By John Ruberry
Last week in this space I discussed the problems of allowing transgender athletes to participate in women’s sports, which was inspired by a since-deleted Tweet from tennis legend Martina Navratilova, “You can’t just proclaim yourself a female and be able to compete against women,” she wrote earlier this month. “There must be some standards and having a penis and competing as a woman would not fit that standard.”
That post received a spirited response on Twitter and Facebook, and much of that feedback was centered on transgender athletes in high school sports. Last year a transgendered freshman, Andraya Yearwood, was the Connecticut Class M state champion in the 100 meter dash.
After her win Jeff Jacobs of the Hartford Courant, in a mostly favorable column about Yearwood commented that she “has yet to undergo any hormonal treatment on the long process toward sex reassignment surgery.”
Cromwell’s Andraya Yearwood is a state champion in the 100 dash. Ran 12.66 to win in 1st appearance at Class M Championships. #cttrack pic.twitter.com/8RELfAEeLF
— Courant HS Sports (@CTVarsity) May 30, 2017
In that first Da Tech Guy entry about transgenderism in sports, I outlined the physical advantages male athletes–and of course those born male who now consider themselves female–and they include possessing more testosterone, but also having bigger lungs, a larger heart, more muscle mass, and narrower hips. Males have larger bones–a drawback for long distance runners but a boon for sprinters–and they have more fast-twitch muscles, also known as type 2 fibers. Those muscles greatly aid short distance runners.
Defenders of Yearwood opine about her feelings and rights, but what about the feelings of the girl who finished second? Does she not have hopes and dreams? As for rights, Connecticut law appears to favor Yearwood. But when something is legal that doesn’t automatically make it right or fair.
Youth sports are important for developing bodies and minds. Decades after my final high school race I’m still running and I’m in very good shape. I’m not overweight, my blood pressure is perfect, I feel great, and at least Mrs. Marathon Pundit says I look good. Despite my methodical training and preparation all those years ago sometimes the result on the track or cross country course didn’t pan out. I forced myself not to cry and pout. I learned to toil to improve upon disappointment and failure the next time the starting gun was fired.
Team work is emphasized even in seemingly individual sports such as running. When I was in high school it was a hard rule that all athletes must arrive together and leave together, generally on a school bus. There was no toleration for “helicopter stars” and we had two state champion runners on our team. They were not prima donnas. Usually my race was over early and sometimes, in the case of track invitationals, the meets would last eight hours or more. What did I do then? I cheered on my teammates in their races and sometimes aided them as they stretched before their contests. As a citizen, or even as an employee, when the opportunity arises, I try to help out someone. Did I gain that trait from my sports experiences? I believe so. As for the jerk in the cubicle next to you who is always “too busy” to lend a hand, I’ll bet you that person didn’t participate much in organized youth sports.
Sports builds character. Sure there are vile coaches who allow their players to act like gangbangers. Some teams cheat. While some get away with it, others don’t. Back to my high school days: Our chief rival in cross country was caught training out of state, a violation of Illinois High School Association rules. They were banned from participating in the state championship qualifying meet. That coach should have been fired but wasn’t. It was a mixed victory for fairness.
I suspect that there will be many more transgender athletes in high school sports as gender increasingly becomes a notion instead of a something you are born with. This year Yearwood didn’t successfully defend her Connecticut state championship title. She finished second–to a another trans athlete–one who also captured first place in the 200 meter dash. In Texas an athlete born female who is, according to Fox News Wire Service, taking testosterone because she is transitioning to being a male, won a girl’s state championship as a wrestler.
Last week here I all but predicted that interest, which includes sponsorship, ticket sales, and television ratings, in big time women’s sports will diminish as more transgendered athletes take part. That disinterest will carry over into men’s sports, especially in regards to world championships and the Olympics. We are no longer a male-centered world, and that’s a good thing.
If participation levels decline at the high school level for girls sports, boys will suffer too, as taxpayer funding will dry up.
And if that happens society will be worse off.
John Ruberry regularly blogs at Marathon Pundit.