Game of genders: comparing women and men in sports


Jack Emanuel and Teddy Kassa participate in the NCAA championships in Pittsburgh. Image courtesy of Gary Towne.

Sports are meant to be a unifying force. For decades, people have used sports to relax, forget about their problems and have a good time. They have the power to pull together people of different religions, races, classes and even genders.

However, this is not always the case, and many athletes have complained that there is an inequality between men’s and women’s sports, in terms of pay, media coverage and popularity. In fact, even here at Chico, attendance to men’s games is much higher compared to women’s games.

Soccer saw almost 900 more fans attend men’s home games than women’s this last season. Baseball had 219 fans attend each home game, while softball only had 116 (Softball even made the NCAA Championship bracket). Even in basketball, the men’s home opener had 784 fans in attendance, while the women’s had just 272.

Men’s and women’s head cross-country coach Gary Towne recognizes that this is an issue that needs to be corrected. As head coach of both teams, Towne has experience working with both genders. In fact, he even has said that he often times trains both teams together.

Chico State men's and women's cross-country teams get pumped up for the 2017 NCAA Division II finals in this archived photo. (Photo by Tim Broekema/NCAA Photos/NCAA, photo courtesy of Getty Images)

“If we’re just going out to do mileage in the park, it’s not uncommon to see some of the men running with women on the team and vice-versa,” Towne said. “Our team is just one big family together, and we have been since I’ve been a part of team, even as an athlete years ago.”

Towne has been able to coach both cross-country teams extremely consistently, with the men’s team finishing in 7th overall and the women finishing in 8th, both out of 32. He has said that he is able to do this by treating both similarly, and tweaking each team’s practice based on their needs.

“Part of it is having the same approach together with both groups,” Towne said. “Most of the time I’ll address the groups together, and a common approach leads to common results.”

Kyle Medina runs through a group at the Division II Men's Cross Country Championship in this archived photo. (Photo by Tim Broekema/NCAA Photos/NCAA Photos via Getty Images)

These cross-country athletes have even said that there isn’t much difference in their training, due to the similarity of their competitions.

“We both pretty much do the same exact thing,” Chico-native freshman and cross-country runner Jack Emanuel said, “It just depends more on the individual.”

This could be helping both teams get treated equally, and thus have a similar level of interest from the fans. Even Junior cross-country athlete Nora Pizzella has said that fan spirit has not been an issue for the women’s cross country team.

“Women’s sports do need to be represented more, but not at Chico,” Pizzella said. “I think we do a really good job at that.”

While all of this may show why women’s sports should get the same respect as men’s, this is not usually the case on a more national scale. According to a USC study, ESPN’s “Sportscenter,” designates only 2 percent of its coverage to women’s sports. This could be caused by a lack of women in anchor positions. In fact, 95 percent of anchors, co-anchors and analysts are male. Coach Towne shared his sympathies with the women who get overlooked in the athletic fields.

“I’ve seen first-hand how tough the women are on our team, and I cringe when I hear people say things that demean a women’s running, like ‘you run like a girl,’” Towne said. “It’s been a constant struggle for women’s athletics.”

The Chico State men's and women's cross-country teams won the 2018 CCAA championships. Image courtesy of Gary Towne.

Pizzella also agreed with her coach, adding “I agree that women’s sports need to be represented more equally.”

The cross-country team is clearly not letting this issue get the best of them, and are continuing to work well as a cohesive unit. They are often both coached and trained together, and coach Towne is continuing to do a great job of making teams of either gender better, as he has now lead both teams to top ten finishes in the NCAA championships.

Connor McPherson can be reached at [email protected] or @theGOATMcphers1 on Twitter.