Munoz: Why Don't More Teams Wear Shorts?
The topic I am discussing today has been thoroughly researched, discussed, debated and turned into a 15-page paper and a 10-minute speech. At Stanford, we are required to take two years of a writing and rhetoric class where you learn how to really write research papers and how to persuade an audience on a certain topic. While this sounds very challenging, Stanford has a wide range of class topics to choose from, and one that appealed to me was about women and sports. In all of my classes I always try and find some way I can relate my assignments to lacrosse, and this class was no different.
One day in class we were discussing the clothing women wear in certain sports like track and field, volleyball and tennis. Of course my thoughts went right to lacrosse, and the shorts dilemma. In this discussion I brought up how in lacrosse we wear shorts during practice, and then in games we wear skirts. I also added that I didn't understand when you're constantly told by coaches to practice how you play, but that rule wouldn't be the same for clothing. At the time, Northwestern was the only team wearing shorts, and thinking about their legacy it shocked me that more teams wouldn't opt for the shorts as well.
Maybe it's because I'm a goalie and having to wear shorts already makes me biased, but I really feel that more teams in women's lacrosse should wear shorts in games. I have been opposed so many times by teammates and friends, but why? This question was the main topic when digging deep into my research.
The perception of how a typical female athlete should look and dress in society brings forth great controversy. The "norms" by which female athletes typically conform to seem very paradoxical. In the United States, men, especially in the media, dominate sports. Some women who choose to participate in sports are automatically deemed too masculine because of the male domination in sports. Society's acceptance of women in the sporting world follows only when the athlete's femininity becomes enhanced. The enhancement of an athlete's femininity proves to bring publication and recognition in the media. The enhancing behaviors include wearing makeup or wearing slimmer clothing while in competition.
Now, I'll try not to throw too much theory at you, but it is interesting to see how it lines up with this issue. It's not hard to notice that beauty is sometimes portrayed over athletic ability in different aspects of the media, one of the reasons I feel that girls are resistant to the change.
Another reason for resistance I found when interviewing my head coach Amy Bokker is skirts being the tradition of the game. I know of the tradition of wearing skirts, or kilts as they were called back then, but what I could not find was why the tradition began. I believe that would be interesting to look at why it began. I believe that traditions are a good thing; they provide a sense of history. However, I also believe traditions can change. The game of the lacrosse is continually changing every year, and yet this seems to be one that is resisted the most, besides wearing helmets!
For my research I also interviewed our former assistant coach, Danielle Spencer and current teammate, Megan Lerner. Both, in their interviews, supported and proved my viewpoints. I chose to interview Danielle and Megan because both had the opportunity to wear shorts and skirts. Danielle sported shorts at Northwestern (where she is now an assistant coach), and a skirt with Team USA. Megan wore shorts at McDonogh (Md.) High School and now wears a skirt at Stanford.
"Shorts are not worn by many teams and a certain swagger comes along with wearing them."
-- Stanford defender Megan Lerner
On the shorts, Danielle said "I thought it made our team unique because at the time we first started wearing the shorts in 2008. No other teams were wearing them, so I thought we were kind of the leader of the revolution of wearing shorts." She also mentioned that while she is on board with shorts now, at first she and her teammates were not. She said that they liked their skirts, and even thought they looked better in them. "But then when you start wearing shorts more," Danielle said, "you kind of get the mentality that you feel a little bit more 'bad-ass', and you start to appreciate that its not about how you look, only how you feel."
However, she insisted that having a skirt on doesn't affect her play. "Once I have a skirt on and I'm playing in a skirt, I don't think twice about it," she said. "I may have to adjust it in the game and pull it down a few times, but it doesn't affect my playing.
"What I do think it affects is not my mentality or the players mentality, but the outsiders perspective of the sport as a whole," she said.
Megan had similar thoughts. "At McDonogh we definitely had a swagger and I felt 'bad-ass' in my shorts." When asked if she thought what you wear affects how you play she said, "I think that what you wear can affect the attitude and mentality you have. ... Shorts are not worn by many teams and a certain swagger comes along with wearing them."
While she also noted the shorts made them feel intimidating, she said she feels more comfortable wearing a skirt and she feels more feminine and proper on the field. Megan's preference to wear the skirt over shorts could indicate the adoption of the media's depiction of female athletes as overly feminine and "proper," compensating for the masculine qualities normally associated with sports.
Interestingly, when I was writing this paper, I actually cited an article LM's Clare Lochary had written in 2009 about the issue. In the article she pointed out that in 2002 UNC had switched to shorts and made it to the final four. They decided to switch back because the girls didn't like how they appeared in media images and videos. While you can take this fact for what you will, but UNC didn't make the final four again until 2009. I'm not saying wearing shorts will make a team great, but it should be said that they could have an impact. It's the same reason why when teams wear black they become more aggressive. Something psychological happens.
This year I have seen some more teams sporting shorts from the Division I level to the club level, which I am happy to see. I think this will be a slow change, but I hope one day all teams will choose to wear shorts.