High school girls in the will have an additional athletic option next spring with the introduction of a new sport—badminton.
In a news release issued Thursday morning, the district said it is introducing a new girls' sport in order to "ensure Title IX compliance" amid next year's switch to a 9-12 high school grade configuration.
“As we near the 40th anniversary of the passage of Title IX, it’s appropriate that we continue to respond to girls’ interests in playing sports,” Dr. Traci Pierce, the district's incoming superintendent, said in the release. “We have a history of strong badminton programs at the junior highs in our district, it is an Olympic sport and we believe it will be a popular offering at the high school level.”
Kathryn Reith, a district spokeswoman, said Title IX concerns not just the number of sports offered for each gender but the relative percentage of boys and girls who participate in high school athletics. Sports like football, for example, attract a large number of male participants event though they are technically just one activity, Reith said.
“We (are) interested in increasing the percentage of girls who were playing sports,” she said. Reith said she did not know the current athletic participation rates for the district's male and female high school students.
The major factor in deciding which sport to add was a survey that listed 25 sports and asked students which sports they would like to play. Badminton was the most popular choice, according to LWSD, with 166 of 782 high school girls indicating they would like to participate in the sport.
Already offered by the school district at the junior high level, badminton is an Olympic sport that was developed in colonial India by British troops. Many recreational clubs exist on the Eastside, including the Bellevue Badminton Club and the Microsoft Badminton Club.
Reith said it's possible the Eastside's ethnic and cultural diversity may be contributing to local high-school students' enthusiasm toward the sport.
“It is a popular sport in Asia, generally, and we certainly have lots of folks in our area who are from parts of the world where badminton is more popular, so there may be some influences there,” she said.
Badminton is not a WIAA sport, and league play has not yet been established. With three out of Bellevue's four high school's already having teams, and the fourth school planning to add one, Reith said KingCo officials have been talking about the possibility of making badminton a league sport.
Meanwhile, LWSD is beginning to seek out coaches for the new teams at its four major high schools. Reith said those interested in applying for a position should monitor the district's online jobs board in the coming weeks and months.