents and a few students would attend.
You can philosophically believe in equality and push for it, but women are not treated equally. Not in the world of sports. Not in the business world. Not in academia. And, unfortunately, not in the church.
When I coached girl’s high school basketball, I had male colleagues who didn’t understand how I could do it. They would never coach girls. I loved coaching girls!
I suppose you could chalk it up to male chauvinism, however, whenever I look in the stands at a girls sporting event, I don’t see a preponderance of women there to support them.
I have been fortunate enough to benefit from women colleagues my entire career. The women with whom I currently work are bright, compassionate, and insightful. I learn from them every day. Working side by side with them as my teammates makes me better at what I do. I try to return the favor.
It is curious to me that the gap between men and women still is so wide in 2017. I can’t change it. I can only do my part. Isn’t that the case with many things? We can’t change world hunger, or the refugee crisis, or terrorism, or sex trafficking, but we can each do our part.
I’m going to keep working side by side with my female teammates and I’m going to keep attending women’s sporting events!