Sand Volleyball & Proportionality… This Time in Arizona

As schools continue to rely on a numbers game to ensure proportionality between male and female athletes and overall school populations, we’re going to keep seeing creative — if not outright controversial — ways to meet Title IX requirements.

Starting female sand volleyball teams seems to be an increasingly popular method. We previously wrote on Georgia State’s decision to do this, and now the Arizona Interscholastic Association (AIA), at the high school level is following suit. Choosing between sand volleyball or lacrosse, the AIA decided to go with sand volleyball because economic considerations, not proven interest among females, won out. For the decision makers, it didn’t matter that there are already twelve Arizona high schools with female lacrosse teams; it was more important that sand volleyball incurs fewer expenses for uniforms and equipment.

Mark Heller at the East Valley Tribune does an excellent job at expressing underlying issues in the decision making:

[W]ill this just be the same 10 or 12 volleyball players from the fall sport? Or will other girls sign up? Will it interfere with club teams, often a priority for kids to reach the next level?More importantly — and this is about Federal Law compliance, not the AIA or school districts — with football being the obvious skewer of sports participation between boys and girls, are we being forced to match proportionality numbers to comply with Title IX regardless whether or not there’s a genuine, widespread interest in a given sport?

If the ultimate goal of Title IX is to provide equal opportunities among males and females, shouldn’t we value actual interest among those athletes? When cost considerations, not existing realities — like the fact that there are already twelve female teams playing lacrosse in Arizona, are more persuasive to those in charge, shouldn’t we openly question whether we’re making decisions and offering opportunities based on Title IX’s original meaning?

Update: Here’s an article from the Tucson Citizen with more details.

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