Sunday, March 22, 2009

Double Dutch--From Playground to Winners Podium

In an effort to increase adolescent girls participation in sports, some NYC schools are introducing Double Dutch as a variety sport this year. Urban girls are significantly less likely to participate in athletic sports than girls in the suburbs.

Urban girls of color are "hit with a double whammy," says Neena Chaudhry of the National Women's Law Center. Often their communities have less access to open spaces and they face competition for scarce resources at school. Theoretically, Title IX should solve this problem, but unlike in colleges and universities, high schools are not required to report gender breakdowns by sport, resources, and funding. A study by the National Women's Law Center suggested that few urban female athletes were using Title IX to demand equal treatment.

There's a push now to require high schools to report statistics like colleges and universities do to make sure that the schools are complying to Title IX. Last month Senator Olympia Snowe reintroduced a 2004 bill to the Senate called the High School Sports Information Collection Act, which would require high schools to report the gender of student athletes and the financing of sports teams.

Advocates say that enacting Title IX compliance laws would increase sports opportunities for girls and boys across the country. While city officials hope to increase girls' participation in sports especially, the new double-dutch teams in New York are coed. The video below from the annual double dutch tournament held at the Apollo Theater in New York shows the incredible amount of athleticism that competitive double-dutch requires. Since countless studies have shown that student athletes perform better in school and have higher self-esteem, clearly girls across the country would benefit from similar programs.

I think that this is a great move and that schools should branch out to meet the athletic and the activity interests of teens in order to encourage life long love of movement. If you follow the link above, you can watch a short clip of the International Double Dutch competition held at the Apollo Theater in NYC last year--it gets really good at the 1:20 mark. The international competition is a mixed-gender group, which I think sports like Double Dutch (as with Cheerleading now) show that mix gender groups can and do work.

I think that offering more and more varied sports to urban girls is crucial, but I also think that the issues surrounding participating need to be addressed as well. For example, if a girl is expected to care for younger siblings after school how could she be included in programs such as these? Sometimes, girls have additional duties like cooking, cleaning, and caring for younger siblings that parents don't put on their sons--this was certainly the case in my mother's life. We have to work to under cover their barriers in order to help adolescent girls flourish. Though I do think that a little Double Dutch might just be one brick on the path to greater encouragement of young female athleticism.

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