Part two: equality within female athletics


Karlee Pireu goes up with the three-point shot.

Isabella Pacinelli, Features Editor

Over the years, women in athletics have become accepted by sports-lovers all over the world, playing at the collegiate and professional level just like men.

Ashland University offers 12 Division II female sports such as basketball, soccer, lacrosse, tennis and volleyball.

In an effort to increase the amount of women in athletics, AU hired a full-time senior woman administrator, Heather Gable.

Director of the Athletic Department, Al King, explained that her job is to recruit players and evaluate any potential Title IX offenses.

“I think that’s started to change this culture,” he said. “We need to have the people here talk more about women’s athletics.”

King would like to get AU coaches and administrators into elementary and high schools to increase knowledge and confidence for women in sports.

“You can be a female athlete and there’s nothing the matter with it,” he said. “You’re allowed to do that and if you are good you can get a college scholarship.”

It is clear that the men’s sports get a lot of recognition, but can the same be said for the women of AU?

“I don’t think they’re overlooked but I’ll put it to you this way, it’s something that we try to make sure that we emphasize all the time,” King said.

Two years ago, AU added women’s lacrosse. This year they added STUNT, a female cheer competitive sport.

“What I’ve told my staff is we need to create opportunities for women,” King said.

Advances have been made in gender equality within sports, but King still remembers the time when female athletics were just an after-thought.

“There was a feeling women weren’t strong enough, there wasn’t enough interest and it wasn’t something that they would stay with,” he said. “I think with an older crowd, sometimes my age and above, they still struggle with it.”

Senior middle education major and member of the AU women’s basketball team Renee Stimpert, believes gender inequality to be a result of the way our country began. All the American presidents have been male and mostly all of the Fortune 500 companies are led by men, she said.

“I’m a biblical Christian and even in the Bible it talks about Adam coming before Eve so people represent it that way too,” Stimpert said.

There is no doubt the AU women’s basketball team has seen success in the past years. Despite campus and community support, Stimpert still hears that people do not want to watch their games because they are female.

“It’s hard to hear because we put in as much, or sometimes more effort, than male athletes do,” she said. “ It’s something that we, as women, can continue to work at and show the whole world that we’re just as good as men.”

King has worked for AU for 27 years and recalls a guy in town that said he did not think it was right to offer women’s basketball.

“There are times I still get the question ‘why are you supporting a sport like this?’” King said. “I always say if you have the sport you support it 100% and if you can’t do that then you shouldn’t have the sport.”

AU women’s basketball is first in GLIAC attendance, King said. “If you look at our numbers we’re better than most.”

Nonetheless, the athletic department is committed to increasing audience turnout for all female sports, he said. This semester they have taken some new social media approaches as well as hosting special events, such as a dj before volleyball games and free pizza before soccer games.

“These are nationally ranked teams playing and we want to do as much as we can to grow the sport,” King said. “You can never do too much and I just want to make sure we find creative ways to do it.”

Stimpert admits that she prefers watching men’s sports over women’s sports. “It’s interesting to think about because as a woman, why wouldn’t I want to watch women’s sports?” she said.

According to a research study published by the Women’s Sports Foundation, unequal media attention is due to the dominant male culture of athletics.

Other possible reasons revealed through the research were that of discrimination by media decisionmakers, lack of public interest and general low level of competition in women’s athletics.

Kari Pickens, head women’s basketball coach, believes that men’s and women’s basketball are two completely different games.

“I understand that the rules and everything are very similar but the style of play, the strategy behind games and teams look different,” she said. “One is not better than the other but you need to value the differences of the male and female sports and embrace what they both do well.”

Pickens grew up with her mom being her high school basketball coach and quickly learned the importance of confidence within athletics, she said.

“All I knew was that women could be great at what they wanted to be great at,” she said. “My goal is to hopefully empower my student athletes to feel the same way, that it doesn’t matter what gender you are, if you want to be great at something put your mind to it and be great at it.”

Pickens does not feel pressure to succeed because she is coaching a female team, but rather because they have been the winningest Division II basketball team in the country, she said.

“Not based on gender at all, I want to be the best, Pickens said. “That’s what we’re going to strive to accomplish.”

Pickens meets with her players consistently to talk about things they are doing well and what they can improve on.

“I think communication is a huge aspect of coaching and trying to help my players be the best versions of themselves,” she said.

King has made sure that both male and female athletes have a similar amount of coaching, he said. Some other equal opportunities that pertain to both genders are the facilities, publicity, marketing, athletic training and strength and conditioning.

AU has never had a Title IX case filed against them but it is important to be vigilant, King said.

“The one thing we try to do all the time is listen to student athletes,” he said. “We ask them for input and things we could do better.”

The current area of focus for the athletic department is raising money to put a softball field on campus, King said.

The amount of women playing sports and the length of time they play has changed radically over the years and King presumes it will only continue to grow.

“There’s more opportunity and there’s better coaching,” he said. “That’s the key because you get women involved and they have a different perspective which helps.”

Stimpert believes women need to continue to put their foot down on certain situations and show that they can do just as much as men can.

“We should be looked at as equals,” she said. “Women need to continue to stand up for themselves and show the world that we are just as good as male athletes.”