Male Practice Players

This article outlines the debate of the use of male practice players among NCAA women’s teams nationwide. The NCAA Committee on Women’s Athletics has deemed these players problematic, finding it necessary to limit or ban their use among NCAA teams.

One issue lies in the question of the need of these male players. Used mainly in sports like basketball, soccer, and volleyball, many coaches argue that top female athletes beed male competitors to better their skills. 

  •  “‘They make us better, plain and simple,’ says Brenda Frese, head coach of the Maryland [basketball] team. ‘They’re bigger,  stronger, quicker, and they can raise the level of intensity of practice.'”

However, the Committee on Women’s Athletics finds the need to limit the use of male practice players. When teams and coaches alike have said that the male’s do not take away practice time from any of the female athletes, how might the use of the male practice players take away from the female athlete’s experience? What about the males who participate – are they demasculated? Practice player for Maryland’s women’s basketball team, Sean McGrew, was greatly affected by the talent of the women be played against.

  • “Defending Jade Perry, a reserve forward, quickly taught Mr. McGrew what to expect. ‘Jade hit two fadeaway jump shots on me the first two times I was guarding her,’ he says. ‘I was like, OK, I’ve got to pick this up.'”

 Does this call into question Mr. McGrew’s masculinity? If he is challenged by a woman in a contest of physical strength and athletic prowess, how can he be defined as a man within a culture that depends deeply on the disparities between men and women?

Is the use of male practice players at odds with Title IX’s goals? Physiologically, men, as a whole, have the capacity to be stronger than females. If using male practice players would only strengthen the women’s skills, doesn’t their use improve women’s sports? Or, does it call into question fundamental flaws that still exist in the NCAA in the form of discrepancies between male and female sports? This article marks an interesting point in the progression of female collegiate sports teams after Title IX.

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One response to “Male Practice Players

  1. You write really well. I remember helping our girls practice in H.S. We got knocked out early in the state tourney and a couple of us practiced with the girls just to have something to do. We supported our girls all the way to a state title. We went on to win the state the following year (senior year). Playing against better competition will always improve your game. It’s not that the girls couldn’t have competitive practices, its more like they couldn’t find enough quality girls to simulate a practice vs. quality competition. There used to be a time when I thought there is no way a woman can handle me on the court. Times have changed, these women are better, and I am a bit older (36). I’m sure I would be made a fool of vs. most of these women players. I still have a few buddies that think like I once did. They never even played at a high level like I once did.

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