This spring, New York City high schools have added double dutch as a varsity sport in an effort to get urban girls involved in sports, but similar programs are lacking in cities nationwide.
Double-dutch teams have been created at 10 high schools in predominantly black New York City neighborhoods, according to Salon. Last year, the New York Times reported that the city was introducing varsity double-dutch to address the fact that in city schools only 10 percent of high school students played on sports teams, compared to more than a third in many suburban districts.
Legitimizing the sport, which many girls already participate in when they're young, may be the key to getting them to continue their involvement in sports through high school. A study last year from the Women's Sports Foundation found that inner-city girls of color have some of the lowest rates of sports participation of U.S. teens, according to Women's eNews. Sociologist Don Sabo, the organization's research director says that urban girls tend to start organized sports later and are thus more likely to drop out. He says:
"They haven't learned the fundamentals of how to balance, jump, run, how to be a team member, how to suck it up and play through being tired. They feel foolish," said Sabo ... "When was the last time you tried something you weren't good at and stayed with it for a year?"
Urban girls of color are "hit with a double whammy," says Neena Chaudhry of the National Women's Law Center. Often their communities have less access to open spaces and they face competition for scarce resources at school. Theoretically, Title IX should solve this problem, but unlike in colleges and universities, high schools are not required to report gender breakdowns by sport, resources, and funding. A study by the National Women's Law Center suggested that few urban female athletes were using Title IX to demand equal treatment.
There's a push now to require high schools to report statistics like colleges and universities do to make sure that the schools are complying to Title IX. Last month Senator Olympia Snowe reintroduced a 2004 bill to the Senate called the High School Sports Information Collection Act, which would require high schools to report the gender of student athletes and the financing of sports teams.
Advocates say that enacting Title IX compliance laws would increase sports opportunities for girls and boys across the country. While city officials hope to increase girls' participation in sports especially, the new double-dutch teams in New York are coed. The video below from the annual double dutch tournament held at the Apollo Theater in New York shows the incredible amount of athleticism that competitive double-dutch requires. Since countless studies have shown that student athletes perform better in school and have higher self-esteem, clearly girls across the country would benefit from similar programs.