Opinion Column: We got game too

By Angela Loiacono

Never tell a girl she’s not good enough. That’s advice all men should take to heart. It stems back to the time when women were told they weren’t allowed to leave the kitchen, and it carries on today. The bias against women’s sports is astounding and, quite honestly, offending. Whoever said a woman couldn’t compete was dead wrong.

The age-old belief that women can’t keep up with men in sports is more than inaccurate. Women have come a long way in the sports world, and they have more than proved their right to be there. Many female athletes have the potential to be great and the desire and ambition to make it happen. Contrary to the popular beliefs of many men I’ve spoken to, especially male athletes, women have moved away from their helpless and weak stereotype.

I attended a women’s basketball game about two weeks ago. Before I left, on the way there and on the way home, many people questioned me about how I was spending my Sunday afternoon. I told them I was going to the game. Every single person responded by asking me if the girls played at Huff Hall. Now, don’t get me wrong, Huff is a nice building. But why wouldn’t people think the women’s team plays in Assembly Hall just like our men’s team? When asked that specific question, most people immediately became uncomfortable and mumbled an “I don’t know.” Are there people out there who honestly believe our men’s team should have access to a great facility like Assembly Hall, but our girls should not?

Now, I believe it is fairly apparent that many men have a physical advantage over women in sports. But by no means does that imply that a girl doesn’t bring a good game with her. I’m going to resist the urge to list the names of several of the most dominant and distinguished female athletes that have achieved what many of us can only dream of. And that “many of us” includes men.

From personal experience, there are a great deal of men who automatically believe they can beat a girl in sports, purely on the basis that they are men and she is a woman. Well, I have news – those guys have never played against a real woman athlete. I probably spent more of my life, up until college, in a gym playing volleyball and basketball than I spent in my bed sleeping. So, you could say I’m a little offended when boys who haven’t ever put on a uniform are fully confident they can beat me – just because I’m a girl.

I’m a strong supporter of our Illini men’s basketball team, just as much as the University is. But as I was perusing the Daily Herald sports section last week, I came across some interesting information. Columnist Bob Frisk mentioned that Scott Johnson’s publication, Illinois High School Sports Historian, revealed that women were actually the pioneers of basketball in Illinois. Girls were not only the first to play a high school basketball game, they also formed Illinois’ first high school league. I guess this means women deserve a little more respect that they are given – especially on the court. If it weren’t for them, where would Illinois basketball be?

For all you nonbelievers out there, I am fully aware that there is a good chunk of women who would rather curl their hair and protect their nails before they dive for a volleyball. But there are an equal number of men who wouldn’t step onto a football field for fear of being tackled. I’m talking about athletes here. And girls deserve just as much respect as men. I don’t know what makes most men believe they are dominant in everything that involves a referee, but women can compete – and compete well.