|ESPN.com: Women's College Basketball||[Print without images]|
|Editor's note: ESPN.com columnist Mechelle Voepel addressed the CWA's proposal to ban male practice players last week. Here is her column again in its entirety.
On a periodic basis, we probably all make the pronouncement, "That's the stupidest thing I've ever heard of."
Right now, this is my current "stupidest thing I've ever heard of," and this one might not be topped any time soon.
The NCAA officially announced Monday: "The NCAA Committee on Women's Athletics has issued a position statement calling for a ban on the use of male practice players in women's intercollegiate athletics."
You know, when the NCAA moved out of Overland Park, Kan., a few years back, maybe it shouldn't have stopped at Indianapolis. Perhaps it should have kept going east. Right now, I think the middle of the Atlantic Ocean might be a good spot.
It's lucky for me that the NCAA is gone from Kansas, because the headquarters was barely 10 minutes from my house. If it were still there, I'd probably have been arrested Monday for disturbing the peace by standing outside and screaming incessantly, "What in the world are you people thinking?"
You can read the entire "position statement" online and if you make it through without wanting to repeatedly beat your head against a wall (or, you know, somebody else's head), then you're doing a whole lot better than me. Among other things, it's paranoid, uninformed, reality-phobic, logic-devoid, silly and ill-conceived.
Unfortunately, this issue is going to be voted on at the Division III level in 2007 -- that proposal is to greatly limit the use of male practice players -- and the obvious fear is that Division II and Division I are next and might ban them altogether.
Check out the Women's Hoops Blog for more commentary on this lunacy (uh, warning: there is an f-bomb in there; I'd have a few here, too, except we're not allowed). Or go to various women's hoops message boards, where many posters make point after point after point after point about how wrongheaded this is.
Men's practice players have helped women's basketball get better. The idea that they take "opportunities" away from women in practice doesn't make any sense if you've ever seen how they are actually used.
Coaches use them to give everyone more productive reps, not just the starters. They use them to help simulate opposing players' strengths and weaknesses. They use them because they can constantly wear them out if need be; it doesn't matter if they're not as fresh and strong as possible for games.
A devastating injury demon -- anterior cruciate ligament tears -- afflicts females in this sport a great deal more proportionally than males. As scientific/medical research and weight-training methods advance, we all hope to see ACL injuries decrease markedly among women's hoops players.
But I'd guess the ACL factor alone has contributed a lot to women's hoops teams facing problems with having enough available, healthy bodies in practice over the years.
This "position statement" suggests that the answer is bringing in more women to the team -- as if there are talented, fit, competitive women who can practice and play at the necessary level just hanging around every campus wanting to join the team but being ignored because coaches want men practicing.
Does the NCAA's Committee on Women's Athletics think coaches are complete morons? That they don't scour every nook and cranny they can find to get eligible females who can help their teams?
Does the CWA not realize that when women's basketball players are working out on their own, the first place many of them go is the rec center on campus to play against men because they know it helps them?
But here's something else that is significant in this whole matter. Let's consider what being a practice player does for the men who fill that role. They are participating in something that's designed to contribute to the betterment, achievement and glory of women -- not themselves. They need to be punctual, responsible, willing to follow instruction, able to control temper flare-ups in the heat of competition, and eager to work hard toward something that helps other people.
Gee, you don't think any of that stuff is going to make them better human beings, partners and fathers, do you?
They are learning to respect women as athletes. They are taking that respect with them -- at least to some degree -- when they're around other men who don't think or feel the same way. Maybe they are changing a few minds.
Yeah, clearly we need to "eliminate" them. -- ESPN.com's Mechelle Voepel