Insufficient pay. Insufficient locker rooms. Insufficient facilities. Insufficient weight rooms. Insufficient planning.
Welcome to the world of women’s sports. I’m not talking about just the high school or rec levels; I’m talking collegiate and professional women’s sports. If you’re new to this arena, thank you for showing up, but it’s time to buckle up.
Maybe you’ve been exposed recently to the state of women’s elite sports with the news coming out of the women’s NCAA basketball tournament, where the women’s teams participating had access to a ‘workout facility’ that consisted of a handful of dumbbells and yoga mats. Compared to the men’s ‘workout facility’ that actually lived up to that name and had state-of-the-art squat racks and everything else that an elite level athlete needs to play their best.
Female athletes took to social media to voice their “outrage” at the situation but the thing was, there really was no tone of outrage to be heard. Maybe, because being outraged implies that the person has to have had some inclination or belief that something was absurd or impossible, even. Instead, the players almost laughed—incredulous to their situation.
Just within this last week, the Women’s World Ice Hockey Championships were canceled a day before all teams were set to depart to Halifax, Nova Scotia. After completing full quarantines. After waiting over 700 days to play a game, almost 2 years of training, the opportunity…gone. The players? An afterthought. Their reactions? Upset, but also subdued. No outrage, instead, a calm request for answers and a reminder that as disappointing as it is, this is nothing new for women’s sports.
I love talking about the positive side of resiliency, but this side of it needs to be seen as well. This is the not-so-glamorous, push yourself through mud and the weeds to become the mentally tough side of it. As a professional hockey player myself, I know this resiliency well. I’ve become resilient to the disappointment I experience when leagues, teams, whoever, fall short in the women’s game. It’s hard to imagine the level of resiliency the women at the national level have created when living with these circumstances is essentially part of their job.
Their resiliency keeps them from experiencing the full extent of their heartbreak and allows them to hit the lowest of lows and still get back up. But this type is resiliency is an adaptation required by a system that does not work. A system that continues to tell female athletes that they are an afterthought. That they are not worthy of the investment, the human care, and dignity that their male counterparts are afforded.
I’m proud of how resilient female athletes have become but I don’t want to see it play out as a result of inequality. What I want to see is how they’re resilient on the ice, on the field, in the gym, on the court, as PROFESSIONAL ATHLETES. Not as female athletes who aren’t being given what they need and deserve to succeed.