Battle of the Sexes


By Wendy Soderburg '82, Photos by Max Morse

Published Jan 1, 2008 9:00 AM

Scout team member Dave Updegrove, a third-year student majoring in history and business economics, learned very quickly that while the women's ears may be delicate, their playing style isn't.

"I play against some of the centers who are 6'6", 200 pounds, and if you hold back, they're going to make you look like a fool," Updegrove says. "At first it was a weird dynamic, because I'd never played against girls in basketball. But then you get in there and they give you your first elbow to the face, and you say, 'All right, let's play!' "

Senior Joel Jackson finds that he sometimes has to explain to friends why he enjoys being on the scout team. "Some guys look at you, like, 'Hey, what's wrong with you? You're playing with women,' " says the philosophy/accounting major. "But they don't know that not only can I beat them, but some of these women can beat them as well."

The practice of using men is quite prevalent with women's basketball teams across the country, according to UCLA Associate Athletic Director and Senior Women's Administrator Petrina Long. Yet the use of male scout teams has become quite a controversial topic between the NCAA Committee on Women's Athletics #8212; which worried that the practice took away opportunities for women #8212; and many women's coaches, who argued that it actually benefited all the female players on a roster. Currently, there's a truce between the two groups, Long said.

The UCLA women, meanwhile, can't say enough good things about their guys. Sophomore point guard Allison Taka says, "They're so great! They're really smart, too. Some of them are double majoring, so they're just as busy as we are, sometimes busier, and they make the time to come out. And they don't get anything for it, really. They're not on scholarship; they just come out to help us. And they're so nice about it."

Senior forward Lindsey Pluimer notes the small, but equally significant, tangibles the guys bring, such as muffins to practice or "Taco Night" on Wednesdays, and the fact that they come to all the women's local games and even to some away games.

But it's in practices where the guys are most beneficial. "They have definitely helped us. The speed and the strength are completely different," says Erica Tukiainen, a sophomore guard/forward. "You're not going to see that on the women's level, so if you practice harder, the games are going to be easier."

There is no glory for the men on the scout team, nor is there any monetary payment. "These are kids with full academic loads, and all we're able to give them is shoes and gear to practice in," says Assistant Coach Pam Walker '85, M.Ed. '90. "Literally, the things that we're able to do for them are limited, but the things that they are able to give us are limitless. And I think that's just awesome."