CWA Issues Ban On Use Of Male Practice Players
 
 

Dec. 13, 2006

From NCAA Sports

 

(www.ncaa.org) -- The NCAA Committee on Women's Athletics has issued a position statement calling for a ban on the use of male practice players in women's intercollegiate athletics. The statement comes after months of debate within the governance structure and elsewhere in the membership about whether the practice should be allowed to continue.

 

The CWA first raised the issue in October 2004 when members said the practice was contrary to the committee's mission of providing opportunities for women in college sports. The committee has pushed since then to eliminate the practice.

 

The matter has been surveyed and debated in each division, but Division III is the only one to have legislation on the table at this year's Convention. The proposal being considered does not eliminate the practice, but limits it to the traditional season and in only one practice per week. The proposal also would limit the number of male practice players in team sports to no more than half of the number required to field a starting women's team (for example, only two male practice players would be permitted in a sport with five starting players).

 

The other two divisions are still gathering information and feedback on the matter.

 

The CWA statement says that the use of male practice players "violates the spirit of gender equity and Title IX." The committee believes that "any inclusion of male practice players results in diminished participation opportunities for female student-athletes, contrary to the Association's principles of gender equity, nondiscrimination, competitive equity and student-athlete well-being."

 

The committee acknowledges that the most common argument in favor of using male practice players is that it improves the skills of female student-athletes and strengthens the team as a whole. "While there is no way to measure the true validity of that argument," the committee said, "if accepted, it still leads to the question -- what cost in participation opportunities for women is the Association willing to pay for such improvement? The message to female student-athletes seems to be `you are not good enough to make our starters better, so we need to use men instead.'" 

 

The CWA believes that approach implies "an archaic notion of male preeminence that continues to impede progress toward gender equity and inclusion." Members see the increasing use of male practice players as a threat to the growth in female participation at all levels.

 

"To have talented, capable female student-athletes stand on the sidelines during official practice while the team's starters practice against `more talented men' is a lost opportunity," the CWA states. "Many of these female student-athletes are on full scholarship and were recruited to participate in intercollegiate athletics at many other institutions. To have them sitting out of practice while a full `scout team' of men come to practices is costing them the opportunity for growth and betterment that they were promised during recruitment."

 

The CWA cited "tremendous growth and betterment in women's intercollegiate athletics" over the years without the use of male practice players. Committee members say they believe of the use of male practice players does more harm than good in the long run and discriminates against female athletes.

 

"Since Title IX was enacted," the committee states, "the coaching and administrative opportunities for females have been diminished greatly. In this same period, participation opportunities for female student-athletes have not only risen, but the quality of the experience has improved. The concern that CWA has is that the continued growth of male practice players will jeopardize the opportunities and quality experience available for female student-athletes."

 

The full text of the statement follows:

 

NCAA Committee on Women's Athletics

 

Male Practice Players in Women's Intercollegiate Athletics

Position Statement

December 6, 2006

 

The NCAA Committee on Women's Athletics (CWA) believes that the use of male undergraduate students as practice players in women's intercollegiate athletics violates the spirit of gender equity and Title IX.   The committee believes that any inclusion of male practice players results in diminished participation opportunities for female student-athletes, contrary to the Association's principles of gender equity, nondiscrimination, competitive equity and student-athlete well-being.

 

It is difficult to actually identify where the custom began of recruiting male undergraduate students, not to participate on men's varsity teams, but solely for the purpose of participating in practice with female athletic teams.   Most observers feel that it started at the highest levels of Division I women's basketball.  In recent years it has spread to all levels of NCAA women's basketball and many other NCAA team sports. This practice results in nonstarters experiencing a lesser opportunity for development than starters and top substitutes.

 

The most common argument in favor of using male practice players is that it improves the skills of female student-athletes and strengthens the team as a whole.   While there is no way to measure the true validity of this argument, if accepted, it still leads to the question -- what cost in participation opportunities for women is the association willing to pay for such improvement?  A decision should not always be based solely on the positives of an action, but must also weigh the negative impact it may have. The message to female student-athletes seems to be "you are not good enough to make our starters better, so we need to use men instead." This approach implies an archaic notion of male preeminence that continues to impede progress toward gender equity and inclusion.  Without the use of male practice players, does women's athletics not inherently retain its own unique quality of competition and skill?

 

Participation in intercollegiate athletics has come a long way since Title IX was enacted 34 years ago.   The increasing use of male practice players is a threat to the growth in female participation at all levels.   To have talented, capable female student-athletes stand on the sidelines during official practice while the team's starters practice against "more talented men" is a lost opportunity.   Many of these female student-athletes are on full scholarship and were recruited to participate in intercollegiate athletics at many other institutions.   To have them sitting out of practice while a full "scout team" of men come to practices is costing them the opportunity for growth and betterment that they were promised during recruitment.

 

While progress has been made with female participation opportunities in intercollegiate athletics,   women comprise 57% of the college student population, yet receive only 43% of the athletic participation opportunities.  Any action such as the use of male practice players that threatens the quality of the athletics participation for a large number of females is a step backwards. Furthermore, to have athletic departments with limited resources expending funds for apparel and equipment for male practice players that could be spent on male or female varsity athletes is contrary to the good of the whole enterprise.

 

The decision to use non-roster athletes to practice against roster athletes is an issue at all levels and genders of sports.  Professional teams do not have the ability to find "practice squads" better than those on their roster and this holds true for most men's college programs; yet somehow, this is not viewed as an obstruction to the betterment and growth of the game.   The same can be said at the high school level for both men and women.  Reports that female high schools teams are now following the male practice player example being set at the collegiate level are disappointing.  This could impact participation at that level where the participation gap is 20% according to the NFHS 2005 survey.

 

To accept this practice at the women's intercollegiate level at the expense of negatively impacting female student-athletes is not worth the cost.  Some arguments that are being used to justify the lost opportunities need to be thoroughly examined.  A recent position paper cited the following justifications for the use of male practice players:

 

1)                Scout Team Players:  The suggestion that having the males learn the offense and defense of the upcoming opponent in order to allow the females to concentrate on their own team is good for the female student-athlete and the game.  At every level of team sport, studying your opponent is a major part of game preparation.  To suggest that this would now be restricted does not seem practical or probable.  What does seem probable is that each week hours of practice/scrimmage time usually given to female non-starters in game preparation will now be assumed by male, non-student-athletes.   The CWA sees this as a significant lost opportunity for female student-athletes.

 

2)                Bigger, Stronger, Faster:  The suggestion that since males are often bigger, stronger and faster, they should be used in drills in order to improve female-student athletes.  Our male varsity athletes do not have professional players who are more physically advanced participating in practices. The CWA believes that there are many ways (training, nutrition, etc) that female student-athletes can work on getting faster and stronger.   Athletes at every level have continued to evolve through drills and practice without including bigger, stronger and faster opponents in these drills.   The inclusion of males in these drills combined with the inclusion of male scout teams results in female student-athletes standing by as males take positions the women have earned through years of dedication to their sport and missing their own chance to improve their skills.

 

3)                Team Building:  The suggestion that using male practice players boosts team morale as it eliminates the need for teammates to compete against each other on a daily basis goes against the entire history of sport.   Daily practice sessions/scrimmages against teammates have been an accepted part of sport since its inception and are essential to learning the invaluable lessons of competition.  A question in response: what does using male practice players do to the morale of a team when so many team members are spectators while the starters practice against men, or are given less time and attention from the coaching staff?  Many of these female student-athletes have dedicated a large part of their lives to their sport and now the opportunity to improve through practice is being reduced by the use of male practice players. 

 

Additionally, reduced squad sizes resulting from injuries have often be cited as validation for this custom. The suggestion that teams need male practice players because team sport squad sizes become too low for effective practice when injuries and transfers plague a program seems to be the exception trying to argue for the rule. For instance, average squad sizes in Division I

§          women's basketball [5 starters]: 13.4 (1990-91), 14.2 (1995-96), 14.8 (2000-01) and 14.7 (2004-05)

§          women's soccer [11 starters]:  22.7 (1990-91), 23.4 (1995-96) and 25.4 (2004-05)

§          women's volleyball [6 starters]:  12.7 (1990-91), 12.9 (1995-96) and 14.1 (2004-05)

 

The basic argument of those who support the use of male practice players is that without the use of these male students, the opportunity for growth and betterment of female student-athletes is limited.   The CWA strongly disagrees with this argument.   There has been tremendous growth and betterment in women's intercollegiate athletics without the use of male practice players and the CWA feels that the trend of the use of male practice player does much more harm than good in the long run and discriminates against some of our female athletes.

 

As women's intercollegiate athletics has grown and become more popular and lucrative over the past 34 years we have seen women lose many opportunities to their male counterparts.   For example:

 

·        When Title IX was enacted in 1972 more than 90% of women's teams were coached by women.  In 2006 this number has fallen dramatically to 42.4%, the lowest in history.

·        In intercollegiate athletics as a whole 82.3% of all coaches are male and 17.7% are female.

·        In 1972 women's athletic programs were administered by a female athletic director at more than 90% of the institutions, in 2006 92% of Division I Athletic Directors are male and 8% are female.

 

Since Title IX was enacted, the coaching and administrative opportunities for females have been diminished greatly.   In this same period participation opportunities for female student-athletes have not only risen, but the quality of the experience has improved.   The concern that CWA has is that the continued growth of male practice players will jeopardize the opportunities and quality experience available for female student-athletes.  

 

The CWA recommends the elimination of the use of male practice players throughout the NCAA.

 


 

 

 


 
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