Please pardon my detour away from the silly toward the serious. If you are not familiar with the #50womentoKona movement, and gender equality means anything to you, get familiar! Better yet, get involved! Visit the website www.TriEqual.com for an education and an opportunity to help.
Silliness resumes next post….
The current movement #50womentoKona shouldn’t really mean much to me as a triathlete. I am ten years into the sport, and I’ve had a blast with minimal care for, attention to, or following of pro triathletes. I do admire them. I just don’t follow them, with two exceptions. Cameron Dye is not only my favorite pro triathlete, but he is also my BFF. We share a passion for donuts. I learned this when I met him at the 2014 NYC Triathlon. He is responsible for my motto, “TMT-Where donuts are finish line food.” Coming in a close second is Chrissie Wellington, simply because she is a goddess. After that, I’m disinterested. I don’t choose a race based on the presence of pros. Usually, the pro-attended races have high price tags, and high price tags make me break out into a rash.
The #50womentoKona movement means a hell of a lot to me as a woman, a lifelong athlete, a women’s basketball coach, and a mother of two athletes. So I have jumped into the fray, and I’m ready to fight the good fight. And I am so well prepared. You could say I was raised for it.
My mother was a die-hard, blue state Democrat, a bleeding-heart liberal, and a rabid feminist. She passed away 20 years ago last month, so she spins in her grave at every Andrew Messick barrage of bullshit. She was my biggest supporter as a basketball player, especially when I was playing with the boys. She tolerated no whining, and always sent me back out to get my ass kicked, saying, “If it doesn’t kill you it makes you stronger. And if it kills you, then it’s a great story for your funeral.” However, my strongest lesson on how to fight for gender equality came from my dad.
I played CYO basketball from 5th to 8th grade, and during those years, my dad was my team’s coach. This was during the late 70’s and early 80’s. Title IX had been passed a few years before, and the Mighty Macs of Immaculata University (exactly 2 miles from my house) were winning national championships left and right. The athletic board at Saints Philip and James School and Parish, however, was unmoved by these grand events. While the boys had brand new uniforms every few years, the girls continued to wear awful, scratchy, polyester ones that were faded and falling apart. While the boys had plentiful practice time in the beautiful gym of a local junior high school, the girls were nomadic hoopsters, traveling from gym to gym, taking anything they could get.
When my dad and my teammate Jenny’s dad took the team over, they immediately saw the inequality. My dad went to see the Big Kahuna, i.e. the pastor of the parish. His complaints received the immediate reply, “Well, there’s really nothing I can do about that.” To this, my dad said, “Well that’s a shame. But you should know that Mary’s dad and Suzie’s dad and Kelly’s dad were afraid that you would say that. And they said that they might forget to bring their donation envelopes to Mass on Sunday. I thought you might want to know that.”
Guess who got new uniforms? Guess who got to practice in the sweet gym? And guess whose team won more games than the boys’ team every year for four years? Of the starting five during my 8th grade year, all five of us played high school basketball. Two of my teammates played college basketball. We are a nurse, a CEO, a lawyer, an actuary, and a college math professor. Opportunity begets success.
As a girls basketball coach for 20 years, I have learned that if you want gender equality for your athletes, you need to fight for it. You need to be a loud, obnoxious pain in the ass for it. You must expect to piss people off, and you must not expect to make any friends. My plan has been to go for 75%, and when people are good and angry, I back off and say, “Okay. I guess 50% is fine.” And the fight never stops. It just moves and shifts and takes a different shape in a different place. I am okay with this. I’ll keep fighting until the end, because girls rule.
So bring it, WTC. Go ahead and dig your heels in on the wrong side of this issue. I’m over here on the right side, with an army of pissed-off people. Just stay the course, Mr. Messick. We’ll see how many triathletes just might forget to sign up for your races.