Evolution is defined as the process that allows changes to happen in plants and animals over time. However, it can also be defined as a process of slow change and development. When looking at sports through time, most sporting fans can clearly see the changes that have occurred in light of more crowds, new technology (instant replay), medical advancements (PEDs), and new game strategies. Some of these changes have been for the better while others have not. Despite some possible negatives, most sports fans would agree that sports need to evolve, just like the world, to stay with the times.
One important aspect of sports that may need evolution is the way we divide our sports. Divisions and recognition in sports have led to many conflicts and changes through the years. One example of this issue was brought up in Mika LaVaque-Manty’s book The Playing Fields of Eton where wheelchair athletes felt that they were being treated unfairly in the New York City Marathon. They argued that they should not be stopped during a marathon (just like any other runner) and should be given a division to recognize people in similar situations. In the court proceedings, their argument won the case, as it was a matter of granting athletes with disabilities equal recognition and fair competition (no stopping during the race). Although LaVaque-Manty brings up this case, later on he warns against too much separation of groups. While divisions do exist in sports to allow fair competition among people with similar abilities, it can sometimes hinder overall equality. A major division that should be examined is the gender division within sports. To understand the background of this division, we need to step back in history.
Researchers have shown that divisions between men and women came from early humans (hunter-gatherers) whose division of labor directly affected their survival. This early division where men would hunt large animals (required more physical strength) and women would gather small plants and game may have paved the way through history to some of divides that still exist today. Fast-forwarding to the 19th and 20th centuries, men and women were still considered different which resulted in different opportunities for men in women. In relation to sports, women had far fewer opportunities and received less support when compared to men.
“The lack of publicity was only a small part of the cluster of policies
that limited and shaped women’s opportunities to participate in
sports for much of the twentieth century.” LaVaque–Manty (The Playing Fields of Eton)
It is only recently that true equality is starting to emerge. The wage gap between men and women is starting to close, and on a related note, it may be time to question whether there should be a gender divide in sports. In fact, research has shown that even though men may naturally have greater amount of upper body strength, individual work and growth can lead to near identical strengths between men and women. The understanding that physical strengths between men and women can be matched or be greater is reason enough to suggest that divides may no longer be necessary. Furthermore, female athletes like Kacy Catanzaro and Naomi Kutin have already shown the world that women can even surpass men in athleticism. All of these points lead to a sports evolution where no gender barrier exists in sports. Breaking the barriers would allow female athletes to receive the same attention, recognition, and compensation as male athletes. This more inclusive group could foster further competition and increase the popularity of sports overall. With all the changes that have occurred around the world in the past decade, perhaps we are headed to this reality sooner rather than later.