- Molly Peters
Equal Distance for Women and Men at the NCAA Nordic Ski Championships
College Racing: The 2016 NCAA Championship racing schedule:
Day 1: Women 5km Skate. Men 10km Skate
Day 2: Women 15km Classic. Men 20km Classic
The most obvious question when looking at these distances is why? Why are the women racing 5km less in each of the races? Since women were allowed to compete in skiing at the NCAA level in 1983, disparate distances have been the policy. The NCAA Championship distances are also used for the Regional, Conference, Carnivals, Invitationals and duel meet distances, ensuring inequality throughout the season.
I believe women and men should race the same distance at the NCAA Nordic Ski Championships for several reasons.
- Women are perfectly capable of racing the same distance and unequal distance sends a consistent message to female athletes that they are inferior.
- The recently stated goals of USSA ask for more aggressive and technical racing that includes more shorter mass start races.
- The fact that all teams participating in the NCAA Championship events uphold the principles of Title IX, should mandate distance equality.
- Other NCAA sports show equality is possible.
- Women and Men race the same distances at the United States Collegiate Ski Association (USCSA) National Championships.
The NCAA’s practice of only providing women with Championship races that are shorter distances sends a consistent message that women are not capable and are not equal. We are only hurting the development of our NCAA athletes by not challenging them, by putting women in an inferior position. Gender differences promote the acceptance of second-class citizenship and promote incorrect information to women about their own abilities, assuring the discrimination continues. What is the message we are sending our young girls? They look to college athletes as role models. When they see that collegiate races are always 5km less for women it is sending them a message that women are less capable then men. This is incredibly damaging to young women whether it is conscious or not.
The United States Ski Association (USSA), after the spring meeting made recommendations to further strengthen the domestic race circuit by adding more aggressive, technical race courses. They suggested adding shorter mass start races to encourage higher race paces. These recommendations were sent directly to the three conferences that make up the NCAA qualifying regions to add into their schedule. They called on the conferences to create shorter courses that technically challenge the skiers. This is the perfect opportunity to shorten the men's races at the NCAA Championships and bring them in line with what the women are racing. This will not only create an equal playing field, but will also enhance the racing for everyone.
Women racing shorter distances at the NCAA Championships does not uphold the principles of Title IX. The Title IX regulations governing athletics state "No person shall, on the basis of sex, be excluded from participation in, be denied the benefits of, be treated differently from another person or otherwise be discriminated against in any interscholastic, intercollegiate, club or intramural athletics by a recipient, and no recipient shall provide any such athletics separately on such basis." In addition “A recipient which operates or sponsors interscholastic, intercollegiate, club or intramural athletics shall provide equal athletic opportunity for both sexes." As a group of institutions that believe strongly in promoting the success of women in athletics, we must adhere to Title IX. We should strive to treat men and women equally by providing them with the same opportunities.
Other NCAA sports show equality is possible. Since their inception in 1982 the NCAA Swimming Championships have the same events offered for men and women. The NCAA Track and Field Championships offer equal distance events for men and women. Soccer teams play on the same size fields and play for the same amount of time. In Basketball they play on the same courts for the same amount of time. Hockey rinks are also the same for men and women and the length of games is the same. It is time that Nordic Skiing follows suit and sets an equal standard distances for men and women at the NCAA Championships.
The USCSA's National Championships consist of the same distances for Men and Women. The USCSA nordic membership has continued to grow with no dramatic dip in membership when the races were made equal. Equal race opportunities at the National Championships for USCSA also sets the tone for the other races in their season, which are all equal. Equal distances at the USCSA Championships should be used as a precedent for the NCAA.
We need to look beyond tradition and challenge our racers to be the best they can be. Women are perfectly capable of racing the same distance and the fact that they are not, sends a consistent message that they are inferior. We need to look to the guidance of USSA for shorter, faster and more technical races. As institutions we need to follow the principles of Title IX and provide equal distances for women and men. Other NCAA sports are equal and it is time that Nordic follows suit. Lastly USCSA has set an precedent that we should look to as a positive example of equality. I believe equal shorter distances at the NCAA Championships will do this. It is 2015!
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