Menlo Juniors Start Club to Spread Awareness on Gender Inequality in Sports


Gender inequality in sports remains a pressing issue. Staff illustration: Dorinda Xiao.

Annie Stent, Assistant Opinions Editor

Unequal pay. Unequal treatment in schools. Unequal opportunity in the workforce. The fight for gender equality is an ongoing struggle, and two student-athletes at Menlo have taken the issue into their own hands.

Juniors Sam Sellers and Eloise Thompson founded a Sports Equality Club in an attempt to combat gender inequality in sports. 

They started noticing the difference between boys sports and girls sports their freshman year. “[We] just saw little things,” Sellers said. “The boys would get […] better recognition.” 

During her sophomore year, the varsity girls soccer team won the West Bay Athletic League and Central Coast Section for the eighth time. Despite being a very successful program, girls soccer doesn’t tend to attract the same crowds that many male sports do. Unfortunately, soccer isn’t the only successful program with this issue.

The club has four staff advisors: Assistant Athletic Director Buffie Ward, Head Athletic Trainer Aubrey Fennel, Assistant Director of Sports Performance and Wellness Sam Leeper and Assistant Athletics Trainer Steph Swan. Sellers and Thompson first approached Ward to be their advisor. Ward knew that Fennel, Leeper and Swan were passionate about this issue and brought them on as well. “The three of us immediately hopped on,” Swan said. 

“The biggest [inequality] that I see is just [the lack of] support [for] people going to watch [girls] sports,” Leeper said.

With four advisors backing them, Sellers and Thompson have a lot of support to help them achieve their goals. The advisors are ready to support in any way that they can. “My main role is just to offer guidance and answer any questions I can if needed,” Ward said. “I can [also] offer an administrative perspective.” 

According to Athletic Director Earl Koberlein, Menlo works to keep girls and boys sports equal by following Title IX, which according to the United States Department of Education, is an act that bans discrimination in education and school-related activities on the basis of sex. The school is responsible for providing equal opportunities and cannot deny resources to a girls team if they are providing them for a boys team (and vise versa). 

“We have the coaches meet with myself and a budget person and put down their requests for what they need in their budget,” Athletic Director Earl Koberlein said. 

With that system, the school is able to learn what each team needs and provide that for them. “The school has always been very generous about taking care of sports programs,” Koberlein said. 

Even though Menlo is cognizant of the needs of each team and is generally able to meet them there is always progress to be made. The main issue Sellers and Thompson are tasked combatting will be more centered on the student body than the budgets. 

Sellers and Thompson want to make an impact and increase sports equality at Menlo but are also cognizant of what they can realistically change. “We know you can’t just solve inequality, especially with just two years left of high school,” Thompson said.

Right now, they are focussing on smaller goals. “Hopefully we can make some changes, no matter how big they are,” Thompson said.

Two of these goals are just bringing awareness to the inequalities they see and trying to increase the support of girls sports. “In one of our first meetings, sister teams were created. Girls sports teams were paired with another girls team in order to increase attendance at games,” Ward said. In addition to these sister teams, they are hoping that the entire student body will eventually come out and support girls teams the same way they do for boys teams.

Sellers and Thompson want this club to continue after they graduate in 2023. They are recruiting underclassmen who are passionate about the issue in order to keep the club active. They don’t pretend that inequality in sports will be solved quickly, and they know it’s a long haul. Yet, the club they’ve set up is a step in the right direction.