Tyler Junior College is taking actions to create gender equality in the athletic department.
“To be brutally honest, the sport I would love to start is women’s softball,” said Athletic Director Tim Drain. “There are various factors when you’re deciding what to add and what not to add. The pro’s to starting that sport is that in our region [Region 14] in the NJCAA, goes from Paris all the way down to Laredo. There are about 14 schools that already have softball teams so the schedule would be easy, already made. Softball is a growing sport in this area.”
He said long-term plans are to develop a women’s softball team. Officials have started looking into buying land for a women’s practice field.
“My philosophy is if you’re going to start it, start it right. We’d have to build it right [next] to Mike Carter Field where the men practice,” said Drain.
The main concern with adding new sports is money.
“The state is making drastic cuts of what they are going to give us funding wise,” said Drain. “There are various ways to find money. One way is by cutting sports to add new ones and I don’t believe in that. I would love to start softball. It’s on the table, but until we know what the state’s going to do, who knows.”
Currently, there are 11 sports offered at Tyler Junior College. Six are male sports and five are female sports.
“It’s okay that guys have more sports. I mean, it’s not like girls can go and play football,” former high school athlete and current TJC student Dianda Jefferson said.
According to TJC student athlete DeQuean Grandberry, physiques show a difference between male and female athletes.
“Girls have different body parts than a guy,” said Grandberry. “Therefore there are some things a girl’s body can’t take that a guy’s body can. There are other sports out there that a girl can endure to give them an equal oppertunity as guys.”
Changes are being made every year to increase the number of opportunities for female athletes. Some changes are big like adding a new sport and others are small changes, such as renovations.
Drain said one reason that Wagstaff Gym was renovated was for gender equality. The women’s volleyball team used to have lockers on one side of the hallway and the restrooms and showers on the other side. Female showers were concealed only by a curtain, which faced the hallway. That hallway was open to the gym and anyone could walk by and see the athletes running across the hall in towels.
For decades female athletes have been fighting to have the same rights as men. Even at TJC, women have not always had equal opportunities.
The law that requires colleges to provide equal opportunities is Title IX. It was passed in 1972. Two years later, in 1974, TJC offered, for the first time, a women’s basketball team. By 1975 they offered scholarships to those women. Since then, female teams have been growing at a rapid pace. Soccer is the newest women’s sport to TJC and they have had several successful seasons.
Drain said he would like to develop other new sports, but there are several reasons why it is not good timing. For example, there is only one junior college in Texas with a track team. The team could be invited to meets at four-year universities, but there is a lack of competition. The lack of a location to practice and compete is a major problem. The track at Rose Stadium in Tyler is not a regulation track according to NJCAA.
Drian said that softball is a more logical choice given the circumstances.
“Now if someone came along and donated a track, that would change things,” Drain said.
Slowly schools across the country are balancing out men’s and women’s sports. If TJC creates a softball team, perhaps others will follow suit.