How Sports Discrimination Made Sierra Harr a Feminist
Did you ever see the episode of Degrassi where Jane wants to join the boy’s football team, makes it — because she’s really good — but is then bullied by her fellow teammates? They try to hurt her, get her kicked off the team, but all she wanted to do was play football because they didn’t have a girl’s team.
Now imagine how Sierra Harr, a 16-year-old golf player from Idaho, feels knowing that it’s the opposing coaches who want her off the team. She’s being treated very unfairly for someone who helped her high school team win the 2012 2A state title.
Harr was given the option to compete as an individual in tournaments after the girl’s team no longer had enough female players. Instead, she decided to join the “boy’s team,” and gained the opportunity to compete against some of the best players in the state. She was required to qualify every week by request of the Idaho High School Activities Association, and as the No. 3 female golfer in Idaho for her age group, she did. She helped Castleford High win the 2012 title and didn’t even get the chance to celebrate once the opposing team’s coaches started to complain.
Harr explained her situation in a letter to the Idaho High School Activities Association:
The boys on my team treated me as an equal, and if any of my competitors disapproved of my golfing with the boys, they were gracious enough to keep their opinions to themselves and treated me with respect. The only negative reactions I received were from a few opposing coaches.
The opposing coaches believe that Harr may be “bumping out a boy” from qualifying to compete. It is essential in sports to always have the best qualifying players on your team. Sierra Harr qualified to play with this team under strict measures, and certainly didn’t “bump” a boy from playing, because she proved herself most deserving of the position.
According to Nancy Hogshead-Makar, a former U.S. Olympic gold medalist swimmer, lawyer, and professor at Florida Coastal School of Law, a governing association should not deny female student-athletes the same educational experience received by boys. This is a protection afforded by federal Title IX provisions meant to end discrimination. Title IX ensures that girls have equal access and opportunities in all aspects, which includes playing on teams.
For coaches to tell a qualifying player that it is unfair for them to compete due to their gender is a complete anomaly. They have a losing argument and many regulations against them. Castleford does not plan to remove Sierra from their team and force her to compete as an individual. There is also hope that more girls will become interested in golf and she can regain her position on her previous team.
This is one of many stories across the world of girls receiving backlash from being on the boy’s team, and vice versa. If a high school is unable to provide a team for both genders, for whatever reason, the team should consider being called the “high school golf team” rather than making it gender specific. Perhaps more students would feel inclined to play sports if they weren’t worried about being an outcast on the team.
Luckily, students like Harr just have a desire to play the sport and believe it should be an equal right. As she says:
When this started, I only wanted to play golf, but I really started to believe that women should be given the same opportunity as men. I kind of became a feminist.
Written by Leah Moreno
Header image courtesy of AP Photo/John Miller