Disability sport facing similar issues as women’s sport

Oct 23, 2014
Tagged with: Disability sport facing similar issues as women’s sport

I recently stumbled across an article in the Boston Globe by Shira Springer entitled, “Why do fans ignore women’s pro sports?” You can find it here because it’s worth the read: http://www.bostonglobe.com/magazine/2014/09/23/why-fans-ignore-women-pro-sports/A37CAUWxMv0cvF5xkkAe1J/story.html

I always ask this same question to the students in a sport sociology course I teach at James Madison University. The students’ response often shocks me a bit. “Because women’s sport just isn’t as interesting or entertaining,” they’ll often say. And it’s not just the male students saying that. There have been female students—student-athletes, even—who have said exactly the same thing, that it’s simply not as fun to watch women’s sport.

Sometimes I have to wipe the drool off my chin when they say that because, as students studying sport management, this lack of interest in women’s sports carves out such an easy niche for them to pursue. If they can answer that question and create a successful marketing program around a women’s sporting event that does draw crowds, they’ll have a job for life.

Now replace “women” with “disability.”

Why do fans ignore disability sports? Furthermore, why do fans ignore wheelchair basketball? Wheelchair rugby? Paralympic Games? Goalball? Bocce?

Considering the challenges that federally funded universities face across the country when it comes to complying with Title IX, there are similar patterns with regard to acceptance of disability sport

Recall the days when university athletics administrators insisted they would provide women’s sport opportunities … but there just ain’t no women who are interested.

Many of us hear the same response when it come to disability sport, that opportunities would be available but there simply is not enough interest.

Clearly, that response is not valid. I believe the largest hurdle for adding women sports in the past was financing, and that is also true for disability sport. However, another challenge that is a bit more out of our control is getting people interested in supporting those endeavors.

Giant steps were taken recently when NBC Sports signed on (thanks in part to a group of sponsors willing to pay the bill) to broadcast portions of the Paralympic Games in the United States. Granted, the proportion of airtime for the Paralympics is nowhere near equal to that of the Olympics, but it’s a start.

So, I’ll ask another question I always ask students in class when we later discuss disability sport: Will people watch?

What will it take to get people to support disability sport? To attend games and competitions? To watch on television? To purchase merchandise of a wheelchair tennis team?

Their response is, thankfully, similar to mine and can be summed up in one word: Education.

We know the power and performance sports (e.g., football, soccer, baseball, basketball). We know women play many of those sports, too, now. But we, as a general public, do not know about disability sport, the rules, the classification systems, the fact that our federal government has declared it to be a right for high school and college students to participate.

And like my sport management students and the challenge they may soon face in filling the seats of some arena, we must take ownership in educating the general public about disability sport so that they won’t ignore.

What is your favorite wheelchair sport?

 

 

 

 

 

 

Author: Josh pate