I've had a break from studying, blogging and other important things this month while I have been moving house, doing my first conference...and I also became an aunty to Tristan who couldn't wait 9 months to enter the world and surprised us all at 31 weeks, but he is doing very well by all accounts and is 2 weeks old.
While there are certainly many work/study related things to talk about here, not least the conference I went to - very large educational conference where I met many of the big names in my field - today I want to sort out a few ideas in my head about my own sport, tenpin bowling, and the current structure of competitions at student level in the natonal league/cup.
The British Universities Tenpin Bowling Association runs a league cup every year (last year Loughborough came second) which involves 16 bowler from each club, split into four teams of four - A, B, C, women. while A, B and C are done on averages, thr womens team is basically there to take any women the club can get. For Loughborough, a small club, we struggled last year to find four women to compete. I guess the general idea behind having a separate women's team is a sort of affirmative action - you must field four women, otherwise many clubs won't play any women at all, because sadly it seems the case that there aren't many women who play bowling, and when they do they aren't as good as the men, it would seem. However, in the league cup women are allowed to play on the A, B and C teams instead of the women's team - although of course no men can play on the women's.
For Loughborough last year this meant that on one occasion I played on the C team (despite having a B team average) and Steph played on the B team once on another occasion (despite having a far superior average to many of the A team bowlers) while the womens team went one player short and sacrificed their points. That was the decision the then captain made.
I'm now captain and thinking about sorting out teams for this year's cup.
What I struggle to come to terms with is the need for affirmative action, and whether it does women's bowling more harm than good. What I really want to argue is that women should be treated the same as men, or rather, don't make any distinction on sex in this mixed competition. If women can play on the "men's" A, B and C teams, why have a women's team at all? Does it ensure that women get a chance to play? One rival team last year fielded a team of four women who all had little interest in bowling, were there quite literally to make up the numbers, while the club's two (I think) good women bowlers went on the B or C team. This is not what a competitive bowling team should be about.
Another thing I dislike is, from my point of view and also from, I assume (although I can't speak for her), the point of view of our bowler Steph (a 190+ average bowler): for me, as a B team average bowler, I would be very pleased to play for the B team and would try to work hard to keep a good average to get on that team. but if I play for the women's team if doesn't really matter what average I have, for I get a place on that team anyway. For Steph, last year she was better than all but one of the A team men bowlers, but was relegated to the women's team as though her potential contribution to the A team didn't mean anything. If Steph was a man she would have been straight onto the A team. But because we needed four women all in the same team, she could not have her A team place.
There has been talk of changing the format this year to four teams of three bowlers, but still maintaining the A, B, C, womens teams. I would much rather see A, B, C, D teams, perhaps with a minumum quota of four girls throughout if the affirmative action thing is so important. Whether it is or not... Yes it is crucial to offer both men and women a chance to play on the competitive team but when, as is often the case, you are scraping the barrel searching for women to make up the team, maybe have to settle for women who aren't really interested, but have to turn away some male bowlers who wish to play; this is surely not in the spirit of selecting a competitive team.
However, part of me thinks it is also tactical, that having the option of playing a top woman bowler on one of two different teams (A and womens) gives a captain the chance to rejig the teams to ensure maximum points. But for me, the politics of equality wins out over winning, so to speak.
The proposed changes to the format, a drop to 12 bowlers, says that the women's team can have two blind players, ie. would only need one woman (although any such team would have little chance of winning). What a joke. Why insist on a women's team if you only need one woman! Surely have four teams of three, any gender. So I'll suggest that we make an amendment and abolish the separate women's team and see what happens.