Sports Psyche, Gender and Kathrine Switzer
Boston Athletic Association presented a medal to Kathrine Switzer on 17th April 2017. Switzer was the first woman to run the Boston Marathon in the year 1967. Flash forward to the year 2017, she ran the Boston Marathon with 100 other women. 1960s was an era when women weren’t encouraged to participate in sports because they were perceived to be too frail for it. Although in 1967, the rules of Boston Marathon did not state a ban on women players, the race official Jock Semple tried expelling Switzer from the Marathon. Semple stopped Switzer, grabbed her official bib and asked her to leave the Marathon. Switzer’s boyfriend Tom Miller jostled with Semple and asked Switzer to carry on with the race. Looking back at the Marathon of 1967, Switzer proudly recalls, “I was very proud of being a woman. I had long hair, wore lipstick and eyeliner to the start line. All the men around me knew that I was a woman.”
This year Switzer completed the Boston Marathon 4 hours 46 minutes. She is mere 26 minutes behind her first 1967 Marathon record of 4 hours 20 minutes.
In the Rome Olympics of 1960, Irina Press won a Gold medal in 80m hurdle and her sister Tamara Press won a Silver medal in Discus and a Gold medal in Shot Put. Back then, there was wild speculation that the Press sisters had undergone male hormone inducement to win the Olympics. There were no medical tests to prove the claim. It was made on the basis that the sisters looked ‘too masculine’.
Dr. Todd M. Kays and Dr. Leif H. Smith wrote, “Sports Psychology for Dummies” in which they stated the importance of mental toughness in sports. “Mental toughness is the X factor when it comes to sports participation. When all else is equal on the playing field, the athletes who are tougher mentally will, more often than not, win in the end.” The authors emphasized that setting goals and keeping the motivation alive with passion is the key to push oneself in excelling at sports. Kays and Smith have given guidance on how to cope with life as a person while fulfilling ambition as an athlete. “When your emotional and physical energy resources are being drained by other things in your life outside of sports (like relationships, school, or financial difficulties), you won’t have enough energy for your athletic training.” While explaining how to deal with personal life as an athlete, the authors of the book have not made segregation on coping mechanisms based on gender. They have given generic guidelines that every athlete can implement. It is important for an athlete to be very confident about his and her skill sets. The authors of the book state that confidence cycle is formed on the basis of success, followed by positive thinking and culminate in taking risks. “Sports Psychology for Dummies” makes a pertinent point that athletes need to monitor their thoughts, feelings and behaviors. “You need to think in ways that are productive and optimistic, no matter what’s going on around you. When you’re doing that, you’ll feel in control of yourself and, ultimately, more confident.”
When the scientific approach of Sports Psychology has not made segregations based on gender, then the society has no right to. Upon reading theories of training an athlete, one realizes how fictional the mental barriers of societal conditioning can be when placed upon an individual. Mental stamina, grit, perseverance and determination are not biological phenomena that pertains one’s anatomy. It is a journey of the individual if he or she chooses to undertake it.