DV Women’s Wrestling challenges gender norms in school sports

Sanjana Ranganathan, Opinions Editor

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Started three years ago, Dougherty Valley High School houses the only female wrestling team in the school district; it has grown rapidly since then and continues to challenge social  and gender norms.

The girls’ team at DVHS is not only unique for the very fact that it is the only girls’ team in SRVUSD, but because female and male teams are incredibly integrated, differing from most other sports. 

According to captain Shreya Balasubramanian, both genders practice together, bond together and receive similar opportunities. 

The only area they differ is in tournaments and competitions, where genders are segregated for competition purposes. 

The women’s team has also been incredibly successful. 

Balasubramanian notes that the team qualified 12 girls to NCS and one to state last year, which are relatively high numbers given how new the team is. 

However, this success has not been easy for females, many of whom have faced initial barriers in overcoming the masculine stereotypes surrounding the sport.

Senior Jasmine Lam recalls her initial challenges. 

“In the beginning, I felt that I had to prove to myself that I was good enough for the guys. I felt like [girls] had to work harder to prove that we can do it too,” she said 

Lam attributes wrestling’s societal perception as an inherently  “masculine” sport. She describes her initial perception of wrestling as “strong men putting each other to the ground.”

She concludes, “It is ‘normal’ for a guy to wrestle, whereas if I tell someone I wrestle, they are like, ‘Oh you wrestle?’” 

Despite some initial push-back from existing male members, the girls team has ultimately been beneficial for DVHS wrestling as a whole. 

Miles Stines, a senior male on the team, notes that while some of the guys were against it at first, the addition of the girls team has boosted DVHS’ wrestling quality as a whole, overall concluding that the entire team has improved.

This positive increase can also be seen nationwide. The number of high school female wrestlers is on the rise; according to the National Wrestling Coaching Association (NWCA), there are 16,562 high school female wrestlers, growing from just 804 in 1994. 

Wrestling has also been recognized at the collegiate and Olympic levels. In 2004, female wrestling was recognized as an Olympic sport and approximately 60 colleges currently sponsor female wrestling programs. 

Gender equality is definitely improving. As the DVHS women’s wrestling team’s numbers grow, so does their influence in creating wider societal change. 

“More and more girls have been coming out and doing the sport … and it is becoming more acceptable for girls to engage in such a physical activity,” Lam said.