Lisa Thomaidis was saddened by photos that showed the shocking discrepancy between the men’s and women’s weight-room facilities at their NCAA basketball tournaments.
But Canada’s women’s head coach wasn’t surprised.
“One of our former Canadian athletes who played in the NCAA said ‘I opened this up and I laughed — not because it’s funny, but because it goes on all the time,”’ Thomaidis said.
“She said, ‘Welcome to the world of being a female athlete.”’
The women’s teams had barely arrived in San Antonio before the appalling posts began appearing on social media.
Stanford’s sports performance coach Ali Kershner posted a photo of a small stack of dumbbells — maximum weight: 30 pounds — and a training table with a pile of yoga mats, beside photos of a ballroom full of equipment including free weights, dumbbells and squat racks at the men’s tournament in Indianapolis.
“It’s constantly been stuff like that and I don’t think people really talked about it or exposed it as much as now, which is great to bring light to the situation,” Thomaidis said. “But it’s embarrassing.
“I mean, really? That one little weight rack?” she scoffed.
“In a year defined by a fight for equality this is a chance to have a conversation and get better,” Kershner wrote.
Lynn Holzman, the NCAA’s senior VP of women’s basketball, said the governing body would try to rectify the equipment issue quickly and that the original setup was limited because of a lack of space.
Oregon’s Sedona Prince shot down the “space” argument in a post that showed a small rack of dumbbells in a massive empty ballroom.
Social media blew up with outrage over the discrepancy, which also appeared prevalent in player meals and introductory swag bags.
Canada’s Natalie Achonwa, a forward for the WNBA’s Minnesota Lynx tweeted: “Are we going to address the disparity in provided meals, swag bags and general bubble atmosphere too orrrrr nah? Not sure if I *expect* better from you ?ncaa, but you to do better than this (trash can emoji).”
Golden State’s star guard Steph Curry tweeted: “Wow-come on now! ?marchmadness ?NCAA yall trippin trippin.”
Thomadis pointed out that the NCAA has “so much money and influence, and to then roll that out. At some point, someone OK’d that — like, how is that OK?”
The disparity in weight rooms could be costly to the female players. It takes less than a week to start losing muscle strength without any maintenance, and while the women just arrived in San Antonio, the tournament runs through April 4.
“If you don’t have a significant lift in that first week, you’re gonna start losing it,” Thomaidis said. “It’ll be interesting to see how the (NCAA) responds to this.”
Thomaidis, who will coach the Olympic team this summer in Tokyo, can’t wait to watch the 27 Canadian women competing in March Madness.
“Getting ready to just settle in and sit in front of my TV for the next little bit, it’s awesome,” she said.
The fact she’ll be able to find the tournament on Canadian sports television shows that coverage of the women’s game, at least, is improving.
“I remember back in the day trying to watch March Madness, trying to get women’s games ? first of all, you didn’t have a sniff until maybe the Final Four,” Thomaidis said. “And then I would have to go to a bar somewhere and try to convince the bartender to turn one of the 20 TVs that were on NHL hockey, to ESPN, to show like the women’s final or the women’s semifinal.
“Now to be able to actually be at home, turn on a mainstream television station and see the women playing, we’ve come a long way. Certainly we have a long way to go.”