Sexism in high school sports isn’t dead yet

Appearance, equal treatment remain issues in athletics


Whether individuals like to admit it or not, women are underrepresented, undervalued, and underpaid in sports. 

Take the United States women’s national soccer team, which has won four World Cup titles and four Olympic gold medals. Compare this to the U.S. men’s national team, which has won the World Cup a whopping zero times — it should only make sense that the women’s team is paid more, yet their salaries are still only a fraction of the amount of their male counterparts. 

Acalanes female athletes and coaches shared their insight about what it is like partaking in different sports where sexism is a prevalent issue, as well as the pressure society places on girls to have a certain body image.  

The distinction between whether something is an act of sexism or not can be blurry at times, especially in high school sports. However, it is important to acknowledge that sexism, even if not bluntly clear, is a real issue that athletes face and continues to pile up over time. Regardless whether these acts are intentional or not, female athletes are left to feel frustrated when they receive the worse end of an unequal deal time and time again. 

“My Acalanes lacrosse team only has practice once a week for an hour, while the boy’s lacrosse team has practice twice a week for an hour and a half,” junior varsity lacrosse player and sophomore Kelsey Severson said. “During our season last year, we would always be kicked off and moved to the cabbage patch while the boy’s team got to use the field.” 

Teenage girls frequently compare themselves to others in their school and club sports, whether it be to boys teams or other girls. Comparison proves to be a motive for athletes who want to improve their own abilities and maintain the same skills as those around them.

“I feel pressured by others to stay fit because in my mind if I look and feel fit then I will be the best athlete that I can be, even if that is not always true,” varsity cross country captain and senior Nicole Frigon said. 

Although athletes maintain a healthy and capable body primarily to excel in their sport, there is also an underlying desire amongst teenage girls to look like others which prompts working out. Constant fixation on one’s own body shape and size can be dangerous physically but also mentally.

“Teenage guys and girls tend to look at skinnier girls who have better bodies rather than the girls who are not as skinny, so there is an image in your head that you have to look a certain way to fit in and be accepted by people,” Severson said.

The reality is that many girls feel that others define them based on what they look like. When asked if girls deal with body insecurities or comparison issues, the common answer is yes. 

“I think it is common for girls to struggle with body image just because of all of the posts on social media,” junior varsity basketball player and sophomore Nikki McCarthy said. 

Girls are generally belittled in sports, which is devastating to learn as a young aspiring athlete. Unequal payment and respect in the professional sports world prove to be deciding factors for young women who are hesitant to pursue their sport as a career.  

“Profits from men’s athletic participation, collegiately and professionally, dwarfs that of female sport generated revenue. I think it has to do mostly with money, but women are still trying to hurdle the imaginary notion that men are superior to women,” Sports Medicine teacher Chris Clark said. 

Women are just as successful as men in the professional world yet they are continuously knocked down and labeled as inferior. In high school sports a similar pattern emerges. However, Acalanes women’s sports teams have built a reputation for their success and prosperity and therefore are promoted on campus as much as possible.

“In terms of success, the ultimate measure of course is winning. No team at Acalanes has succeeded to the degree of the girl’s water polo program in the history of the school,” women’s varsity lacrosse head coach Bill Fraser said. 

Along with dealing with internal struggles of body image, girls face off against boys sports teams to fight for equal representation.  

“Sports can be frustrating because I feel like even if we do well and work hard, we are pushed aside by the boy’s teams and are constantly compared to them,” varsity soccer player and junior Elise Flagg said.