Late Night Games Up for Grabs

Natrona County High School recently did something unusual.  

Athletic Director Bryan Honken decided to alternate the times in which boys and girls varsity basketball games were played. Instead of ladies first, ladies stole the primetime game.

“We chose to alternate and will continue to look for opportunities to balance our schedule, providing opportunities for both programs to have the later game,” said Honken. “It didn’t really bother me that the boys played first,” Junior Torrie Schutzman said. “It was kind of weird waiting so long at the gym but other than that it felt like another game.” 

Over the years, professional female athletes have fought for equal opportunities to their male counterparts. While high school athletes aren’t professional, female athletes at CHS have always been scheduled to play the early game. Title IX under the US Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights states “No person in the United States shall, on the basis of sex, be excluded from participation in, be denied the benefits of, or be subjected to discrimination under any education program or activity receiving Federal financial assistance.” In other words, Title XI doesn’t allow discrimination when it comes to educational opportunities. This was the case when softball was being approved, allowing female athletes to have equal opportunities in the number of sports they could play.  

Athletic Director Tony Hult is open to scheduling changes that would allow for more equitable playing time. “If the girls want to have later games, I’m all for it,” he said. “I do not want to do it out of the blue because fans would be confused about what is going on.” He explained the importance of communicating clear game times to fans in advance. 

Hult has experienced girls playing later games as a basketball coach in Nebraska. “Honestly it was great for me as a coach. I did not have to travel from one location to another for coaching because both games would be played in one gym,” he said.” Eventually the girls decided to switch back because they thought it was better to play first.” 

Like Hult, Honken has experimented with different time slots. In fact, Natrona is looking into giving more opportunities for both basketball programs to host the later games. “All initial feedback points towards it [girls playing later games] being a viable option for future scheduling considerations,” Honken said. “While our schedule is set for this year, we received a great deal of positive feedback and will look to continue providing this option in the future.” 

Could this idea be implemented into our athletic programs? In a recent survey administered to CHS students, 53% of the 57 students who responded liked the idea of girls having later games while only 23% said they would not want game times to change. Twenty-three percent were indifferent.  

“In my opinion there is no reason that girls shouldn’t have the opportunity to have the prime time for games,” Moran Heydenberk, a senior soccer player said. “It’s very hard for some parents to take off time to make it to the games, whether the person they’re wanting to watch is female or male. The right thing to do would be to alternate game times to give equal opportunity to both sides.” 

Heydenberk isn’t the only one that feels as if game times should be more equitable. “I think Natrona mostly did it because they do a cool introduction and the girls never get to experience that because they have the early game,” Schutzman said, “so they wanted the girls to be able to have the chance. But Cody doesn’t do anything like they did.”

While there are some students that would like to see a change in game times, there are those who feel a change could be harmful. She would like to see an alternating schedule but is apprehensive about a permanent change because it could mean fewer fans. She explained that many fans come to watch the girls in order to get good seats for the boys games. “If we change that and have boys play before girls then people might leave for the girls games, which is really sad,” Junior Allyson Schroeder said. “I think that the boys have later games usually because their type of athletics is different than the girls,” she said. “It’s a lot faster and in my opinion, more entertaining to watch. I love girls sports and am all for them, but boys sports are a bit more fun to watch.” 

The idea of alternating games for both programs gives fair and equal opportunities for both fans and players. “I’m totally cool with doing that if players and coaches want to try it,” Hult said.