Friday, July 23, 2010

Golf Like a Girl

For a long time, golf was a very male (I might even say “white”) sport. Even now, there are some golf courses closed to women during the busy weekend times, and it remains a sport that intimidates many women, partly because many of the opportunities to play golf also revolve around doing business, and women are typically far more reticent to get out and play, if they don’t think they play well.

Turns out, says Christie, who is responsible for corporate partnerships for the LPGA (Ladies Pro Golf Association), and who came to golf later, after playing college basketball, that when women get up the gumption to go out on the course, the biggest surprise is often that the men don’t play quite as good a game as they’ve talked.

Jane Blalock, a top pro golfer from 1969 to 1986, agrees. “Women,” she says, “Are always thinking, ‘I’m not good enough’; whereas men will go out to play golf, even if they’ve never played before. Women have no idea how pitiful men’s golf game often is. The men are out there to have fun, to socialize, and to hang out with clients. Women want to have studied and practiced and be good before they feel comfortable joining.”

So Jane is doing something to help women overcome their intimidation and get out on the course. Growing up in New Hampshire she played just about every sport on offer, from football, to basketball and baseball. But it was playing whiffle ball that she discovered her natural talent for golf. When she was thirteen-years-old, a friend of her father’s, watching her hit the whiffle ball, said she had a “natural swing” and those words set her on the course to the pro circuit some years later.

Fast forward to 1985, at the end of a great tournament and the best game of her life, Jane realized that after 17 years it was time to do something else. She played out the rest of the season, and then turned over a new leaf. She took her Series 7 and started working as a broker at Merrill Lynch. As she progressed in her new career, she noticed that she was using her ability to play golf to increase her access to new business. She also noticed that often the only other woman at the golf event with her was running the beverage cart. She decided to start a business that provided women with the confidence and tools to participate in corporate, industry and charity golf events. She was going to help women penetrate this traditionally “inner sanctum” of business. And she has.

“When I teach golf, I’m teaching strategic planning, focus, how to win and how to lose, and the perseverance to dismiss a loss and learn from the negative.” As Jane says, “I’m an optimist and a realist, and I don’t give up on things.” The Jane Blalock Company is not only teaching women to play golf, Jane helps women develop the confident attitude they need to get out on the course.

So if you're feeling left out when golf events come up at work, now you know where to go to take matters into your own hands. Or, alternatively, you could be like the guys, talk big and brazen it out on the course.

Is Cheerleading a Sport?

A Connecticut Federal Court judge ruled that cheerleading is not a sport, at least not as far as Title IX is concerned. Quinnipiac University pulled funding from its women's volleyball team to fund a competitive cheer team instead. The volleyball players complained. And won.

At first I thought, you go girls!--about the volleyball players that is. I admit that cheerleading has always seemed a bit second place to me--the women don't even get their own sport, they're decoration to boost the male ego while he plays his sport. But then I delved into the story a bit more, and, like so many things, the picture was murkier than I'd expected.

The cheerleading team at issue was not a sideline cheer team, but a "competitive cheer" team. Big difference. News to me. In fact, at U of Oregon they've changed the name of the activity ( I'll follow the court ruling and not call it a sport yet) to "Team Stunts and Gymnastics Program," in recognition of the athleticism of the endeavour, which resulted in an instant image improvement. Gone, in many cases, are the skimpy outfits, pompoms and cleavages, instead you'll find fit women performing quite amazing feats, which are inarguably athletic.

But does that make it a sport?

On the flip side, the NCAA does not, for example, recognize it as a sport, and, therefore, there is no formal inter-collegiate play. Nor is it an activity with a men's team, which has the unfortunate effect of making it seem a tiny bit sexist. Also, the school was apparently fiddling already with its sports rosters to make women's sports look bigger than they were and men's smaller. The roster machinations issue wasn't dealt with in the case (though I hope the school feels "on notice")--but it provides some interesting background to the volleyball teams frustration, I think.

In the end, I think the judge made the right decision. Not so much because competitive cheer isn't or shouldn't be a sport, but because, as Judge Stefan R. Underhill said, "Competitive cheer may, some time in the future, qualify as a sport under Title IX. Today, however, the activity is still too underdeveloped and disorganized to be treated as offering genuine varsity athletic participation opportunities for students.”

In response, Quinnipiac has said it will add a women's rugby team in 2011-2012. Fierce. Nice.

I don't like to think where we'd be without Title IX. More than 35 years since it passed into law, and still much needed.

Friday, July 9, 2010

Not for Girls

Saw this commentary on the cool site WomenTalkSports.

Nike doing ads about soccer that seem to forget that girls play, too!

Sexist Nike Ad