Just wanted to give an update on my conversations with the state since the petition and the original post about all that went down this fall.
As many of you know I posted a few weeks ago about my disappointment in the decisions to completely alter the postseasons of most fall sports, specifically that of volleyball.
See original post here.
In the time between that original post and now I cannot tell you the amount of support the petition for change has received. I’m humbled to have heard from students and parents from all over our state and even the country, collegiate coaches were sending their support and even politicians and business owners offered their assistance.
As I said in my original post, what I felt and what I said was not to condemn any one person or group. I really do not believe that KSHSAA or their executive board set out to make decisions that were harmful. I do, however, believe that there is an institutional inequality that has existed in sports since I’ve been alive and that sometimes our decisions are embedded in that bias.
I think if you were to ask any woman in sports for the past 30 years about their experiences they could tell you stories that prove that bias is real and that is it harmful to the young women who play sports. To be a woman in sport as an athlete or later in life as a coach requires thick skin. As a coach of young woman, we feel like our most important responsibility is not to teach them the game or how to win, it’s to arm them with confidence. That job is challenging sometimes as there are a lot of factors working against us.
To me, the problem of institutional inequality is the problem we have to fix. Golf, tennis, debate, volleyball, soccer, choir etc, all matter equally to the power sports of football and basketball because the people doing all of these things pour themselves into their gift equally. And again, to be clear, this isn’t a take from them to give to us issue. Anyone who I spoke with supports and promotes football and basketball…but we are all after the same thing…equality.
So the question is how do we fix this?
First, I think every single coach out there needs to advocate for their activity, whether the bias exists in your individual school or it’s on a larger scale we have a responsibility to our athletes to fight for this equality. Is that hard sometimes, yes, of course, but what is right is never easy.
Secondly, I’m happy to report that I have now met with KSHSAA officials twice and will meet with them again tomorrow. On Friday the president and vice president of KSHSAA gave me an hour of their time and we discussed this very topic.
KSHSAA is often open to the scrutiny of many decisions, but in my time working with them since this whole thing started I am very excited about the direction we are headed.
One thing the three of us on this call Friday agreed on…we all see what happened this fall as an opportunity, an opportunity to be better. This opportunity applies to all activities in Kansas and this opportunity allows us to be a leader not only in our own state, but the nation as well.
Another thing that we all agreed on was that we want the changes that are made and the discussions we are having to be intentional.
So here is an update on where we are at:
- We also discussed working to have more meaningful membership in both the KVA and KCA so that these organizations can also serve as a source of information for KSHSAA. I am working with the KVA right now to try to partner with the AVCA (the national organization) to update our organization and give our coaches access to more coaching education and opportunities within our sport. I feel strongly that this partnership will only improve our game.
- We discussed an advisory board to KSHSAA specific to each activity. I learned that some sports already have this in place but that some are more active than others. I am meeting with KSHSAA again tomorrow to work on what the volleyball advisory board will look like and to compile a list of people who could serve on it. So, if you are a coach or athlete in another sport, I highly recommend you get on the phone with your KSHSAA rep and get this going in your respective activity. What I learned here above all else, is they welcome our input, they respect our input and they want our input. An advisory board is an organized way for them to receive it.
- We also discussed the lack of diversity on their executive board. It is a board dominated by men. This is a two-part problem. First, they can’t seem to find enough women that want to serve. When asked, some women, have said no. The other problem is these people have to be administrators or athletic directors. While the number of women in these professions is growing, there are simply more men doing these jobs than women. My belief is that a lot of women don’t want to be in a room like this because they feel their voice will be stifled. THAT is what we must change. This is again, a two-part problem. First, we have to educated young men on the importance of and equal value in women’s athletics. I’m sad to say that across the country in many schools, this isn’t happening. Secondly, we have to find a way to develop young women into leaders that aren’t afraid to speak their mind, fight for what is right and demand equality in sports. This brings me to our next topic of discussion.
- We also discussed how we solve all the problems inherent in item #2. I believe a Women in Sports Leadership organization or summit would be a good start. Both of the people I spoke to from KSHSAA have attended and spoke at one in Michigan. I am in conversation with the leaders of the state association in Michigan to get ideas about how they got their organization started and what it entails. I believe we need to train young men and women to promote, support and be the voice of women in sport. The young women we are coaching now are different than those we taught even 15 years ago. The world they are growing up in is much different than the one their coaches did. So we have to meet them where they are at and give them the tools they need to become leaders. KSHSAA has thrown their support behind this 100% and have agreed to support it, communicate about it and partner with me in trying to get it started. To use their words, “we need to develop women in sport to take on leadership roles in sport.” Couldn’t have said it better myself.
- Our petition has over 2,000 signatures on it in 24 hours. I have only shared it publicly twice. It now has over 5,600 signatures. I don’t think this is coincidence. I believe many people signed it and shared it in the last few weeks because they agree with it’s purpose. We need changes in sports. We need to view all sports, especially at the high school level equally. So keep signing it. Keep sharing it and keep sending the message that we will not accept anything less than we deserve. Link is here.
In my conversation with KSHSAA we did discuss the decisions this fall, I did get a lot of details on how the executive board functions and how decisions are made. I feel well informed but more importantly, I feel heard. When I told an administrator in my building that I had an hour long conversation with KSHSAA he was both shocked and impressed.
What I can tell you is that the people who work there got into their job because they love sports and they love kids. They aren’t bad people, in fact, they are the opposite. While I don’t agree with the decisions made this fall and there is nothing they can say that explains it away…that is now irrelevant. What is done is done. We cannot change the past, but what we all agreed on, is that we can do better in the future.
I’m incredibly excited about getting the ball rolling on these items above and will accept any and all help that is given me. As I said in my original post, we can and we will make a difference and I do believe we have gotten that whole thing started.