Does inter-squad dating really affect team sports?
From the Pride Issue
The long-running stereotype of female athletes being gay is played out and boring. But is there a foundation for this particular stereotype? There’s no research to back it up, however sometimes it really feels like there’s something other than lead in the water at the Oland Center. Over the past years, more than a few notable StFX female varsity athletes have earned a spot on the Back Wall of the pub (and if you’ve been there and left with your sexuality intact, kudos to you).
In the spirit of tradition, many women’s rugby and women’s hockey athletes have embodied the stereotype, leading to a large number of inter-teammate relationships (fondly referred to as “team-cest”). If you’ve ever watched The L Word or The Real L Word (which I watched strictly for research purposes I swear), you will know that the lesbian community is regrettably smaller than the average lesbian would like. The too-interconnected web of lesbians is even smaller in the athletic world, because for some reason athletes seem to attract athletes.
That being said, it doesn’t seem to cause as much drama as one would think. In the past 18 years as X-women rugby head coach, Mike Cavanagh says he has never had to have a conversation with players about their dating habits negatively affecting the team. “It’s a people thing, not a gender thing. As long as the relationship is mature and the two people can act like adults, it is not my job to tell people who to love.” He also adds that the only reason he would act would be, “if one of my players is being hurt or abused, then maybe we need to have a conversation about how we treat each other as people.” Despite the large number of (alleged) inter-teammate relationships, X-Women rugby seem to have no problem keeping personal relationships from affecting their game. With one of the best win records in the CIS, Cavanagh’s approach to coaching understands that what affects a player on the field has little to do with sexuality.
Women’s Hockey Coach David Synishin also feels the same way. He believes that as a university athlete, your sport is equivalent to your profession. People are affected by relationships in different ways, and “it doesn’t matter if a player is dating someone within their own locker room or from the other (men’s) locker room across the hall”, as long as they are prepared to maintain a level of professionalism, and be mindful of the relationship not having a significant impact on those around them. Both Cavanagh and Synishin agree that some people are able to balance dating and varsity athletics and others are not, and just like any relationship at the end of the day, it comes down to “maturity”, “respect” and compatibility. Synishin also boasts a winning record, with numerous National medal contentions and AUS titles, and says he has never had players’ relationships with each other affect the way the team performed.
With all the rumours flying around the rugby community about the women’s national team instituting a “no dating teammates” policy, it begs the question of whether or not this rule could have made a difference. Fortunately for all the athletic back wall bandits of StFX, Cavanagh and Synishin both agree that there is no way a rule like that would ever work, and would create more problems than solutions. Additionally, as Cavanagh says, “We’re all adults here. It’s not my place to tell anyone who to love or how to be happy.”
So to all the budding baby lesbians, have no fear! Leave the safety of the Back Wall and U-Haul your way into the web. Whether you become a card-carrying member of the Lipstick Mafia or not, just remember a little chemistry on (or off) the field never hurt anyone.