Corona Virus Quarantine Day #214: For the Love of the Girls: October 22, 2020:
For those of you that don’t know me I have always been a little bit of an injustice fighter. I wrote my first letter regarding race relations to President George H.W. Bush when I was 11 and I got my first and only detention at 12 for slapping someone on the playground because the used the “n” word. A word I cannot even bring myself to type.
In high school I can remember talking with reporters (what I hoped to be at that point in my life) about how there is a gross inequity on the reporting on boys vs. girls high school and collegiate sports. I knew I didn’t understand it and I didn’t like it and I knew I wanted it to change. When I went on to play collegiate volleyball at the University of Kansas I can remember writing the Daily Kansan (the newspaper back then) about how they needed to report more on the women’s sports at the university. When I started coaching high school volleyball I wrote emails and typed letters to the local papers, including the Kansas City Star to encourage them to report more on girls athletics. When Metro Sports would televise 10-year-old boys wrestling but not girls high school or collegiate athletics I wrote them regularly about how there were many D1 female athletes in the area getting the shaft and how they had this huge market they weren’t tapping into. That’s pretty much how the Volleyball Slam came to be and this year we celebrated year 11!
I’m proud to be someone who stands up for what they believe in. I was raised by parents who led me to believe that I could accomplish whatever I dreamed of if I worked hard, persevered and had strong convictions. They also taught me that one person can make a difference. I have found all of this to be true in my relatively young life. I hope to raise our 5 kids to know the same.
In the years since I graduated college I am happy to report that my efforts didn’t go to waste. Reporting on girls athletics in this area grew and now high school and girls sports are televised. Nationally, Kansas teams have been recognized as some of the top in the nation, even national champs in the sport of volleyball. So we are most definitely on the map.
As a coach for nearly 20 years I have always told our players that our goal is to create strong, confident young women. We don’t ever waiver from that philosophy. I feel like we have successfully done that year after year and it is one of the things we are most proud of in our lives.
For my efforts in trying to advocate for girls athletics I have had successes but those didn’t come without a price at times. I have been called a “bitch,” and “high maintenance” and those are just things that have been said to my face. I, of course, am neither of those things, but because I am a woman with a strong opinion, who isn’t afraid to voice it, I am automatically type-casted as that…and I’m here to tell you that is absolute BS.
If you are raising a daughter or are a woman yourself, please, don’t allow yourself or your own daughters to be put in that box. Fighting for what is right and what you believe in makes you courageous, brave and fierce. Never apologize for that. I know I won’t.
What I am about to say will likely make some people mad. It will likely get people to say things about me that aren’t that nice. That will hurt me, because I am, after all, a human being with feelings. But I will go to bed at night knowing that I didn’t deviate from who I was raised to be or from who I ask our own daughters and our own players to be everyday of their life. I will hold my head high and be proud and know that I said what needed to be said and hope that positive change comes from it.
I should also point out that many people told me to leave this alone because “nothing will change…”
I am not capable of sitting back and doing nothing. I have never been that person and I’m not about to start. Also, I respectfully disagree. I do believe one person can lead to positive change and I think history proves that (I could go into more detail, but I’ll refrain).
With all of this said…here it goes.
It came to my attention this year that KSHSAA, our state association made some changes to the post-season under the guise of “covid” and I have some serious concerns. First, and most importantly, these changes were made to the sports that girls play, not the ones the boys play.
I should say for the sake of the haters who are reading this, I have 3 sons, have started coaching boys volleyball as well and I 100% support ALL our boys teams. What I do not 100% support is the boys teams being treated differently than our girls. So don’t miss the larger point here.
To give you some context let’s look at tennis. The state decided to cut the numbers of qualifiers under the guise that they needed to limit fans because of Covid. Meanwhile, next door to the state facility there was a football game with the stand full and no one practicing social distancing. This information was shared with the tennis coaches September 21st. Regionals were held October 10th. So that means the coaches had less than 2 weeks to prepare for any changes they may have needed to make in their roster. This decision was made without consulting the coaches who actually coach this sport.
Confused yet? Follow along.
What this meant for teams was that they could now only qualify 4 girls instead of 6. They had to shuffle their best players around, some of whom had played singles all year and move them to doubles to give their team and individuals the best chance of qualifying. What this means on the whole is that normally 24 singles teams and 24 doubles teams qualify in each classification. In 2020, only 16 teams qualify in each.
It is our understanding that this decision was made my KSHSAA’s executive board of directors. There is one woman on this board of 9 people, the rest are men. We will return to this fact later.
For now, let’s move on to girls golf. Golf normally has 4 regionals, this year they moved it down to 3. That meant that each region had one less team qualify for state and each regional had 3-4 more teams than normal making it hard for individual female golfers to qualify. The number of people they could bring to Regionals was also reduced from 6 to 5. Again, these changes were made without consulting the coaches who actually coach this sport and once again, we limited the number of girls who could participate in a post season event, something they have worked their entire high school career to do.
Finally, let’s talk volleyball. This is my sport so I can talk more specifically to this one. The state made the decision this year to make our sub-state assignments based on geography and to reduce the number of teams that qualify from 8 to 4. Yes, you read that right, they reduced the number of qualifying teams in half.
Furthermore, they took a system we have worked years to get implemented and changed it needlessly. For example, we have 18 teams in our region, normally they’d rank them by their record 1-18. This year, instead of taking record into account they simply did it by geography. Their reason….covid. Less travel means less teams coming in contact with each other. Except for this one fact, in our region, these 18 teams have already all played each other (for the most part) and it would require no more travel that we have done all season long.
So what this means, aside from eliminating 4 teams from participating at the state tournament from each classification (that’s 28 total teams not going to the state tournament and roughly 336 girls impacted by this decision) is that in many of these regions across the state the top 4-5 teams are all in one geographic area and only one of those teams will make it to state.
So, for example, in my own region, four of the top ten teams in 5A are in my sub-state alone. Two of those teams are ranked in the top 10 in the nation. Only one of these teams will advance to the state tournament. In one 3A sub-state a classification that has 64 teams thee are 5 of the top 10 teams in 1 sub-state, so again, only one of those teams advance to the state tournament. Yes, again, you did in fact read that right.
To make matters worse, the state even posted on their web-site one of the “pros” of changing the format was that they’d make it “more elite.” I don’t know about you, but eliminating a team that’s ranked in the top ten in the NATION, does not make your tournament more elite. So that’s confusing.
Furthermore, they took what was normally a 2-day tournament and made it a 1-day event. That would be ok if the girls were only being asked to play 2 matches. Instead they are being asked to play 5 in one day, something most of these teams haven’t been allowed to do all season. KSHSAA themselves recommended no one play in tournaments. Johnson County schools (5A, 6A schools) haven’t played in them all year. But somehow, at the end of the season they are going to go play 5 matches in one day…while wearing a mask, something none of these teams have done. The safety issues alone here would give me enough to write about for days.
The straw that broke the camel’s back as they say, and the reason I write this post in the first place is not because of anything you have read yet, believe it or not.
It was, instead, this statement on KSHSAA’s web-site listed as a “pro” for changing the format:
“Possible opportunity for better support vs. Friday PM FB game.”
Now this sent me right over the edge, I won’t even try to lie about it. Can you imagine the KSHSAA Football page having something about how great it is to change their format (which hasn’t changed) so they could go support the girls state tournament? Simply put…you can’t imagine it…because it wouldn’t happen.
I was floored that this would be printed on a public web-site and suggested as a good reason for changing our state format and eliminating the opportunity to participate in the post season for over 300 young girls.
If after having read this far, you can honestly tell me that this decision wasn’t made with little to no regard for female sports then I am not sure I can be your friend.
It’s clear. It’s undeniable. Golf. Tennis. Volleyball. All sports played by girls. All saw significant changes to their post-season. I do not think that is a coincidence.
Here’s the thing…I know people at KSHSAA, there are a lot of people I REALLY like and respect. I am sad that they were asked to execute a decision made by their board that is so clearly biased. Did boys football change? Are they cutting the field of state participants in half in that sport for the young boys of our state? No, they are not.
I don’t have that answer.
But, I do know it’s unacceptable.
So, what do I hope happens?
The executive board can still change their mind. They can do the right thing. They are going to make us play all 5 state matches in one day anyways, why not leave the format alone and allow all 8 teams to go to state? There is no good reason not to and Covid isn’t an excuse. We can’t have spectators anyways. I know I speak for the girls and their families when I say they’d rather their girls have the opportunity to compete than be in the stands themselves. There are 8 sub-states this coming Saturday, October 24, 2020. The teams that win them should advance to state and get a real opportunity to fight for a state title just like in the past. There is no reason to have changed it in the first place.
Also, I want to be part of the solution so that a decision like this is never made again. I became a teacher and a coach because I love kids. I know that the people that made this short sided decision became educators and administrators for the same reason. They aren’t bad people. They just did what society has been doing the entire time I’ve been alive, they minimized girls athletics. That doesn’t make it right and we have a responsibility to do better for the future. I have offered my services to the state since this whole pandemic started and I will continue to do so. I will donate my time. But please, do not make a decision that impacts so many girls without asking the necessary questions to the people who are actually in the trenches coaching these sports. To do otherwise is negligent at best.
I hope this post and the email I sent to the state and the members of the Board of Directors starts a necessary conversation about equality in high school sports. Any championships my 3 sons may be lucky enough to win in their athletic careers will not have any more significance than the ones my 2 daughters may win. It’s about time we start making decisions that reflect that.
Let me be clear, this is NOT a KSHSAA issue. The state responds to the recommendations from our schools and administrators. They are held to the decisions made by the executive board of directors. This is an issue that coaches, administrators, players and parents need to be involved in to institute change.
My goal was not to tear anyone down or condemn any one person. My goal is to inform. My goal is to lead to positive change. My goal is to stand for the things I believe in and to be a good role model for my own daughters and all the daughters of other people that we help to guide through these formative years in their life.
I hope if you have read this far you will join me in positive change and in advocating for the young women of this great state. Below are the suggestions I sent to the state. I believe some, if not all, of these changes will be put in place. I believe that KSHSAA wants the same thing.
1. I believe our state needs an executive board that is better representative of the people it is serving both in gender and geography. Whether the men on the board have coached or officiated or are administrators in schools that have good girls sports programs is a moot point to me. They aren’t women. Our girls are not being represented in a way that I feel is acceptable. My solution is two fold. One, we need more women on the executive board. I believe, maybe even more importantly, we need more women who are also coaches.
Secondly, most BOD have advisory committees. Wouldn’t it make sense to have an advisory committee of coaches for each sport (tennis, golf, volleyball, football) made up of coaches from around the state that could advise the BOD on what is best for their sport? I volunteer to put this advisory committee together for volleyball. If Covid has taught us one thing, it’s that it is easy to get a group of people together via zoom. We don’t have to have a formal meeting or be in the same place to have a productive or meaningful conversation.
2. You mentioned the KCA/KVA as a possible way to communicate with the state. We need a solution to grow these state associations and to have meaningful membership within them. In my time on the AVCA’s board in the past year I have met with a high school leadership committee over 20 times (we met a lot when Covid first hit). I see what other state associations are accomplishing and doing to grow the game, promote the sport and to raise strong, confident young women. We are behind. It’s an antiquated system and the game has passed it up. Now I realize that traditionally KSHSAA hasn’t gotten too terribly involved with either of these organizations. I guess my question is, how do we change that? We need more meaningful relationships between our state association and our coaches associations so that the comment people make when talking about a change needing to happen at the state level is “it won’t change.” Even if these two organizations ultimately disagree at least we will be opening the door to civil discourse and most importantly doing what is best for our kids.
3. I’d love to discuss how we create a post-season that is elite and highlights the best teams across the state and in many times the country. There are many arguments about how to best do this, but to me, the coaches should be adults and rank the teams that are the best in their sub-states. We all see each other all season long. We are all adults, who are in this for the kids, it shouldn’t be that hard. Also, we can use systems that are already in place in other states, like Nebraska. They use a point system that utilizes Max Preps to rank teams. In my conversations with these states they believe this system to be very fair. I know that someone will end up upset but people are upset with the current system. We live in a world where we can’t make everyone happy.
4. The post season decisions this season: I am not going to pretend that I understand why we needed to cut the field of participants to the state tournament in half when I see football games being played where the stands are packed and my high school aged nephews play in basketball tournaments with no limit on capacity. I do not believe the state format needed to be changed and I know I am not alone in this. Unfortunately, because of the “things won’t change” mentality most don’t express their frustration. The post-season decision is something the coaches in our state do not understand and Covid doesn’t explain it away. The facility we are playing in is large enough to keep us socially distanced and still keep us safe.
5. I feel I need to say more about the FB comment. I appreciate and believe that coaches gave input that they would love for the football players to come support their teams. I don’t disagree, it would be nice. However, I do take serious issue with the fact that we would even remotely suggest that state volleyball should in any way be impacted or changed because of football. We both know that decisions made about football would not in any way consider us. And, frankly, they shouldn’t. Neither should ours. Maybe I am sensitive to this because I am an athlete who experienced that inequity first hand. Maybe I am sensitive to it because as a grown woman in sports I see the inequity on a daily basis (For example, I am aware of restrictions that top volleyball teams were told they could not travel to other states to play this season, yet football programs have traveled to multiple states to play football games). So as much as we’d all like to believe this inequity is gone, it isn’t. I will not sit idly by and pretend that it is. PLEASE let me be part of the solution.
5. We need a Women in Sports Leadership Organization at the state level. Several other states have one, like Michigan. We could model it after something that already exists. We need more female leaders in our community who aren’t afraid to stand up for what is right because they may be judged for doing so or because they are told change isn’t possible. We need a larger female voice in sports. I am happy to get this going but I feel like first, if we have any hopes of being successful, we need the support of the leadership in the state.
2020 is the 50 year anniversary for state volleyball in Kansas. Unfortunately, we took a step back this year. The bottom line is that volleyball in this state is as competitive as it is anywhere in the nation. We regularly have teams that are among the top teams in the nation and send so many athletes to play at the next level. It’s time to start treating volleyball like it’s one, if not THE, primary sport in our state. The truth of the matter is if this were a boys sport we’d be promoting it much differently and we wouldn’t stand by while changes happen and just shrug our shoulders and say “it won’t change.”
I hope you have gotten this far. I know it’s a long post but I feel so passionately about my role as a mentor, role model and coach for these young women and I know that I couldn’t live with myself if I stayed quiet.