June 23, 2010

Why it’s time to get beyond Title IX

Filed under: Wendy Parker — Tags: , — wendyp @ 6:58 am

There isn’t a young girl or grown woman in America who’s taken up playing basketball — or any other sport — and who hasn’t received a constant reminder of the hard-won privilege she enjoys to be able to play the game she loves.

The activists who fought the necessary battles to open up the courts, fields, pools and coaching and administrative ranks for females in sports have influenced a generation of women who know that they owe their opportunities largely to the passage of a federal education law 38 years ago today.

Title IX is properly credited with ushering in the explosion of participation in sports for females across the board, and most notably basketball, the so-called “flagship” women’s sport at the high school and college levels.

But there’s another side to its legacy that threatens to tarnish the positive effects and cloud the challenges facing a more globalized women’s athletics landscape. Ever since the mid-1990s, when Title IX activists began pushing for proportionality — something they deny, of course — the women’s sports movement has veered away from the noble intent of the law, and away from embracing any reasonable definition of fairness for young athletes of both genders.

I’m not alone in this assertion, and those of us who are critical of what has happened do not oppose Title IX, but rather the claims, tactics and objectives of its most dogmatic defenders. In my mind, these activists have badly damaged the embrace of women’s sports as much as any rank misogynist.

Best example of that: The Brown University saga illustrating the fanatical obsession with playing the “numbers game” that has become a life-and-death ritual for many Title IX activists.

This is absurd, of course, almost as much as Division I women’s basketball teams getting 15 full-ride scholarships under NCAA mandates, to just 12 for men, when few programs play even 10 players on a regular basis. This prevents some badly needed parity in women’s hoops, all for the mere sake of increasing the female participation head-count.

I got another eye-opener in this regard in 2003, at a federal Title IX commission hearing in Atlanta. By then, advocates for embattled men’s sports like wresting, gymnastics and swimming had mobilized, and lined up a bevy of speakers to emotionally describe how they had lost their teams — and their chance to play — because their schools had to play the numbers game. Women’s teams weren’t being added in some cases as much as the number of men were being reduced to avoid legal action.

Conversely, the speakers in favor of maintaining the Title IX status quo were equally dramatic. A hoops coach was nearly in tears talking about what the law meant to her as a former player, and to those she was coaching. Young girls too young to have heard the word “proportionality” before stepping into the auditorium were spouting similar sentiments, likely scripted, hardly convincing.

If sports make you stronger, I thought to myself, why are individuals on both sides reducing themselves to puddles?

Most recently, the Obama Administration earned its bona fides with the Title IX establishment by reversing a Bush-era policy that was rarely used and that few people outside a tiny cluster of activists, lawyers and athletics administrators even knew about. Yet media cheerleaders couldn’t contain their melodramatic glee.

Is this what Title IX has come to? Rigid postulating, staging photo-ops, browbeating critics, threatening and filing endless lawsuits and needlessly wasting time, energy and money haggling over numbers? Is this how petty Title IX activists — and to some degree their opponents — have become?

It’s time to scrap the three-part Title IX test for compliance — now 31 years old, dating back to the AIAW era, reflecting a very different campus environment for female students and athletes when I was in school — and start anew. The first thing to go should be the the noxious proportionality provision that is being used primarily as a bludgeon.

It’s also time for Title IX activists to make their peace with football, their convenient bête noire. Believe or not, their football antagonists have made some concessions over the years, such as reductions in scholarships. Some more cuts at the FBS level may be in order, and not just a loss in players. Do BCS schools really need all those assistants, and especially “quality control” coaches?

While football at the very top levels is going to get richer and more powerful with coming conference realignment, those wishing to take a hatchet to it need to be mindful that this is the funding source for most of the best women’s hoops teams in the land, and that also lose tons of money.

The NCAA needs to be more of an impartial entity on gender equity, instead of being part of the Title IX establishment. While the late NCAA president Myles Brand was indeed a champion of women’s athletics and should be commended for that, he also left athletics directors trying to balance Title IX and financial pressures to twist in the wind.

Brands’ successor, the newly appointed Mark Emmert, ought to do something like this: Call a gender equity summit inviting the Title IX advocacy and those wishing to reform the law, and demand that both sides bring to the table concrete, substantial recommendations for what they would give up in order to reach some kind of consensus. Along with input from athletics directors, coaches and athletes at member institutions, this could form the basis for taking to Washington an NCAA proposal to rework Title IX for the future.

Of course, all this would require learning the art of compromise, and the history of Title IX skirmishes indicates that nobody’s going to back down. What was I thinking? Smoking?

Yet the challenges facing women and sports now, and in the decades to come, will have very little to do with Title IX. The growth of women’s sports around the world — where Title IX does not apply — is increasing as greater legal and cultural freedoms for women are granted in countries that have long denied them. FIBA, the world basketball governing body, and FIFA, its soccer counterpart, are expanding youth world championships for girls, trying to encourage development of female sports in corners of the globe that have not been hospitable to that idea.

Here in America, ensuring the viability of women’s professional sports, and improving the grassroots development of young female athletes, should be of greater concern than whether State U should have started a women’s water polo team.

The futures of the WNBA, the LPGA and the Women’s Professional Soccer league are not guaranteed, and Title IX is powerless to save them. The ability of young girls to receive high-level training and competition before high school and college largely depends on a combination of volunteer parents and dedicated youth coaches in accelerated club programs that also fall outside the reach of Title IX.

Activists like to pay lip service to “Title IX babies” now in the pro basketball ranks, but they also have to go overseas to make some real money as the 13-year-old WNBA has been reduced to 12 teams and is struggling to create a presence in some of its existing markets.

The Title IX activists can’t be bothered with the cold realities of the business world that isn’t under any government mandate to even have a women’s pro hoops league.

At the same time, the Women’s Sports Foundation and similar organizations still expend far too many of their emotional energies and resources to sue the likes of Quinnipiac College — and get in a huff over whether cheerleading can be declared a sport.

This week, former WSF and Texas women’s athletics boss Donna Lopiano testified on behalf of the Quinnipiac plaintiffs. Naturally, she disdained the idea of cheerleading being counted as a varsity sport, although Maryland AD Deborah Yow — certainly no knuckle-dragger — has done exactly that to help with Title IX compliance at her school.

Moving beyond Title IX is obviously far outside the bounds of a coterie of women (and a few good men) who’ve become so enamored with political activism and pushing the levers of government bureaucracy and the federal judiciary that only the lawyers, to borrow a cliché, are getting enriched.

But moving beyond Title IX — or more specifically, the warped methods by which activists are demanding it be implemented — is absolutely necessary for women’s sports to grow and thrive.

Update: It seems like I’ve angered more than a few folks about what I wrote above, which is no surprise. Also not surprising is that they’ve chosen to repeat ideological talking points among themselves rather than respond directly here. Of course, there’s no way to comment on either of their blogs; commenting is disabled. They don’t want a dialogue with those who have a different point of view, accusing them instead of not being in possession of the facts.

The push for proportionality I referred to was not about the original regulatory implementation, as Erin Buzuvis at the Title IX blog contends, but by Bill Clinton’s civil rights officer in the Department of Education in 1996. Norma Cantù declared proportionality the only “safe harbor” for schools to comply with Title IX, which thrilled women’s sports activists. But athletics directors and university presidents rightly translated that to mean: Get the numbers right, or risk getting sued.

The compliance game changed irrevocably with Cantù’s clarification, and the Brown case unfolding around the same time. Title IX activists will never admit they don’t trust the other two tests, as they are written very nebulously, while proportionality is just the opposite. Those vast discrepancies alone are reason enough to revise the regulations.

Buzuvis finally states that anyone who cites the age of Title IX wants to repeal the law. That is patently false, she knows it, but she and her advocates carry on with such rhetoric. A hell of a lot of great things have happened for women in education and athletics in the past four decades, and it’s time that the law reflects where they are now, not in 1972. The activists are in a time warp, desperate to paint the plight of women in sports as a still-bleak one that requires their perpetual “mythbusting” efforts. As well as their perpetual indignance.

As for Helen at the Women’s Hoops Blog, well, bullet-spittin’ outrage is her stock-in-trade.

June 11, 2010

The USAB 17u Team / OYG 3-3 Team Selections

Filed under: Mike Flynn — mikeflynn @ 3:25 pm

The USA Basketball Selection Committee picked the following players for the team.

Nine returning players from the 2009 FIBA America Team:  Adams, Burdick, Graves, Laney, Massengale, Lewis, Stewart, Vaioletama and Williams along with Morgan Tuck (6-2, 2012, IL), Bria Smith (5-10, 2011, NY) and Amai Stafford (6-7, 2012, CA).  Tuck made the team last year but was injured and replaced by Graves. Kiah Stokes moved to the 3-3 team.

2010 USA Basketball 3-3 Team is: Briyona Canty (5-8, 2011, NJ), Andraya Carter (5-9, 2012, GA), Kiah Stokes (6-4, 2011, IA) and Amber Henson (6-4, 2011, FL).

The Usual Suspects – USAB 17u Trails

Filed under: Mike Flynn — mikeflynn @ 10:57 am

The trek to this year’s USA Basketball 17-under trails in Colorado Spring was going to be a barometer of who’s the best in the Class of 2011, 2012 and maybe 2013. This was all going to be dictated during the selection process of team selection for the USA Team to represent at the FIBA U17 World Championships to be held Toulouse-Rodez, France this July.  It was so clear even at Day 3′s conclusion last nght that the selection would come down to the same group of usual suspects regardless of a year’s worth of experience.

The majority of key players who made last year’s USAB 16U team that competed in the FIBA America’s zone championships would be the same major names that would dominate the three-days of tryouts.  Kaleena Lewis (6-0, 2011, CA), Breanna Steward (6-4, 2012, NY) , Jordan Adams (6-1, 2012, CA), Ariel Massengale (5-6, 2011, IL), Elizabeth Williams (6-3, 2011, VA), Betnijah Laney (5-11, 2011, DE) and Cierra Burdick (6-2, 2011, NC) returned ready to push aside an expanded group of 2012 players and two 2013 players.

After watching the first day’s workouts it was obvious the top players were those who played for the USA Team last summer. I was thinking about dissecting the events of each session of each day like last year’s trials but it was obvious that there was little to discuss as most of the players just matured and got better without creating a gap between themselves and others. Two players did improve their game, Laney and Malina Howard (6-3, 2012, OH) as they did more to move into their respective position pack of players.

Last year it was a decision between who were the best guards and the best posts. This year the same issue occurred but the post intensified with the addition of players who didn’t make the trails last year like Amber Henson (6-3, 2011, FL), Alyson Beebe (6-3, 2012, CA) and Imani Stafford (6-7, 2012, CA).  The two 2013 additions to the trials were the freshman phenoms Dimond DeShields (6-1, 2013, GA) and Kayla Davis (6-2, 2013, GA).

Two other twists were added to this year’s trials, the additional selection of a 3 on 3 USA Team to participate in the first Youth Olympic Games being held in Singapore in August and the co-mingling of scrimmages and workouts with the USA 18U Team for the FIBA Zone qualifiers which had nine 2011 players also working with them, most notably Stanford verbal Amber Orange (5-7, 2011, TX), Cassie People (5-6, 2011, TX) and Morgan Jones (6-2, 2011, FL). The 18U team had 18 players from the class of 2010 most of whom were in the McDonald’s All-America game.

The first day and second day morning sessions are used for players to acclimate themselves to the altitude and to the drills requested by the USA Selection Staff and Coaches.  Compounding these first sessions was the lack of water at night after the first session which led to Imani Stafford being held out of the morning session and giving everyone that dragging look.  Play picked up at night for the third session (two a day, morning and night) on Wednesday with all core players doing good things but again, no one making exceptional plays, shots or moves after another. The expected greats like Lewis and Stewart shined as did Laney, Massengale, DeShields, Alexyz Vaioletama (6-0, 2011, CA) and Morgan Tuck (6-2, 2012, IL) who was returning from an injury that occurred at last year’s trials.

Interspaced between drills and games were portions of work on 3 on 3 as two selections were going to made at the end of the event from the 17u Team Trials. It was hoped that either here on with the 5 on 5 drills and games the onlookers, media and parents would be able to see players separate themselves from their respective positions. The two most contested spots were the guard and post areas where talent abounded with this Trail group. It was also nip and tuck last year with experience and age leading. This year with the guards all returning with experience it was harder to choose between Andraya Carter (5-9, 2012, GA), Alexis Jones, (5-9, 2012, TX), Moriah Jefferson (5-7, 2012, TX), Jewell Loyd (5-10, 2012, IL), Massengale, Niya Johnson, (5-9, 2012, FL), Ameryst Alston (5-9, 2012, OH), Danielle Ballard (5-9, 2012, TN) and Bria Smith (5-10, 2011, NY) who could slide between guard and wing.  The post situation wasn’t any easier as Stewart, Williams, Howard, Kiah Stokes (6-4, 2011, IA) and Rachel Hollivay (6-4, 2012, MS) returned from last year with Beebe, Henson and Stafford making the selection even more difficult.

The last two sessions on Thursday consisted of completion between the 18U team and the 17U teams.  The games were lively as both teams shrugged off the boredom of constant drills and play amongst themselves to rise up to the other teams’ challenge.  The morning sessions were back and forth with the more emphasis on defense and rougher play. The evening session was similar to the morning session but the focus was on who would make the final cuts. Sometimes the discussion between media reps was who would make the best match for the 5-5 team versus the 3-3 team and which team would select first and who would be the best fit second.

The players returning from last year’s 2009 FIBA Americas Zone 16U  Champions were Adams, Burdick, Bashaara Graves (6-2, 2012, TN), Laney, Massengale, Lewis, Stewart, Stokes, Vaiolatama and Williams, Spots to replace were those of Justine Hartman (6-2, 2011, CA) and Alexia Standish (5-8, 2011, TX),  And four additional slots for the OYG’s in Singapore.

Besides the core players, those who made waves and looked as possible choices were Jefferson, Jones and Loyd at guard, DeShields at wing, Alexis Prince (6-1, 2012, FL) and Isabelle Harrison (6-3, 2011, TN) at forward and Henson and Hollivay at post with Stafford a lock for one of the teams (5-5 or 3-3) regardless.

My first selection in the afternoon was: G Jefferson, Jones, Massengale / W Adams, Burdick, Lewis, Laney / F Graves, Tuck / C Stewart, Stafford and Williams.  I had Jefferson, Viaoletama, DeShields, Harrison and Henson as possible 3-3 selections knowing that the team could only pick four.

At the conclusion of the night session I revised my 3-3 team selection to G Jefferson because of her speed, Henson because of her shooting, Viaoletama because of her steady play and DeShields because of her overall abilities.  With Jefferson moving to the 3-3 team I would keep my 5-5 selections with wither Loyd or Stokes making the final roster.

2010 Team Selection Choices:

Jones, Massengale, Adams, Burdick, Lewis, Laney, Graves, Tuck, Stewart, Stafford, Stokes, and Williams.   //  3-3 Team – Jefferson, Viaoletama, DeShields, Henson.

Team gets officials released at 1pm today

June 8, 2010

USA BASKETBALL TRYOUTS

Filed under: Kevin Lynch — Tags: , , , , — Kevin Lynch @ 8:55 pm

USA BASKETBALL TRYOUTS 2010 17U

This is the time of year Mike Flynn challenges me. My mission Mr. Phelps, is trying to guess, yes guess, who is going to be selected for the u-17 USA basketball team is always difficult. The committee is not concerned with picking necessarily the 12 best players, but the players who will form the best team.

Playing against the European’s will present a much larger challenge for the ladies of the USA, who rolled past their South American competition by huge margins in 2009. I expect them to bring home the gold in 2010, but it will not be as easy as last summer’s massacres in Mexico City.

You need point guards that are strong enough to handle pressure, smart enough to get the ball to the right people, and athletic enough to pressure the oppositions ball handlers. The USA is blessed with many, who fit that bill, and I am picking these four.
Jordan Adams 6’1(CA) , Ariel Massengale5’7(IL), Moriah Jefferson5’8(TX) and Andraya Carter5’9(GA) , each brings something different, but all are capable floor leaders. Adams, Jefferson, and Carter are each capable of playing the two guard position. Next comes three players who I think are locks to make the team. They are the top players in high school basketball in my opinion, Breanna Stewart6’3(NY) Elizabeth Williams6’3(VA) and Kaleena Mosqueda-Lewis5’11(CA). Next up is two players, who have not been to USA trials before, but their potential is so great, I would take them, even if they were not huge contributors this year, Imani Stafford6’7(CA) and Diamond DeShields 6’2(GA). That only leaves me with three spots left, I better get a big shooter, so my pick would be Amber Henson(FL)6’4, versatility, ok has to be Cierra Burdick6’2(NC), finally I need someone that can rebound, defend, and do all the little things that make her team a winner. Well ok, that leaves me with a choice of Betnijah Laney 5’11(DE), Bria Smith 5’9(NY) Morgan Tuck 6’1(IL) or Bashara Graves 6’2 (TN) I’ll have to go with Graves, very narrowly. Of course it will come down to who shoots well, and presents themselves well this week in Colorado Springs. Should be fun, wish I was there.

Ariel Massengale-2012
Moriah Jefferson-2012
Andraya Carter-2012
Jordan Adams-2012
Kaleena Mosqueeda-Lewis-2011
Diamond DeShields-2013
Cierra Burdick-2011
Bashara Graves-2012
Breanna Stewart-2012
Amber Henson-2011
Elizabeth Williams-2011
Imani Stafford-2012