athletes · injury · martial arts

Pennington vs Nunes vs Protecting Athletes (Guest Post)

At UFC 224 on Saturday, bantamweight champion Amanda Nunes defended her title yet again, this time against Raquel Pennington, whose biggest claim to fame was probably a decisive victory over her former Ultimate Fighter coach Miesha Tate in 2016. Pennington was clearly the underdog going into Saturday’s fight, and, while she remained in the game until her TKO in the fifth round, Nunes was obviously dominant.

two women wearing sports bras and shorts in a mixed martial arts match. The woman on the right is throwing a punch with her left hand at the woman on the right, who is facing her.
Nunes (left) throws a punch at Pennington (right) during Saturday’s UFC 224.

The controversy here came when, after taking some extremely effective knees during the fourth round, probably breaking her nose, Pennington told her corner that she wanted to be done. Instead of throwing in the towel, her corner told her to push through and throw everything she had at the match. While she stayed active through the beginning of the round, some strikes midway through reopened her bloodied nose. After she went to her knees, the referee stopped the match, giving the TKO victory to Nunes.

The MMA world is extremely divided over the corner’s decision to put Pennington back in the cage. Nunes, Pennington’s opponent, but also her friend, spoke out against the decision, saying that her coach had failed her. On the other hand, Miesha Tate (who has fought both of them) defended the corner, saying that it had allowed Pennington to lose with dignity. Pennington’s fiancee Tecia Torres, said more recently that both of them agreed with the corner’s choice as well. I admit that I, personally, feel some force from both sides of the debate. As a former athlete, I can appreciate being pushed not to quit, even when I might want to. But as a current coach, I don’t think I would be able to send an athlete back out if they really wanted to quit and were at risk of being seriously injured. Now, I don’t coach at nearly these levels, so that makes a difference. But in my experience, an athlete who doesn’t want to fight any more is at serious risk of being hurt or knocked out.

#Forever I am extremely proud of my lady. You are a warrior babe. Fought every second you possibly could. You continue to amaze me daily. You motivate me to work hard and one day too receive the same opportunity to fight for a UFC championship. We are the 1%ers. Very few will ever know what we go thru as fighters and an even smaller percentage will ever earn the chance to fight on such a big stage and for a world title. #RideOrDie #AlwaysProud PS: Both us and our coaches agree with the decision made to go into the 5th round. We know Raquel more than anyone else and know if we let her give up on herself going into the last round she would have always regretted it. She fought with heart and grit until the end. PSS: Exactly one year ago today you asked me to marry you, I can't freaking wait to wife you! 💍 @raquel_pennington

A post shared by Tecia Torres (@teciatorres) on

One thing I haven’t seen talked about that much, though, are the gender dynamics of what happened. Now, it is not at all unusual for fighters to be injured in the course of a match, and for decisions to be made about whether or not they can continue. Nor would it be the first time in which a fighter or coach has wanted a fight to be stopped midway through in order to concede. And I genuinely appreciate how well the UFC handles having a women’s division, without excessively sexualizing or patronizing the athletes, and with women headliners being a typical occurrence. But I think that bloodied and bruised women affect us more than bloodied and bruised men. I also think we are much more likely to automatically frame injured women as victims. So I wonder how much that gender dynamic and the idea that we need to protect women (even from other women) shapes the discussion of whether Pennington’s corner should have stopped the fight.

Noticing that the discussion might be gendered doesn’t really tell us what should have been done, though. Maybe as a sport, MMA needs to do a better job of protecting athletes, even from themselves. There are plenty of long time veteran fighters still active in competition who might be at risk of serious brain damage from knockouts. Maybe if we notice that our protective inclinations kick in more when we see women with bloodied faces, we should wonder why we don’t feel more protective of men in similar conditions.

It should be obvious at this point that I’m very much in favour of women competing in traditionally masculine sports, like combat sports. But maybe one side effect of that could be to question some of the taken-for-granted aspects of masculinity associated with these sports, and whether they’re really good for anyone. Persevering is good, but likely not when it causes major bodily harm. Do we want to treat going out on your shield (so to speak) as virtuous?

Readers, what do you think?

athletes · eating · Guest Post · racing · running · sports nutrition · training

Aimée crosses a line (Guest post)

by Aimée Morrison

My half-marathon is in two weeks. I hit peak training mileage and intensity and the onset of summer heat at the same time. Naturally, my hydration and fuel strategy fell apart, and I had to buy a fuel belt, which is something I swore I would never do, but here I am. I’m thinking about why this has me so freaked out. Because I’m pretty freaked out.

The precipitating incident was last Sunday’s long run. My training group ran 20km and it was remarkably hot, all of sudden. Now, I had pretty easily run the same 20km the week before, and all the other runs before that. What happened this past Sunday, though, was: I didn’t have enough water in my tiny handheld bottle to compensate for the all the extra sweating the heat entailed, never mind the extra distance as we kept adding kilometers week after week. I also lost all my hunger cues because that’s what heat does to me and so I forgot to keep nibbling on my carb-and-chocolate baked bites that are my go-to run fuel. I also lost the pockets where I stashed these little snacks because I was now running without a jacket, so I hadn’t brought enough of them in any case. I just completely failed to hydrate and fuel anywhere near enough. I bonked at 18.5 km, and I had to stagger-walk the last 1.5km.

Which is how I found myself at the Running Room the next day, staring at a wall of bottles and bags and belts and bladders and cringing. I bought gels and reconciled myself to paste-food instead of solids. I bought a belt. It’s got a zip pouch for my phone, a quick-grab strap system for gels, and two-quick draw holsters from which I can quickly extract either of two fluorescent yellow 10oz water bottles. It’s got a non-slip strap that doesn’t bounce around on my hips, and a spot I can stash Kleenexes. It’s a fancy and expensive fanny pack, basically. I hated it on sight.

Well. Guess what? I’ve worn it out for my last three runs, and now I love it. It turns out that a steady stream of water and gels does keep me feeling strong through my whole run, and prevents me from feeling like trash in the hours afterwards. But I still feel really cringe-y about other people seeing me in it.

The thing is, I think I look like a jackass, some cross between a soccer mom with a purse full of snacks, a norm-core 90s dad, and some kind of ridiculously self-important non-athlete with more money than muscle endurance. Yeah: full on imposter syndrome, rooted in some pretty judgey thinking about soccer moms and 90s dads, and probably some worries that I now look exactly like all those other middle-aged fanny-packed women runners out there in their tech gear chugging along the Sunday sidewalks in their groups. It’s great that 25 year old me used to roll my eyes at those women in their sun-visors but I should rethink this practice at 45, when I am now clearly also a middle-aged woman with a whole hat rack of sun visors (so practical!) chugging along the Sunday trails with my group. It would be best if I could not reflexively hate myself for occasionally looking like … what I am. Ah, internalized ageism.

At the same time, I am kind of amazed at myself. How did I get here? This person with electrolyte sports drink in the left holster and water in the right? With gels on my hip that I greedily squeeze down my throat when I’m stopped at lights? But then I doubt myself: I’m just keeping a 7min/km pace—with walk breaks!—for a couple of hours in the middle of the city, not racing across the Sahara. Who do I think I am?

Increasingly, I answer myself firmly: I am a runner, putting in 35-45 km per week, across five days a week, doing hills, doing sprints, running big distances over long hours, in groups, with my husband, by myself. On my bonk run, my FitBit indicated I had burned something like 1350 calories over those 20km. I am very much entitled to my Endurance Tap energy gels and my electrolyte drinks. I am a pale and scrawny middle-aged woman with strong looking legs and a weak looking chin. I wear a fuel belt. I am an athlete.

You need a gel? I’ve got some extra, here in my fanny pack.

Aimée Morrison is on sabbatical from professoring in new media studies in 2018 and trying to achieve some healthy ratio of words-written to miles-run. She’ll run her first half marathon in Ottawa on May 27. With the help of 4 Endurance Tap packs, one bottle of electrolyte replacement, and one bottle of water, she finished this week’s 20km run in record time and without bonking, not even a little.

athletes · gender policing · Guest Post · Olympics · research · stereotypes

The Latest Nonsense from the Gender Police (Guest Post)

When the Court of Arbitration for Sports struck down the IAAF’s Rules on Hyperandrogenism, Sebastian Coe wasn’t amused. When Caster Semenya took the 800 meters gold at the 2016 Rio Olympics, Coe was downright unhappy, and he announced that the IAAF was working to deliver the evidence that the CAS had found missing in its 2015 ruling: evidence for the proposition that elevated testosterone levels in women athletes provided these athletes with an unfair competitive advantage.

In 2017, the IAAF presented what they took to be such evidence; and last week, they presented their new rules on gender eligibility. According to the new rules, in all races from 400 meters to the mile, women with elevated testosterone levels will be forced to either lower them – or to give up their sport.

These rules, to take effect in November, are no better than their predecessors. In fact, they might be worse.

There is, first, the glaring ethical issue of forcing athletes to accept an unnecessary medical intervention in order to be allowed to compete. (The Rules on Hyperandrogenism were used to justify castrations, vaginoplasties, and clitoroplasties on young women athletes, who may not have been in a position to give informed consent to these procedures.)

Second, there is the selectivity of the new rules. They only apply to four (Olympic) disciplines out of 21. The justification for this is a study commissioned by the IAAF, published last year. The authors of the study purport to show that the correlation between “free testosterone” levels and performance at the top level is significant in these disciplines. What the new rules do not reflect is that the authors also found a significant correlation in two other disciplines, the pole vault and the hammer throw. No other discipline showed a significant correlation.

The study was based on blood samples taken during the IAAF World Championships in Daegu 2011 and Moscow 2013. Every athlete who finished her competition and went through an anti-doping control was counted – even those whose high testosterone levels could be traced to doping. The study took the highest and the lowest tertile of testosterone levels and compared the athletes’ performances to the mean performance. Yet the testosterone levels in the highest tertile ranged from “somewhat elevated” to “extremely elevated” (or “in the normal male range”, in IAAF doctor speak). There is no way to tell from the study whether extremely elevated levels also lead to an extremely enhanced performance. Nor is there a way to tell what specific advantage testosterone is supposed to confer in the disciplines that showed a significant correlation; the authors speculate that it might be enhanced visuo-spatial coordination in the pole vault and increased lean body mass and aggressiveness in middle distance running – but the study itself doesn’t give any definite clues; and the question remains why, if testosterone can have such varied effects, they show up in less than 40% of all Olympic disciplines.

And even if the study constituted proof that testosterone conferred an unfair advantage, there’d be no reason whatsoever to exclude pole vault and hammer throw from the new rules. So as things stand, the new rules look completely arbitrary even on their very own terms – and it seems obvious that they primarily target Semenya. They affect her disciplines (the 400, 800, and 1500 meters) and Semenya is the most prominent and by far the most successful athlete to have come to the attention of the IAAF gender police. Bluntly put, it seems that the IAAF either wants to get rid of Semenya or force her to artificially lower her performance levels to a point where she’s no longer winning.

The IAAF has been trying to come up with definitive rules for eligibility in women’s competition for over half a century. (Access to men’s competitions was never regulated.) Their efforts have largely been unsuccessful. By now, they have largely given up on the specter of the “male impostor” (suggesting that men might pose as women for “easy” athletic success) which ruled the introduction of eligibility rules in the 1960s. But they still insist that not every woman should be allowed to compete. In other words: while they have accepted that Semenya is a woman, they still cannot accept that she ought to be allowed to compete as she is.

Third, the IAAF still hasn’t explained convincingly why they insist on regulating eligibility in (pseudo-)medical terms in the first place (other than the obvious and obviously poor reason that they don’t like the media attention for Semenya and the races she participates in). They claim that they want to ensure fair competition, but on the basis of the (pseudo-)medical terms they have introduced into women’s track and field, there can’t be fair competition.

The IAAF’s obsession with testosterone suggests that by leveling one anatomical factor, they can level the entire playing field for professional sport. But that’s obvious nonsense. Not only is the commissioned study unclear about what exactly the relevant advantage conferred by testosterone might be, there’s also no mention of other obvious anatomical factors that confer an advantage: for instance, height in high jumping. (If high jumping had a scoring system that was adjusted to the jumpers’ height, Stefan Holm, one of the smallest-ever high jumpers to compete at the top level, would have been literally unbeatable.)

So either a lot more anatomical factors would have to be regulated, and consequently, a number of height, weight, flexibility, etc. classes created – or the IAAF could simply accept that one’s social and legal identity as a woman is enough to be allowed to compete in women’s competitions.

But what about Semenya’s obvious dominance? – one might ask. (After all, many of her opponents have complained about having to compete against her without standing a chance). If we look at Semenya’s 800 meter races in the most recent international events, she was dominant, but not beyond what “dominance” means in other disciplines. (In the 1500 meters and the 400 meters, she can compete for international medals, but she isn’t dominant at all).

Consider the pole vault and the hammer throw, the two discplines excluded from the new rules. For years, the pole vault was dominated by Yelena Isinbayeva – to such a degree that the only interesting question in a high-profile competition was whether Isinbayeva would set a new world record (she set 30 world records during her career; Semenya’s times haven’t come anywhere near a senior world record).

The hammer throw is currently dominated by Anita Włodarczyk. Włodarczyk has improved the world record seven times, became Olympic Champion in 2012 and 2016, World Champion in 2015 and 2017 (in 2013 losing only to Russian Tatiana Lysenko, a repeat doping offender, whose Olympic Gold from 2012 went to Włodarczyk) and European Champion in 2012, 2014, and 2016. If Włodarczyk is in shape and mentally sharp during the competition, her opponents typically don’t stand a chance. Yet if this is not an issue of fairness, why is Semenya’s performance? After all, we can assume that Włodarczyk, like Semenya, has an athletic predisposition that makes her exceptionally suited for her discipline – and that she trains extremely hard to stay on top of her game. Yet only in the case of Semenya is it assumed that somehow her predisposition is unfair (and thereby implied that she could be so successful even without training).

And what, finally, about the possibility that national sports federations could specifically seek out “intersexual” women with athletic talent? – This, too, is widely accepted practice, as long as it does not concern women who might have intersex traits. And it’s called “scouting for talent,” not scouting for intersex traits. Of course, physical features will play a role, but consider, for instance, the criteria any basketball scout would use to find promising young players. So in this case, it is not clear either why testosterone – or intersex traits more broadly speaking – should make a significant difference.

And so the supposed concern with ensuring fair competition still look like it’s really about policing gender presentation.

M.B. is currently a post-doc at the Institute for Christian Social Ethics at the University of Münster, Germany. She specializes in the ethics of sexuality and gender and the ontology of social groupings.

aging · athletes · fitness · training

The retirees’ advantage? Time to train

I’m coming up on that odd stage of life where I am still working furiously and passionately, but other people in my life, friends, and family, not so much. A bunch of people close to me are counting down to retirement or moving to part-time work. I’m super engaged with my work and on balance, I don’t think I’d want what they have.

Different strokes, as they say. Or, you do you.

I love my job but come spring, there are twinges of “their grass is greener.”

Why? More time to ride bikes and to travel. Our recent post on very old cyclists made me smile. I also wished I had time to ride more than 100 miles a week. I do actually but for the Canadian climate and the lack of winter time daylight. I’ve often thought about how nice it would be to go somewhere warm and ride through January-March.

I wrote about this a few years ago in a blog post called, Silver spoons and the advantage of wealth in the context of time to train and youth sports.

‘When my partner Jeff was young he raced small sailboats, lasers, pretty competitively. But he never had a chance against some of his friends who made it all the way. Not for lack of talent. Instead, the dividing line was money. The wealthy kids had all the equipment, of course, but more than that they had time to train.

There was no pressure to work and they could sail all summer. Now that’s just part of the story but it was striking to watch those who never had to work make their way through university, keeping up in their sport along the way. And it’s true for lots of sports. I once complimented my son for making the provincial rugby team. He quickly pointed out that he wasn’t the best, just the best of those kids whose parents could afford the registration fees and commit to all that driving. Smart kid.”

It’s true in youth but it’s also true in midlife. Again, those for whom early retirement or part time work is a choice there are training advantages.

More from the older post:

“We thought that once parents stopped supporting their kids that the playing field would level out a bit. Not so much. I wrote earlier this week about working part-time and early retirement. I approached the question from the perspective of health and overall well-being but you could also ask it from the point of view of sports performance. Each spring I struggle to balance end of term grading with the start of the cycling season. It’s tough. I’ve got a friend who is a tax accountant and she struggles too. Tax time is peak early season training time.

While we struggle, I’ve also got friends who post their “Retired Guys Rides” on Strava and Facebook. They’re time flexible. They can wait for the sunshine and warm weather. They can ride everyday if they want. Sometimes I’m jealous.

Some of these same people also go south in the winter and ride. Why not?”

I’ve been wondering for awhile how much work is healthy. See Working hard or hardly working?

Retirement is associated with all sorts of bad health outcomes. And I think it’s be very bored. Given the number of dependents in my life I can’t afford it either. My favorite? Less work for everyone. I’d love to see the 4 day workweek.

athletes · cycling · fitness · Guest Post · inclusiveness · racing

Gender Diversity in Cycling: Small Victories (Guest Post)

Over the past two weeks, I’ve shared posts regarding my transition into cycling as a woman, as well as some of the day-to-day microaggressions I’ve experienced over the past 18 months. I know other cyclists have been in this sport far longer than I have, and I thank them for paving the way for women such as myself to join the ranks and to continue this important discussion on gender disparities.

Although the prevalence of women in cycling differs by country, the pattern is the same: we need a more diverse field, whether it pertains to commuting via bicycle or racing competitively. The percentage of cyclists registered with USA Cycling who identify as woman is only 15% as of March 2018. Triathlon fares a bit better, with 38% of members identifying as women based on USA Triathlon’s 2015 report. If we want to shift that dial to 50%, we have a lot of work ahead of us. I can only speak to my own experience as a white cisgender female, but I imagine women of color, gender diverse athletes, those with limited financial means, and those with other marginalized identities will continue to experience even more setbacks than I have over the past 18 months–and many of them may not be as subtle as what I’ve experienced.

If our community wants to address gender disparities in cycling, I think we need to have some difficult conversations and figure out what women and gender diverse athletes experience on a daily basis. Furthermore, we need to recognize that we are all susceptible to also engaging in some of these behaviors due to our own biases, assumptions, and cultural identities. Cycling is a very white and very binary sport with very little racial or gender diversity. We need to listen to each other and practice cultural humility in order to make room for others. Those of us who are truly passionate about diversity in the field can and will also make mistakes and will engage in microaggressions. And when we do, we need to own our actions, take responsibility for them, learn from them, and work to do better. In other words, our work is never over and it is essential for us to continue to learn from one another in order to create the shift that is needed. As Ayesha McGowan notes, “representation matters.”

In addition to the crappy experiences, we need to remember the good times. The good times have kept me here, and I have no intention of leaving this field anytime soon. Here are some of the wins I’ve seen, all of which mean more to me than any spot on the podium:

  • The feeling of teammates and other really strong cyclists supporting and mentoring me over the past 18 months has been irreplaceable.
  • We have announcers who give it their all by showing their enthusiasm for cyclists every weekend in season, and by remembering as many athlete names as possible. One of my favorite rivalries this year was with a Clydesdale* athlete of a similar ability to me, and listening to the announcer provide commentary as the two of us raced each other was one of the most fun and entertaining races I’ve had.
  • We have officials who respond to late night emails with questions as promptly as possible.
  • We have race teams and organizations that put on events specifically for trans*, femme, and women competitors.
  • We have events like Dirty Kanza that launch initiatives such as #200Women200Miles, and prioritize women entrants to increase field sizes.
  • Race registrations are beginning to appear with registration options other than “male” or “female.”
  • Just last week, I received an email from the president of our cycling federation asking for feedback on the timing and placement of the women’s Athena* division for next year’s cyclocross season. The email was so well thought out, and they expressed genuine interest and enthusiasm in recruiting more Athenas for races next season. As a result of the discussion, the federation will be providing an Athena division held in the same field as the beginner (category 4/5) women, allowing women a field to themselves.

*Athena/Clydesdale is a cycling category for women over 160 lbs and men over 200 lbs.

These are the experiences that keep me going, that show progress, that motivate me to be a stronger woman, role model, and cyclist. So thanks to all of you out there who support us. Despite these little victories, my greatest fear is that other women and/or gender diverse cyclists have experienced similar constraints that I have, have felt the same way, and have left the sport in an effort to find support, community, and inclusion elsewhere. And if that’s the case, I truly hope they’ve found it. But I want us to stay. We belong. And by staying, we can work fiercely to support one another and build each other up. Whether it be high fives or fist bumps, standing up for others who receive degrading or objectifying comments, sticking with each other during the most difficult of events, inviting one another to rides, hosting free community cycling clinics, or providing a simple “You’re not alone,” I think we can all make a difference to show another human they belong. The work’s not over. We’ve got plenty to do.

This month, I launched an international research project for women (cis and trans) and gender diverse cyclists (including but not limited to non-binary, gender queer, & two spirit folks) who have raced over the past 5 years. Through this research, I will be able to shine a light on the experiences of athletes who are typically underrepresented in competitive cycling. The survey asks about factors that have increased and decreased participation in competitive cycling, as well as motivations and experiences in daily living. I ask for stories of exclusion, harassment, and sexism—in addition to times cyclists have felt valued and included in their cycling communities. After recruiting 250 participants, I’ll donate $500 to a non-profit organization (Cycles for Change) that works toward gender equity and accessibility in cycling. Findings will be presented in the community and submitted as empirical journal articles. Ultimately, my goal is to better understand the gender gaps and increase retention of women and gender diverse cyclists throughout the world.

If you are a woman and/or a gender diverse cyclist who has raced bikes in the last 5 yrs, I’d love to hear your story. The link to the 20 minute survey is as follows: https://goo.gl/BV72e7

Erin is a professor, psychologist, researcher, feminist, wife, and cyclist. When she is not working, she trains for new cycling adventures, eats, laughs, and spends time with loved ones.

athletes · body image · fitness · stereotypes

Fat Inspiration or Larger Body Representation? What do you think?

This video came across my newsfeed the other day and really caught my attention. Why? I guess I had conflicting reactions.

 

Who is it? Maria Odugba also known as asap.yogi on Instagram. You can also follow her on Facebook here. And her yoga website is here.

I love seeing larger bodies do all this hardcore stuff. That made me smile.
So on the one hand, you go girl. She’s doing amazing athletic things. On the other, so many of the people who commented (I know, I know) had things to say about weight loss.

She’s smashing fitness stereotypes though I do worry sometimes about why larger bodies are supposed to be extra inspirational.

I also don’t like the anger she directs toward herself for missing workouts and getting behind.

Part of me is thrilled to see fitness videos with a better representation of bodies.

Part of me wants to say, of course people with large bodies can do this! So many people commented  “if she can do this, what’s my excuse?” And people talk lots about the obstacles she overcoming. It reminds me of the way in which wheelchair athletes are supposed to be extra-inspirational.

But not everyone shares my worries.

On our Facebook page Jennie had some good rejoinders in favour of the extra-inspirational claim. I asked permission to share them here.

Says Jennie, ” I do think it’s extra inspirational for a few reasons.

1. Representation is crucial, seeing people like her working out inspired me and let me know that fitness is for us bigger ladies too.

2. It is more difficult, if I’m running 5 miles my muscles are having to carry an extra 4/5 stone in weight compared with someone my height with a bmi in the promoted weight range. So when I see someone doing awesome stuff and doing with extra weight I’m impressed and inspired.

3. It is more difficult because she’s had to overcome any number of social/emotional barriers to do what she does. Again that’s more inspirational to me than watching someone who fits the expected profile.

4. In addition, it’s not just carrying the extra weight, when I do yoga or Pilates my tummy and it boobs often get in the way. A lot of these positions and techniques are designed for a different type of body shape.

A bigger person working out has had to overcome extra barriers to fitness hence to me extra inspirational.”

Number 3 rings true to me.

I certainly couldn’t do a lot of this and I think she’s amazing to watch. Go look! You decide and tell us what you think.

 

athletes · team sports

Girls’ Hoops (Available Free for Women’s History Month!)

One of the exciting things about my new job is meeting my wonderful new colleagues in the College of Arts at Guelph and finding out what they’re up to, where they’ve come from, and what they’re passionate about.

Of course, in getting to know me many of them are reading the blog and so sometimes we’re connecting about feminism and women’s sports. Justine Richardson is the project manager for the International Institute for Critical Studies in Improvisation here at Guelph and they’ve just been awarded funding for an improv lab. Super good news for them and for us. You can read about our exciting new renovations here. Anyway, we were in a meeting the other day about space planning and we got talking about women’s basketball and this film Justine made about girls’ high school basketball in Kentucky. It also turns out it’s available free right now in honour of women’s history month. Just a few days left…

Here’s Appalshop in Kentucky: “Appalshop is dedicated to the proposition that the world is immeasurably enriched when local cultures garner the resources, including new technologies, to tell their own stories and to listen to the unique stories of others. The creative acts of listening and telling are Appalshop’s core competency.” You can also find them on Facebook.

“In honor of #womenshistorymonth, we’re sharing “Girls Hoops” – Directed by Justine Richardson, this film explores the history of girls’ high school basketball in Kentucky, from its first heyday in the 1920s, followed by a 42-year ban on statewide competition, to its rebirth into the fiercely competitive, popular sport it has become today. https://www.appalshop.org/media/girls-hoops/

Asked about her stance on the issue of femininity in a traditionally male sport, Richardson replies, “I think it gets misconstrued sometimes as being about trying to be more masculine. It definitely is not a traditional norm; you don’t learn domestic ideals when you are on the basketball court. You learn about competition, strategic cooperation, you learn a lot of things that aren’t molding you necessarily toward a traditional family life, or whatever that set of stereotypes about women includes. It’s different, but it shouldn’t be coded as unfeminine.” – from ACE Weekly magazine.

GIRLS’ HOOPS

Director: Justine Amata Richardson
Release Year: 1998
Running Time: 27:15
Original Format: 3/4″ Umatic
Color / B&W: color

In Kentucky, basketball is a cultural obsession. The enthusiasm of Kentucky fans permeates every community in the state. Communities draw a sense of pride and identity from successful high school teams, and people support these teams by the thousands, especially in the rural, Appalachian mountain region of the state. In the towns of Whitesburg, Jenkins, and Hazard, girls teams dominate the basketball spotlight.

Of special interest amidst the debate over the value of Title IX support for women’s athletics, Girls’ Hoops explores the history of girls’ high school basketball in Kentucky — from its first heyday in the 1920s, followed by a 42-year ban on statewide competition, to its rebirth in the 1970s and development into the fiercely competitive, popular sport it has become today. Filmed over the course of a basketball season, the program features exhausting practices, intense games, rousing half-time talks, championship performances and enthusiastic fans from small coal mining communities where a winning girls team is the talk of the town. Girls’ Hoops includes up-close interviews with today’s players and coaches, comments from a 94-year old player from a 1920s championship team, and interviews and game footage of the woman who broke the gender barrier in the mid-‘70s.

You can download it here.

In Kentucky, basketball is a cultural obsession. The enthusiasm of Kentucky fans permeates every community in the state. Communities draw a sense of pride and identity from successful high school teams, and people support these teams by the thousands, especially in the rural, Appalachian mountain region of the state. In the towns of Whitesburg, Jenkins, and Hazard, girls teams dominate the basketball spotlight.

Of special interest amidst the debate over the value of Title IX support for women’s athletics, Girls’ Hoops explores the history of girls’ high school basketball in Kentucky — from its first heyday in the 1920s, followed by a 42-year ban on statewide competition, to its rebirth in the 1970s and development into the fiercely competitive, popular sport it has become today. Filmed over the course of a basketball season, the program features exhausting practices, intense games, rousing half-time talks, championship performances and enthusiastic fans from small coal mining communities where a winning girls team is the talk of the town. Girls’ Hoops includes up-close interviews with today’s players and coaches, comments from a 94-year old player from a 1920s championship team, and interviews and game footage of the woman who broke the gender barrier in the mid-‘70s.

You can download it here.