Gender shouldn’t define how we appreciate sports

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I’ve come to the — probably not even close to shocking — realization that I am absolutely obsessed with sports.

I’ve also come to the realization that I am obsessed with university sports.

But regardless, my involvement in the entire university sport realm has opened my eyes to many different aspects I otherwise would have never noticed.

First, let’s back up a little bit. In my first year at Laurier, and essentially my first year with The Cord, I had the privilege of covering the Canadian Interuniversity Sport (CIS) women’s curling championship. Laurier won. Around the same time, Laurier’s women’s hockey team also won the Ontario University Athletics (OUA) championship.

It was a thriving time for sports at Laurier. Teams were bringing in banners and finishing high in national competition. Media coverage was frequent and the school had plenty to celebrate.

But there was one problem. They were women’s teams.

Fast-forward almost two years later and I’m having the discussion again. I’ve been lucky enough to be the sports editor for two years.

I’ve seen teams fail, I’ve seen teams thrive, I’ve dealt with drama and I’ve experienced celebration. I’ve seen all that you could in a two-year tenure in the same position.

But the more I cover sports at Laurier, and even university sports across Canada, I notice more and more the imbalance in gender that surrounds me.

Let’s start with the same example I used two years ago. Women’s basketball is having one of their best seasons, arguably, ever. They’re currently 12-2 with eight games left and just cracked their best-ever national ranking on the CIS top ten. They’re one of my favourite teams to watch right now because of their impeccable depth and outstanding ability to win close games.

Still, regardless of how good they’ve been playing or how much they’ve accomplished, the men still have a better showing and arguably better recognition for events. Be it as it may, but it’s a fact.

Women’s soccer won an OUA championship this past fall. It was a huge accomplishment for the program, as head coach Barry MacLean considered this year to be a rebuilding year. Qualifying for the OUA final was a feat on its own, but the Hawks proved why they were the best in Ontario.

And yet despite that accomplishment, despite the fact that almost no one expected a banner to be brought home, the achievement was almost swept away with the fall season.

It seemed to be almost a fading presence, especially when the team went to nationals and came home with nothing but injuries.

I heard plenty of comments about the woes of the Laurier football team around campus and at bars, but nothing about the women’s soccer team’s glory.

Moving to hockey now. Laurier’s women’s hockey team has, since Rick Osborne has been at the helm, one of the best teams on Laurier’s campus. They’ve brought home back-to-back-to-back OUA championships and yet they never get the recognition they deserve.

Even when I say I’m covering women’s hockey on a Friday night, I get sexist comments about how it’s not even worth it. And events always surround the men’s team.

It’s almost juvenile to think that way, but the amount of times I’ve found myself justifying the accomplishments of the women’s teams is outstanding.

This is a plea to recognize a good sports team by their record and players rather than their gender identity. Regardless of their gender or the team they play for, this is about celebrating varsity sports and their accomplishments. Not just the sex of the players.

I enjoy a good men’s hockey game on a Thursday night. I will gladly take in a good men’s basketball game on a Saturday afternoon. They’re fast-paced, interesting games that have the potential to entertain me for eternity.

But I would equally enjoy watching the skill and speed of the women’s hockey team, or the balanced offence of the women’s basketball team any day of the week. So don’t count them out. Because they, too, are bringing Laurier hardware.

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