Shrinking and Pinking: Shifting Sports

New shifts in sport have been all over the news lately. Danica Patrick is the first woman to shift into the pole position (the top qualifier) at the Daytona 500. And while the International Olympic Committee's unexpected and shocking decision to drop wrestling from the summer Games impacts more men than women, it's telling that women's wrestling was only recently added a few years ago. Lolo Jones is another summer Olympian facing a shift in sport. The hurdler announced in the fall that she was going to try her hand (or legs, I should say) at bobsledding. After making the team as a pusher, she actually won a gold at the World Championships late last month!

Lolo Jones competing in bobseld, Martin Meissner AP

It'd be pretty amazing to see her in Sochi after London; and hopefully no fourth place this time around.

Another London Olympian just made a sport shift as well. Canadian synchronized swimmer Tracy London has retired from her sport, but picked up a new activity. What is it? Pole dancing!

Photo by Celia Lavinskas

London and her company emphasize the health and acrobatics associated with pole dancing, and de-emphasize the other connotations. At least she isn't Suzy Favor Hamilton, right?!

While I usually emphasize female athletes here who are fighting or breaking barriers, male athletes often have to deal with difficulties and tough, sexist sports connotations as well. Here where I live in Massachusetts, male gymnasts were shocked when high school gymnastics was cut from the roster of approved sports. Even more shocking was that the spokesman for the Massachusetts Interscholastic Athletic Association, Paul Wetzel, spoke derisively of it as a "girls' sport." His comments provoked a backlash-- but not enough of one to help save the sport, which will likely become a club endeavor.

Just goes to show that shifting (of attitudes) still needs to happen when it comes to male sports as well. Given his thoughts on girls/boys sports, I'm guessing Wetzel won't be rooting for Danica Patrick in the Daytona though (he might like London's "pole" position better)... But I will!

Shrinking and Pinking: More Girls, More Sports, More Changes

Compared to the past few months, October brought less female athlete news-- but as students returned to school and Olympic-caliber athletes returned to training, there's no doubt that women in sports were hard at work.  And, in many cases, they are working hard in new contexts. 1) In Massachusetts female high school golfers now have the chance to compete in a more rigorous state-level tournament, as the state's athletic association voted to add sectional tournaments.  This is a great sign that golfing is growing for girls.

2) Lolo Jones, the American hurdler who often gets more attention than wins, has just be named to the US bobsled team.

She's not the only one in the running to be a two-sport Olympian (summer and fall), as gold medal sprinter Tianna Madison also made the team as a push athlete (the people who run and literally push the bobsled before hopping in and letting others steer down the mountain). It will be interesting to see if they both make it to the 2014 Games!

I wonder if there is this same type of crossover in male bobsledding?

3) Legendary women's basketball coach, Geno Auriemma, of UConn's storied program made headlines this week when he suggested that the rim should be lowered in the women's game. His reasoning? It would help increase the audience for women's basketball because it would mean a faster game, more dunks, and better layups.  He also suggested changing the size of the basketball and a few other timing rule changes.  Through the article I learned that the net in women's volleyball is lower (mainly because of the average height difference between men and women)-- which shows he was right that I had no idea!

I have mixed feelings about different rules for men's and women's games, but changing the equipment to reflect the realities of known physical differences between men and women (like height) seems reasonable. In the end it's just great to see more females doing a variety of competitive sports.