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Gender ‘In Practice’: Rethinking the Use of Male Practice Players in NCAA Women’s Basketball

Sat, August 12, 8:30 to 9:30am, Palais des congrès de Montréal, Floor: Level 5, 520A


To take a step forward and move behind the bounds of the gender binary and its stringent grip on sport, we need to both imagine and implement spaces for competition between women and men. This paper gives close consideration to the interaction of male practice players with elite NCAA Division 1 female basketball players in the United States through a content analysis of media articles the subject. We analyze 47 news articles using Linguistic Inquiry and Word Count (LIWC), a software program comprised of a set of database dictionaries that reflect psychologically meaningful linguistic categories. Our findings suggest that interactions between the female players and male practice players were portrayed largely in positive ways in the media. We also find that the articles emphasize how integrating men and women produces many residual benefits, with articles using narratives of reward or achievement to highlight men and women coming together in pursuit of a common goal, and the strong bond of friendship that developed between the male and female. While the use of male practice players may be a way to challenge the gender binary in sport, there is clearly much more work needed to understand the “promises and pitfalls” of gender integration in sport.