Female Athletes Reject Stereotypes

Whaddya think?

Also hit the link to see pics of Courtney Paris.

February 8, 2007
Athletes Embrace Size, Rejecting Stereotypes
By JER? LONGMAN

NORMAN, Okla., Feb. 5 ? The University of Oklahoma tells women?s basketball fans a lot about Courtney Paris, the Sooners? 6-foot-4 center. They know that she ranks third in the country in scoring, second in rebounding and that her dream job is to be a novelist. That her best friend is her identical twin and teammate, Ashley Paris, and that her father, Bubba Paris, won three Super Bowls as a lineman for the San Francisco 49ers.

But one piece of information about Paris is not made public by the university: her weight.

The weights of male athletes are widely publicized by college teams, but 35 years after passage of the gender-equity legislation known as Title IX, and 25 seasons after the National Collegiate Athletic Association began sponsoring women?s basketball, the weights of amateur female athletes are almost never published, in basketball or any other sport.

Even as women are embracing their size and power, projecting the notion that a wide body can be a fit body, the idea of weighing female athletes is under vigorous debate. Some colleges weigh their basketball players regularly to guard against rapid weight loss or gain. Some weigh them infrequently, others not at all.

?It?s a sensitivity about eating disorders,? said Jody Conradt, the Hall of Fame coach who has led the Texas Longhorns for three decades. ?We?re dealing with a population that is vulnerable because it?s a Type A personality, driven, the people that want to be perfectionists.?

Female athletes still face the same enormous societal pressures that other women face to remain thin and to possess a body type that many find unrealistic, especially for sports. Some experts believe athletes feel even greater pressure, given the assumption ? also debatable ? that they can improve performance by lowering their weight and percentage of body fat. Thus, many become vulnerable to what is called the female athlete triad: eating disorders, interrupted menstruation and osteoporosis.

The N.C.A.A. recommends that women not be weighed on a regular basis, said Dr. Ron A. Thompson, a psychologist and eating-disorder therapist in Bloomington, Ind., who consults with the collegiate association. He said he opposed making weights public and the practice of weighing female athletes. Lining athletes up for weigh-ins is a form of ?public degradation,? Thompson said.

?Weighing doesn?t accomplish anything, and it can cause undue anxiety and even trigger unhealthy weight-loss practices,? Thompson wrote in an e-mail message.

The touchy issue of weight received prominent attention recently when the professional tennis star Serena Williams faced questions about supposedly being out of shape before the Australian Open. After she won the tournament, she faced criticism for appearing to weigh more than a listed 135 pounds.

Williams has led an ?in-your-face redefinition of what a strong woman should look like,? said Donna Lopiano, executive director of the Women?s Sports Foundation. Basketball and tennis courts provide an oasis of freedom for female athletes, she said, although she added that ?90 percent of their lives is not lived in that oasis? and that women?s sports have ?been burdened by a stereotypical view of women.?

Thompson said he tried to assist female athletes, not by focusing on their weight, but on their eating and how it is related to their emotions. Many teams have nutritionists and psychologists available. The trend in college is moving away from weighing athletes, Lopiano said. But colleges are left to make their own decisions.

The female basketball players at top-ranked Duke are weighed once a week, Coach Gail Goestenkors said; they are not given a target weight, but are monitored to guard against quick weight gain, she said. Ohio State?s players are also weighed regularly, Coach Jim Foster said, adding, ?It?s a medical issue; putting your head in the sand is not an attractive alternative.?

At Tennessee, players are neither weighed nor measured for body-fat percentage, said Jenny Moshak, the university?s assistant athletic director for sports medicine. Instead, players are monitored for performance in such areas as speed, flexibility, vertical jump and weight lifting.

?Far more detrimental things occur when you try to micromanage body shape and size,? Moshak said.

At Texas, players are weighed and tested for lean mass two or three times a year, but always privately by sports-science experts. Coaches of women?s teams are not permitted to weigh players, set target weights or initiate a conversation about weight.

Some Oklahoma players are weighed up to twice a week during preseason, the strength coach Tim Overman said. During the season, they are weighed and tested for percentage of body fat about once a month, Overman said, adding that too much attention paid to weight loss during the season can lead to calorie deficiency and fatigue.

Courtney Paris?s father weighed more than 330 pounds when he was in the N.F.L. He was cut by the 49ers in 1991 when he failed to make their weight limitation of 325 pounds. Overman said he wanted Courtney Paris to lose about 15 pounds, from 240 to 225, so that she could lessen the stress on her body while extending her stamina and the length of her career.

Paris, a 19-year-old sophomore, said she did not generally care if people asked about her weight, saying, ?It?s not like I can hide who I am.? She said she was proud and glad to be in game shape, but ?being in shape and being conditioned well are things I really have to work on.?

Yet, it is not universally believed that lowering the weight and percentage of body fat of fit athletes will enhance their performance, said Thompson. Some studies indicate improvement, while others do not, he said.

If Paris lost weight, ?she might not be as strong or she might be distracted by trying to maintain the weight loss and might not perform as well,? said Thompson, an Oklahoma graduate who said he did not know Paris.

Perhaps never have so many influential centers played on so many commanding teams in one season. Alison Bales, a 6-7 center for Duke, leads the nation in shot blocking, while 6-9 Allyssa DeHaan of Michigan State is second. Sylvia Fowles of Louisiana State, is 6-6 and anchors the country?s top defense; 6-5 Jessica Davenport of Ohio State can play in the post and beyond the 3-point line; and 6-4 Candace Parker of Tennessee can play any position and has transformed the dunk from a novelty shot to a statement of authority.

?There are more centers of different types across the country than I?ve ever seen,? said Sherri Coale, Oklahoma?s coach. ?You have graceful, powerful, fundamental, thick, long ? all shapes and sizes. To me, that?s the greatest evolution in that position.?

And there is no more dominant center than Paris, who averages 23 points and 16 rebounds a game. Last season as a freshman she became the first collegiate player, man or woman, to collect at least 700 points, 500 rebounds and 100 blocked shots in a season.

?She?s a female Shaquille O?Neal,? said Kim Mulkey, who coached Baylor to the 2005 national championship. Kurt Budke, the Oklahoma State coach, said, ?She?s the best player in the country.?

Because Paris has soft hands and a ravenous anticipation for rebounding, nearly 25 percent of her points have resulted from offensive rebounds ? often from her own misses.

?She?s got much better hands than Terrell Owens,? said Foster, the Ohio State coach. ?She?s not going to lead the league in passes dropped.?

Paris represents the evolution of a position that has grown more essential as players have become more skilled in the post and comfortable with their size.

Female players today have professional role models in the Women?s National Basketball Association, undergo sport-specific weight training, practice regularly against male scout teams and wear baggy uniforms that allow them to be less self-conscious than athletes like volleyball players, gymnasts and swimmers who participate in more revealing outfits.

?We?re women who are not apologizing for being bigger and being different or for being athletic,? Paris said. ?It?s more acceptable in society. For my generation, it?s really not a big deal.?

Her twin sister, Ashley, a center-forward at Oklahoma, said that their mother, who is 6-1, told of slouching as a girl, and of buying shoes that were too small, in an effort not to stand out.

The difference today, at least in basketball, is that big women are more secure in being and playing big, said Goestenkors, the Duke coach. She said that Bales, the Blue Devils? center, proudly wore three-inch heels, which made her 6-10, while the team was in Canc?n, Mexico, in December. Bales said a photograph of her in heels on Duke?s Web site had elicited several grateful messages from tall girls or their parents.

?Before, tall girls were all soft and finesse and didn?t want contact,? Goestenkors said. ?Now it?s strong, physical, bring on the contact. Courtney epitomizes that.?

Growing up in Piedmont, Calif., Courtney Paris developed her skills against four older brothers, who ranged from 6-4 to 6-8.

?Courtney and Ashley had an opportunity to see their father, who was big and winning championships, and have seen their brothers go off and play ball,? Bubba Paris said in a telephone interview. ?In their mind, being big is good; it benefits you.?

That was evident Sunday when Oklahoma overcame an early deficit against Oklahoma State by inserting Ashley Paris in the high post to pass to her sister in the low post. Courtney scored 41 points, 2 below her career high, and grabbed 19 rebounds in a 78-63 victory.

?I think people have fallen away from the stereotype that big means slow and tall means clumsy,? Ashley said.

Adam Himmelsbach contributed reporting from College Park, Md.

Copyright 2007 The New York Times Company

[quote]emdawgz1 wrote:

Whaddya think?[/quote]

I laughed, I cried…

But seriously, I liked the idea of strictly judging an athlete based on their abilities rather than just their state of being. But when I hear someone justify things because these girls are “Type A” personalities makes me want to cut their head off. Moreover, I think Jim Foster is right in that not only is there an athletic issue, but a health issue as well.

It was pretty funny to hear that public weigh-ins are just for derogatory purposes, I’m sure 250# athletes destroying 150# athletes (or vice versa) or 300# athletes having heart attacks on the field of play would be much less degrading.

I wonder if the girls themselves really worry about the weigh-ins that much. I can’t see a serious athlete being that stuck-up that they can’t get weighed.

I work with female high school volleyball players and I talk with them about their weight. I don’t see how it’s a big deal. I tell them to weigh themselves every day or couple of days and to tell me if they lose a significant amount of weight (more than a couple of pounds over the week) or likewise gain.

If a player is consistantly losing more than a couple of pounds after a training session, they aren’t replacing fluids properly and might be at the risk of dehydration or, at the least, decreased performance. If a player is gaining weight too quickly, their body isn’t going to be used to the weight and that can lead to decreased performance or knee/back pain.

The actual number of what an athlete weighs really isn’t important (outside of football and possibly baksetball or hockey, where sheer mass is useful to push people around), but what matters is the rate of change of an athlete’s weight.

Personally, it’s insulting to think that a female athlete is too weak and feeble-minded to be weighed-in. An athlete is an athlete and should be treated as such. Coddling female athletes is a 70s mentality.

I don’t think it’s a matter of the girls being weak-minded, it’s a matter of them being obsessive about weight, to their detriment. Intense, type A personalities want to be “perfect” in every way and often the images and expectations from the media of being thin at all costs can overshadow the more important things like being strong and healthy. It sounds like this girl and others are changing that perception, which is good.

That was an interesting read, thanks for posting.


If you viewed the article in NYT you’d see the picture of Courtney Paris. 19yo 6’1 245. The coaches wanted her to get down to 220.

The article claims they see their father as a role model and for him bigger was better.
It doesnt lokk healthier on them anymore than it did on Bubba.

I just dont like this talk about rejecting the stereotype. These are big girls who should be encouraged to be healthier.

I went to the University of Oklahoma, and seen Courtney Paris play, and seen her up close. Don’t take this the wrong way, I’m not trying to be insensitive to women, but she’s is a BEAST!!! (in a good way), she’s tall and big, and she can play ball. Heck, she’s taller and bigger than 90% of the guys on campus.

It has never been a concern on campus, so I don’t know why it’s a big deal now. Her twin sister, Ashley, is very thin, but doesn’t put up the numbers CP3 does. She’s a bruiser underneath the goal, and needs her size to be dominant. That’s why she will break virtually every OU women’s basketball record there is.

Even though she might be considered ‘overweight’ by some, she plays high level competitive collegiate basketball, and can run up and down the court with the smaller girls. It’s not like she isn’t getting any exercise at all. It’s like telling an offensive lineman to lose weight, but he needs the weight for his position. Just because she is not the typical women’s basketball player size doesn’t mean it should be an issue. I think she is just fine and healthy the way she is.

BOOMER SOONER!!!

[quote]emdawgz1 wrote:
These are big girls who should be encouraged to be healthier. [/quote]

No, they are competitive athletes who should be encouraged to seek the best performance in their sport, within a reasonable standard of health. There’s a difference there.

Is the 300-pound powerlifter as healthy as he could be if he dropped a little weight? No, but he’s willing to sacrifice that to succeed in his sport. Let’s face it, as athletes, we only have a certain amount of time on this earth to accomplish what many of us have dreamed about doing since we were little kids.

Would Courtney Paris fit the definition of “health” a little bit better if she trimmed down a bit? Maybe. But then maybe she wouldn’t be able to throw girls around like ragdolls in the post and grab all those rebounds.

Besides, she’s fit enough to run 94 feet over and over again for 40 minutes. I’d say she’s healthier than most of the female population in this country.

[quote]tmoney1 wrote:
Just because she is not the typical women’s basketball player size doesn’t mean it should be an issue. I think she is just fine and healthy the way she is.
[/quote]

Damn straight. She looks a helluva lot healthier to me than Paris Hilton!

[quote]jtrinsey wrote:
emdawgz1 wrote:
These are big girls who should be encouraged to be healthier.

No, they are competitive athletes who should be encouraged to seek the best performance in their sport, within a reasonable standard of health. There’s a difference there.

Is the 300-pound powerlifter as healthy as he could be if he dropped a little weight? No, but he’s willing to sacrifice that to succeed in his sport. Let’s face it, as athletes, we only have a certain amount of time on this earth to accomplish what many of us have dreamed about doing since we were little kids.

Would Courtney Paris fit the definition of “health” a little bit better if she trimmed down a bit? Maybe. But then maybe she wouldn’t be able to throw girls around like ragdolls in the post and grab all those rebounds.

Besides, she’s fit enough to run 94 feet over and over again for 40 minutes. I’d say she’s healthier than most of the female population in this country.[/quote]

Perhaps now, however what is this doing to her health, long term.

In the past month there have been 3 of four stories about former NFL linemen who died as a result of their playing days.

Mike Webster, Reggie white, Andre Waters… How long is Courtney paris going to be able to play at that weight. What happens when she reaches her mid 20’s if her metabolisim slows. When 240 goes to 50 or 60. What is playing @ that weight doing to her knees.

Maybe i’m wrong. it just seems that she’d be as good or better @ 220.

[quote]emdawgz1 wrote:

Perhaps now, however what is this doing to her health, long term.

In the past month there have been 3 of four stories about former NFL linemen who died as a result of their playing days.

Mike Webster, Reggie white, Andre Waters… How long is Courtney paris going to be able to play at that weight. What happens when she reaches her mid 20’s if her metabolisim slows. When 240 goes to 50 or 60. What is playing @ that weight doing to her knees.

Maybe i’m wrong. it just seems that she’d be as good or better @ 220.

[/quote]

At least the guys in the NFL get paid good money to keep their weight at an unhealthy level.

[quote]emdawgz1 wrote:
Perhaps now, however what is this doing to her health, long term.

In the past month there have been 3 of four stories about former NFL linemen who died as a result of their playing days.

Mike Webster, Reggie white, Andre Waters…
[/quote]

2 out of the 3 of those had nothing to do with weight, and Reggie White’s death had far more to do with his sarcoidosis- something unrelated to football. Waters wasn’t even a lineman and his paying weight was about 215.

Still, you do have a point about health affects AFTER they are done playing. Well I would say that has a lot more to do with having discipline after you retire.

Also, people need to realize how tall 6’4" is for a girl. I’m 220# at 6’4" and still fairly skinnny. Obviously it is different for a girl, but she’s not some 5’6" girl weighing in at 240.

But aside from that, I do agree that she isn’t in “optimal health” right now. However, I’m sure she considers it an acceptable sacrifice. Is the bodybuilder who carries around 250 pounds of muscle on a 5’8" frame in “optimal health”? Probably not. Is the hockey player who plays through broken bones in “optimal health”? No. But if you want to reach the top level of athletics, you have to make some sacrifices.

[quote]Zap Branigan wrote:
At least the guys in the NFL get paid good money to keep their weight at an unhealthy level.
[/quote]

It sounds like this girl is good enough to be getting a full-ride. I dont know about you, but I’d consider a 150 grand education ‘good money.’

Anyway, I think that article is crap. Everyone today is all about equality (and rightfully so), well, that means girls can get weighed, too. If a girl wants to get weighed in private, let her do that, this way weigh-ins wont be ‘public degradation.’ or whatever the hell that jackass said.

And the idiot who said weight/BF% doesnt affect performance, get the fuck out of here. If I was at 8-9% BF instead of 14-15%, guess what, I’d be able to run faster, jump higher, and be way more agile. I’m no exception, it’s the same for all athletes.

That said, I dont have a problem with this girl being as big as she is, good for her, she’s obviously dominating womens college basketball. But, there were a whole bunch of comments in this article that looked like they were pulled out of paris hilton’s non-existant ass.

When I was in college (Vandy the first time) for post-grad work, I saw Stanley Roberts and Shaq play together for LSU. Even then it was clear that it is possible for someone who’s really big to be lithe, agile, and athletic. Our assessment of size in athletes has changed a great deal in the last thirty years; I’m not ready to say this young lady is too big or too anything. I just admire her ability.

But my favorite line from the whole thing:

?She?s got much better hands than Terrell Owens,? said Foster, the Ohio State coach. ?She?s not going to lead the league in passes dropped.?

TO has become an expression (like kleenex or xerox) synonymous with so much that’s wrong with athletics. I love it that he makes sure that there’s no end of ways to take shots at what he represents.

I’ve stood next to Courtney Paris, and she’s definitely 6’4 (I’m 6’4 as well, and we were eye to eye), but she doesn’t look like she weighs 240 pounds, she carries it very well, she’s well proportioned.

But the thing is that she’s very active. She plays D-1 ball, and she runs up and down the court for 40 minutes, covering 30+ games and tons of practices. She’s in good shape, and I think people are making a big deal out of her weight. Just let her play the game and dominate the way she always does.

[quote]Jillybop wrote:

Intense, type A personalities want to be “perfect” in every way…[/quote]

grrrr…

So “perfect” as in the perfect ballplayer and the perfect physique? How about her grades and social life? Would someone with a compulsion to take over the world and kill all the Jews be a “type A” personality even if they were a little overweight? It’s a stupid catch all that doesn’t mean anything and creates distinctly false associations. Just because you play basketball and want to be thin doesn’t make you “type A”. Just because you aren’t trying to do everything perfect all the time doesn’t mean you’re not “type A”.

You want to change the perception? Quit perpetuating the false justifications and associations.

EDIT: Didn’t mean to be so blunt, Jillybop. You do a lot of good around T-Nation and I didn’t mean to be insulting, I just really hate the “because they’re/I’m a type A personality” stuff.

I think many of you are making a lot of assumptions about Courtney based on a lousy picture of her.

She’s 6’4", 240#, but if you saw play live, or saw her in normal clothes around campus, you would see that she’s not FAT at all.

She’s got a little cushion, but as someone else said, she’s well proportioned. It’s not like she’s got a gut hanging over her belt.

Calling Courtney fat is like calling a 5’4", 140# girl obese.

As for her performance, she’s on pace to break OU records by the end of her sophomore season, and she’s got a shot at setting some All-Time Career Records in Women’s D-I Basketball. She’s arguably the best player in Women’s B-Ball as a sophomore.

She’s the only player in Men’s or Women’s B-ball in NCAA history to score 1000 points, grab 700 rebounds, and block 100 shots in the same season, and she did it as a TRUE FRESHMAN!

Yeah, she really needs to drop a few pounds. [/sarcasm]

Lucasa, I’m confused (not offended :)), do you take exception to the phrase “type A”? I may not have made my point well, but I don’t see a reason to publish the players weights and I worry that some would find it very upsetting. Although maybe publishing it would help other girls see healthy, realistic numbers as opposed to runway model stats. Hmmm, now I’m not sure.

Regardless, Paris is obviously a hell of an athlete, both skills and conditioning.

[quote]tGunslinger wrote:
I think many of you are making a lot of assumptions about Courtney based on a lousy picture of her.

She’s 6’4", 240#, but if you saw play live, or saw her in normal clothes around campus, you would see that she’s not FAT at all.

She’s got a little cushion, but as someone else said, she’s well proportioned. It’s not like she’s got a gut hanging over her belt.

Calling Courtney fat is like calling a 5’4", 140# girl obese.

As for her performance, she’s on pace to break OU records by the end of her sophomore season, and she’s got a shot at setting some All-Time Career Records in Women’s D-I Basketball. She’s arguably the best player in Women’s B-Ball as a sophomore.

She’s the only player in Men’s or Women’s B-ball in NCAA history to score 1000 points, grab 700 rebounds, and block 100 shots in the same season, and she did it as a TRUE FRESHMAN!

Yeah, she really needs to drop a few pounds. [/sarcasm][/quote]

tGunslinger,

Do you go to OU? I graduated from there in 2002.

Yeah, she’s definitely NOT fat. She’s got game!!!

I think the issue of weight is being blown out of proportion. I’ve never met her but from her description and statistics I think all-positive. Someone who can dominate in collegiate b-ball is someone I respect, male or female. Like others have said, athletes are athletes and that counts for a lot… I’d prefer her over an anorexic any day.

[quote]Jillybop wrote:
Lucasa, I’m confused (not offended :)), do you take exception to the phrase “type A”? I may not have made my point well, but I don’t see a reason to publish the players weights and I worry that some would find it very upsetting. Although maybe publishing it would help other girls see healthy, realistic numbers as opposed to runway model stats. Hmmm, now I’m not sure.

Regardless, Paris is obviously a hell of an athlete, both skills and conditioning.
[/quote]

It’s the “type A” phrase (I said I hate it when people use the term in my first post on the thread). It’s a vague term that obfuscates the difference between being motivated, driven, and successful and being accommodating/weak, overburdened, and psychologically askew. And people mainly use it to assuage their fears, justify their pre-conceived biases, or both.

IMO, the athletes should post their numbers. Everyone around them is watching their numbers and health to an extreme degree… so long as the numbers remain honest. And I would think the fact that it’s marginally relevant to the athlete’s happiness, looks, and ability would drive the point home even harder. It would be better than runway models or the Slimfast “your size” commercials.