Women’s teams benched

By Shelby Banks

Men’s sports feature more power, speed and action – and that’s why men’s games are more popular with the public, says the coach of the women’s basketball team at Dalhousie University.

“People don’t find it as exciting if it’s not all dunks,” says Anna Stammberger.

“Women’s sports have a bit more strategy involved because (in basketball) we don’t play above the rim or we don’t play with the same jump or power as men, so we play a bit more strategic and many people don’t understand that.”

Jumps and dunks are not the only things holding back women’s sports popularity with the public – media coverage plays a big role.

News outlets can decide which game to cover and where they place the story in their newspaper or online, says Stammberger. Most men’s games get a lot more cover in the sports section than women’s games.

“Men’s sports get more attention through the media and therefore, their games are more popular and people know more about them and they are talking more about them to their friends.”.

Stammberger stresses the importance of increasing the media coverage on women’s sports.

People would generally be more interested in women’s sports if it were covered in the sports section more often and an increase of TV presence.

An Economist article published in July 2014, “Why professional women’s sports is less popular than men’s,” also notes the impact of media coverage and reports that the main ingredients of a successful sport are “a balance of consumer, media and commercial appeal.”

There is only one time where women’s sports are equal to men’s and it only occurs twice every four years.

“The Olympics seem to have great gender equality,” says Stammberger.

“When the media covers the Olympics, it does not seem to matter if it is men’s or women’s – they just cover everything the same.

During the Olympics, there is a surge of interest in women’s sports. Everyone starts talking about the women’s hockey team, the Canadian women’s soccer team or the women’s bobsledding team that won a gold in the last competition, says Stammberger.

“All of a sudden, people are talking, watching and tweeting about women’s sports,” says Stammberger.

“Unfortunately, this just happens every four years around the Olympics and then after the Olympics are over, the women’s sports games will not be getting the same media coverage.”

Dalhousie strives for gender equality in sports, says Stammberger. Efforts are made to include all student media coverage including the Dal student newspaper, which has its own sports section, supports and bringing more attention to women’s sports.

“Dalhousie campus coverage of women’s sports is certainly not like the real world,” says Stammberger.

“Dalhousie is more idealistic because we of course made an effort to have gender equality in most things as far as my assessment goes.”

Dalhousie over the past years has advertised equally for both men’s sports games and women’s, and Stammberger says this makes it easier for all students to be involved and to participate.

As for the women’s basketball games, since they receive a lot of support on and off campus, Stammberger says her team will see around 200 people show up from the community.

Teams like women’s and men’s basketball and soccer receive a lot of support from Dalhousie students and community members says Stammberger.

As sponsors go, Stammberger says all of the coaches at Dalhousie are responsible for finding sponsorships for their teams, and they do a good job at keeping everything balanced for the most part.

Stammberger says much has been done to increase interest in women’s sports and she has seen a huge improvement just in the last 30 years, but there is still a large gap to fill.

One of the improvements that is noted in the article “The Role of Sport in Addressing Gender Issues” on the website sportanddev.org is “challenging and transforming gender norms” in sports. The article looks at how womenbeing more involved in sports have helped maintain gender equality. But there is still a divide.

The Women’s Sports Foundation suggests there is still a divide in funding when it comes to playing professionally.

“College and professional sports continue to provide unequal funding for women. Paying men more for the same sport gives women in the sport less incentive to push themselves and discourages future female participation in the sport,” says on the Women’s Sports Foundation’s website.

“I know the real basketball people love to come watch women’s basketball,” says Stammberger, “because they know and understand what is going on.”