VHS girls water polo players are sick of the oversexualization in their sport

Avery Cameron

“No one wants to see that”-VHS Water polo Coach

 Ventura High School girls water polo players have decided to make a statement because of the sexualization of their sport at the hands of their coaches. On the night of Monday, Oct. 10, with posters, markers, glitter and string, they decided to spread the word about their recent problems surrounding their coaches’ views on their bodies.

“Myself and my team are just trying to play the sport that we love,” said senior Emily Ball. Photo by: Avery Cameron

When a player asked me to help out I of course said yes, as a VHS swimmer myself I understand the frustration these players experience and wanted to help spread the word with an article.

A varsity player, who chooses to remain anonymous, said, “We’ve been dealing with some incidents on our water polo team… [coaches are] sexualizing what we are wearing, saying how revealing our suits are, that were actually given to us by the athletics program.” 

Team co-captain Emily Ball explains in her piece that players do not wear the suits for attention on their bodies, they wear them for functionality for their aggressive and physical sport. However one specific coach does not approve and has made comments such as “pull your suit out of your ass” and “no one wants to see that” which are direct quotes, backed up by multiple players. Ball continued,“The most frustrating part about the whole thing is that it seems like young girls cannot do anything without being sexualized. Myself and my team are just trying to play the sport that we love.”

Two signs, still on display the morning after. The signs where taken down on Tuesday afternoon, not even 24 hours after being put up. Photo by: Avery Cameron

Having a suit up your butt is not a fun experience, especially a suit designed to be tight fighting for your sport. But what’s more embarrassing is picking a wedgie in front of dozens of people. The frustration these players are feeling are completely valid, other people’s opinions about a uniform should not affect a players experience.

Another anonymous player describes a specific incident that set the girls off the edge, she said, “One of the coaches told a player ‘Oh my gosh this is why you should pull your suit out of your ass and that is so disgusting.’ Talking about my teammate after she got out of the pool.” She continued, “How could a grown adult ever call a high school girl disgusting? I don’t understand… I was shocked and confused. ” This incident inspired one poster that I made, it reads “disgusting” in big green letters. 

Water polo player, junior Annika Lange, wrote an essay for her English class titled “Misogyny in High School Athletics” She brings up the same incident as the other player, and addressed the problems with this statement by her coach “Everyone has a different body type and looks different in similar clothing articles. The same suit on somebody shorter or less muscular can be considered more covering than the same suit on a larger girl…  This does nothing but influence eating disorders and negative/ unhealthy self views and in 2021 these are major problems people all over the world suffer from.” 

“Disgusting” sign is a direct quote from one of their coaches that was made about one of the girls’ bodies during practice. Photo by: Avery Cameron

This summer, at the European Beach Handball Championships in Bulgaria, Norway’s women’s beach handball team staged a protest, they wore shorts while competing instead of bikinis. According to the rules by the International Handball Federation, this was not allowed, and that women must wear bikini bottoms “With a close fit and cut on an upward angle toward the top of the leg,” and those bikini bottoms cannot be longer than 4 inches, according to The New York Times. Meanwhile, men can wear shorts at least four inches above the knee.

According to the article “Norway’s beach handball protest is about a lot more than bikinis” by Britni de la Cretaz from NBC News “Norwegian women say they have been complaining to the IHF about the bikini-bottoms problem since at least 2006. In their mind, the fact that they have to compete in skimpy uniforms when their male counterparts do not, is a sexist double standard.” All players involved in this protest were fined $170.

Women have been fighting these sports dress codes for years, Serena Williams in 2018 wore a catsuit at the french open and  Muslim women have been fighting the bans on hijabs in sports for years.

Why can the boys wear speedos but the girls can’t wear one piece without being sexualized? I asked myself this a lot while writing this article and the only excuse I can have for this issue is misogyny.

“It is about controlling women’s bodies and not about advantage, danger or anything else,” Shireen Ahmed, a sportswriter and podcast co-host wrote on Twitter. “The system was established to silence women and take away bodily agency including what we wear: hijab, shorts, etc.”

One of the players (who would prefer to remain anonymous) putting up a sign, reading “you are the problem” to spread the message that sexualization of young female athletes is not the girls’ fault, but in fact those making the inappropriate comments. Photo by: Avery Cameron

A junior boy on the boys water polo team, who wishes to remain anonymous said, “I thought it was mean how the coaches were yelling at them because they can’t really do anything about it because the suits are cut a certain way.” Another anonymous boy’s water polo player said, “It didn’t really involve me… so I couldn’t really make an opinion… I understand what they’re saying but I think the coach was concerned for them and their self-respect but it is their choice and their bodies.”

Girls water polo decided to have a team meeting after school Thursday, three days after the posters were initially put up. Junior Siena Cherry explains what went down. She said, “We have all agreed that all we want is to play water polo and have a great season. The situation between a team member and the coach has been talked through and sorted with the respective parties.” She continues to explain that the coaches have agreed to let players choose their own suits to practice in. 

At the moment coaches have refused to interview with The Cougar Press.

Cherry said, “We are excited to continue onto a fantastic season. What happened cannot be downplayed though; the sexualization of teenage girls’ bodies is a very serious issue and should be taken as such.” 

All the girls wanted to make it very clear, the problem was resolved and they are excited for the upcoming season.

Junior player, Annika Lange, wrote an essay for her English class surrounding this issue. Senior Emily Ball and junior Siena Cherry also wrote about their views.You can read them  here.