Print and Go Back espnW.com: Commentary

Monday, June 10, 2013
Teaching in Georgia gratifying

By Jane McManus

For the last week, I've been in Georgia -- the country not the state -- traveling from West to East talking about women, sports and journalism. It has been amazing, starting with the Black Sea town of Batumi, where I spoke to a group of young English learners who wanted to know everything from the hardest thing about my job to the most famous person I've ever met. In the mountain town of Akhaltsikhe, I spoke to university students who explained that sports are not as popular for girls as in America -- yet I've also been asked for advice by those same collegiate women who want their schools to create teams for them to compete on.

I met with editors and reporters from Southern Gate newspaper in Akhaltsikhe -- nearly all women -- who want to provide more sports coverage because polls show reader interest. The problem? There just aren't many sports teams at the high school level for those reporters to cover. When Georgia was part of the USSR, gym class was compulsory for boys and girls. This may contribute to the resistance to sports now that the nation is its own republic again. Not as many boys and girls exercise, but some of the nation's leaders recognize the benefits of sports when it comes to health.

Particularly gratifying was an interview on the morning show for Georgia Public Broadcasting, where sports broadcaster Giorgi Grdzelishvili asked how to get more women involved in the profession.

So in some ways, Georgia is at a crossroads, much as the U.S. was back in the days before Title IX. There is growing interest in sports among girls and women, who are waiting for opportunities to arrive. Yet there is still a culture where playing sports is not completely accepted.