Thursday, August 28, 2008

A right turn at Albuquerque

The International Racquetball Federation (IRF) World Senior Racquetball Championships are underway in Albuquerque, New Mexico. This event began in 1985, and received IRF designation in 1989. Current results are available in Excel files via the IRF website.

One hundred and sixty nine players from seven countries are taking part. Of the 169 players, 48 are women (28%) and 121 are men (72%). That's well below 50% but it's a higher percentage of women participants than at many other racquetball tournaments.

Women's participation in racquetball is something that concerns us, because they are half the population, so we definitely want to see more of them participating in the game. Women can certainly have as much fun playing racquetball as guys.

However, women's participation in tournaments is a concern to the extent that that reflects their participation in the sport overall. In the 2008 Lewis Drugs tournament in Sioux Falls, South Dakota, only 15 of the 161 players (9.3%) were women, which is a shockingly low participation rate.

Furthermore, low participation can also be seen in junior tournaments. For example, the 2008 California State Junior Championships had seven girls in 47 total players (14.9%). Girls' participation was higher in the U.S. Junior Olympics, where 22% of the players were girls (48 of 211 players), but that's still not very high.

It's great that World Seniors has almost a 30% women's participation rate, but it's disturbing that girls' participation in junior tournaments is lower. We need to have more women, especially younger women, playing racquetball.

Curiously, women's participation in racquetball in Korea is 60% (reported on the IRF website). We're not sure why it's so high there, but it's great to see. Maybe the rest of the world could learn something from Korea.

Because if women's overall participation in racquetball isn't addressed, it'll put the sport a worse place than Bugs Bunny's wrong turn at Albuquerque.

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