WMU News

But what do the girls think?

March 9, 2001

KALAMAZOO -- The growing controversy over whether high school athletic seasons for male and female athletes should coincide has elicited strong opinions from a variety of adults in recent weeks -- coaches, parents, school administrators and athletic association officials, even legislators. But what do the girls think?

Most female high school athletes in Michigan who responded to a Western Michigan University survey did not favor moving girls' seasons. The results of this study may be introduced later this year as evidence in a federal court case in Kalamazoo, depending on an upcoming ruling by Chief U.S. District Judge Richard Enslen on whether the findings should be included.

Dr. Daniel L. Stufflebeam, director of WMU's Evaluation Center and supervisor of the Sports Season Survey, favors inclusion of the survey findings in the court case. "Any fair minded individual or group should want to hear from those that a policy change would most affect--in this case, high school female athletes in Michigan," he said.

Commissioned in 1999 by the Michigan High School Athletic Association and its general counsel, the Sports Season Survey was conducted by the Evaluation Center's Lori Wingate. She obtained survey responses from 1,131 female athletes from 60 high schools around the state to identify their opinions about proposed changes in the placement of girls' sports seasons. WMU researchers believe this study is one of only two in the nation to document girls' opinions on the placement of athletic seasons.

Wingate found that less than a third of the young women surveyed favored aligning girls' sports seasons with college or high school boys' seasons. Opposition to moving seasons was especially strong among the girls whose sports would be affected by the change.

More than two-thirds (68.8 percent) of swimmers, for example, opposed moving the girls' swimming season in the Lower Peninsula from fall to winter. More than half of the girls who played soccer (58.1 percent), tennis (56.1 percent), and basketball (54.6 percent) also opposed moving their particular season. Volleyball had the highest percentage of players favoring change (42.3 percent), while 49.7 percent opposed the switch. Only small percentages of the respondents whose seasons would be affected--between 6.9 percent (basketball) and 11.5 percent (tennis)--indicated they had no opinion on the possibility of switching the schedule for their sport.

"Basically, we did not find much support for changing seasons, especially if it meant that girls and boys would be playing on the same schedule," said Wingate, assistant to the director in the Evaluation Center. "The girls who played sports that would be affected by a season change were actually more opposed to any changes than the group as a whole.

"Many of the girls were worried about attention being diverted from their sport if it took place in the same season as boys were playing. We also found a lot of concern about how practice time would be divided if, say, two basketball teams had to share facilities during the same season."

Among all female athletes surveyed, 48.3 percent indicated they didn't think high school boys and girls should play in the same seasons, 29.3 percent thought they should, and 22.4 percent were undecided. However, about equal percentages opposed (32.3 percent) and favored (31.4 percent) matching the girls' seasons to college schedules.

Schools included in the survey correspond quite closely to the size and geographic distribution of the 729 Michigan High School Athletic Association (MHSAA) member schools, according to Wingate.

Media contact: Jessica English, 616 387-8400, jessica.english@wmich.edu

Office of University Relations
Western Michigan University
1903 W Michigan Ave
Kalamazoo MI 49008-5433 USA
616 387-8400