As a political row erupts over the Open Golf Championship being held at Muirfield, I asked myself how I felt about single sex sports clubs?
My first reaction was one of outrage, it’s the 21st century why should a group of men dictate that women cannot play on their hallowed greens? This was swiftly followed by questioning. I mean, why would you feel that threatened by the presence of the other sex that you would ban them? After all, particularly in golf with the handicap system, surely it would make more sense to ban players with a handicap over 15 for example. That way you guarantee that only the better players are present (I suppose ultimately it does depend upon the motives of the club committee for wanting to remain male only).
But then on reflection, I have been involved with the launch of a women’s only fitness club – is that so very different? Women wanting to exercise in the privacy of a male free environment, perhaps because of body image issues, lack of confidence or finding mixed gyms intimidating
However my conclusion was than having been a member of a women’s only hockey club and then a mixed hockey club, the benefits of mixed clubs far outweigh the negatives.
The most positive aspect for me is family life. When a club is truly family orientated, parents can both play their chosen sport, children will inevitably grow up in a sports orientated environment, start at mini level and progress through the ranks to adulthood and are more likely to continue playing sport in their adult lives.
But it’s not this alone that makes me lean towards mixed clubs. From my experience I feel that a mix of male and female committee members offers a more balanced approach to management of the club, a more ambitious approach to club development and a more grounded approach to welfare.
So all in all, I suppose in conclusion I am no longer outraged or questioning. I just feel that maybe in time all single sex clubs should question and consider what value the opposite sex could bring to their ranks. This process may indeed help their club to progress, attract even more new members and become a place where families can develop their sporting opportunities together. However if they choose to remain as they are, then I for one will not condemn their decision.