Last Friday, I was courtside inside Eastside’s gymnasium watching the Lady Eagles face Jefferson in a Region 8-AAAAA game. The Lady Eagles trailed by as many as 17 points in the first quarter, but they came back to defeat the Lady Dragons 66-61.
The most important shot came from senior Mehkyla White who gave her team its first and only lead of the contest with a clutch three-pointer less than 20 seconds left. It was a truly remarkable sight to see a tough, tenacious Lady Eagles’ squad take down the No. 2 team in their region in such fashion.
Watching that game play out boggles my mind when I think that, once upon a time, local community members often asked why I “wasted my time” covering each of our schools’ girls basketball games.
Yes, that happened last year, which was my first basketball season reporting in Newton County.
There would be many instances where people would say to me, “The boys game is the main event.” Well, that wasn’t the case Friday night at Eastside.
You’re probably sitting there wondering why I’m sharing this. It’s because Feb. 1 — which is the publication date this column will publish — is National Girls and Women in Sports Day.
In my opinion. hearing comments disrespecting girls basketball teams and their games is not the only time I encountered this.
In fact, when I was getting my start in sports media/journalism, this was an issue.
Throughout my four years of high school, I would announce my alma mater’s girls and boys high school soccer matches.
The girls game would begin at 5:30 p.m. followed by the boys who usually start at around 7:30 p.m.
While doing so, I would often get asked, “Why are you announcing the girls game?” My naive response was always, “Because they’re playing the game, too.”
Usually, the next thing out of that person’s mouth was, “It’s just the girls playing so I don’t see the point.”
Admittedly, it took me a while to realize what people like that were saying.
Then, when I began college — particularly when I began my coursework in the prestigious Grady Sports Media Program at the University of Georgia — I got even more of a front seat to this type of thinking.
My female colleagues would often be faced with people treating them as less than while trying to report on sports simply because of their gender. They would tell me stories and/or I would witness the treatment firsthand.
I see it on a too regular basis on social media, too.
There’ll be people tweeting at female reporters saying stuff like: “Why do we have a woman reporting on our team?” “She doesn’t know what she’s talking about.” “If you didn’t play the game, I don’t care what you say.”
That thinking is simply incorrect, in my opinion, ladies and gentlemen.
Women have just as much right to have a career (no matter the field) in sports as men do.
Throughout my career, I’ve been blessed to work with and cover many remarkable women whose passions lie in sports.
I’ve even learned a lot myself about sports — from a general sense as well as the journalism perspective — by simply being around those individuals.
And that boggles my mind why there are so many people out there today thinking “women don’t belong in sports.”
In fact, some of the best sporting events I have covered in Newton County and beyond have revolved around girls athletics. To double down, the last few pieces of hardware were captured mainly by female led teams.
Take a look at this past softball season. Alcovy won its first region title in seven years while Eastside and Social Circle made a run in Columbus, finishing toward the top of state.
Social Circle girls soccer won its first state title ever in program history last season and Eastside girls soccer maintained its tradition of playoff qualifications.
Right now, with basketball season in full swing, you have the Eastside girls team knocking off higher ranked opponents. Then there are Alcovy girls amid a strong turnaround and have the potential to have an impressive season.
There are many more examples inside and out of Newton County I could point to, but I believe you get the gist.
So, I urge all of us to not look at females in sports — whether playing or working — as “less than” because they’re not. They deserve as much of the prominence and prestige of being in sports like men do.
And by altering our thinking and perspective, we as men might actually learn a thing or two about sports.Phillip B. Hubbard is the sports editor of The News. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.