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Women’s sports need to be taken seriously

Women’s sports need to be taken seriously

Last week, a Division I field hockey game was called off in double overtime. Administrators employed at Kent State University, which was hosting a neutral-site matchup between Temple University and the University of Maine, informed both visiting programs’ coaching staffs that they would have to leave the field, despite there being a remaining overtime period. The game was officially ruled a no contest. The reason? So that Kent State could use its field hockey stadium, which is adjacent to the football stadium, to shoot off fireworks prior to the football game.

“Well ... that’s a new one,” tweeted the University of Maine field hockey account in response. Senior captain of the Maine team Riley Field elaborated in a reply, saying that the “fireworks were not meant to go off until 12 [p.m.] and it was 10:45 [a.m.] when we ended our first overtime.”

It’s no secret that women in sports have had to fight to be taken seriously ever since women were allowed to play sports. One in eight men think they could score a point against 23-time Grand Slam singles winner and all-around record breaker Serena Williams, according to a poll from YouGov. It goes beyond just questioning their ability, too – female athletes are constantly rebuked on everything, from their uniforms to their demeanor to their looks in competition. Anything that would be a ridiculous critique to pose against a male athlete becomes a sticking point against female athletes and another argument against them occupying their rightful space in the world of sports.

As a former Division I athlete with a stellar one-year record of sitting on the bench, I can personally attest to how much work it takes to pursue a collegiate athletic career. Balancing a 20-hour practice week – complete with scheduling your classes around 6 a.m. lifts and 2 p.m. practices and frequent travel – is incredibly difficult. That’s without even taking into account the physical toll that four lifts a week takes on your body and the various athletics-related commitments you and your team are obligated to attend, on top of trying to keep your grades up. It’s hard work that takes a ton of commitment.

Putting your whole life into your sport only to still not have people take it seriously is incredibly frustrating. The way people tend to treat female sports teams and athletes makes it even more important that the institutions that are set up to advocate for them do so. Kent State Athletic Director Joel Nielsen later apologized, acknowledging that the University’s decision was incorrect. “I realize that my statement does not undo the negative impact on the student-athletes, coaches, staff and fans who deserved to see their teams compete in a full contest,” he added.

The outpouring of support for both the Temple and Maine teams is heartwarming; the fact that it needs to take place at all is deeply disheartening. The fact that it takes hours of prolonged public shaming online in order for a college athletic director to realize he should have prioritized an in-progress women’s contest over pre-game fireworks for a men’s game is honestly embarrassing. How can we ever expect women’s sports to ever be treated with the respect they deserve when not even the people whose job it is to run the programs do so?

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