Turns out, administrators in some South Dakota school districts — including a few in our coverage area — do not feel spandex is appropriate attire for teenage girls. And we wonder if the shorts inhibit participation, since some girls may be too embarrassed to wear the hip-hugging garments in public.
It certainly is an uncomfortable subject. At least one source for that story told us that this subject "isn't interesting." That's closed-minded, since some school districts outright ban spandex shorts, while another just down the road may be entirely OK with them. Obviously, it's an issue schools have been forced to confront.
We feel that in many cases, form-fitting volleyball uniforms have gone too far, for several reasons.
First, we feel the shorts may keep some players from participating. Many school districts offer non-spandex alternatives, but that isn't always an ideal solution. Teenagers generally strive to be part of the crowd and not set themselves apart, especially over concerns about their own bodies or for being too conservative.
It's very possible that tight-fitting uniforms are discriminatory, although it's equally possible that no girl wants to put herself in the kind of spotlight that surely would accompany such a case.
Second, there may be some merit to the argument that the uniforms provide freedom of movement, but we wonder how far we must go to achieve it. Although we have no great argument about the tight-fitting attire worn by gymnasts and wrestlers (except that the dynamic movements of gymnasts and wrestlers seem to require less clothing to get in the way), we do note that girls' basketball players wear loose-fitting tops and baggy shorts down to their knees. If girls' basketball players can move freely in baggy uniforms, why do volleyball players need skin-tight apparel?
Third, we know some parents of volleyball players out there feel the form-hugging gear has gone too far.
Every so often, The Daily Republic quietly receives a complaint about a volleyball photograph being too revealing. Each case is taken seriously, and we strive to publish only pictures that are tasteful and respectful to the young women playing the game.
But think about it: Our photographers are simply sitting in the same crowd that's already there watching the action. If something appears inappropriate in print, doesn't that raise a red flag about the uniforms themselves?
Would girls be allowed to wear spandex shorts to class? We don't know the policy of all area schools, but if not, why are tight-fitting uniforms allowed in the gymnasium in front of hundreds of fans?
We're not crazy. We know it's unlikely schools will go back to more conservative uniforms. To call for such a thing is probably not realistic, though stranger things have happened (think of the evolution of basketball uniforms, from short-shorts to shorts so long they're nearly pants).
So today, we commend the area school districts that have remained conservative. We feel they are the districts that are providing the best opportunities for all of their girls.
Meanwhile, we urge all school districts to consider a conservative approach — or to at least not succumb to more liberal ideas — when considering future uniform options.