Senda Berenson Abbott - Different Rules For Women
Different Rules for Women
Berenson set out to modify the 13 rules the men played by to make the game less strenuous and more inclusive for all players, not just the most skilled. She advocated traits like cooperation and socialization over competition, and was opposed to women's intercollegiate games, preferring instead intramural athletics. Berenson's new rules concentrated on orderly play that prevented women from getting over excited.
To begin with, she allowed only six team members to play on the court at one time. She also divided the court into three sections from which players were assigned and remained throughout the game. This, she reasoned, prevented the women from overexerting themselves running all over the court and prevented exceptional players from dominating the game.
To eliminate physical contact, her rules disallowed players from grabbing the ball from another player's hands. Players could not dribble more than three times before passing or shooting the ball, nor could players hold the ball for more than three seconds. Balls had to be shot with only one hand, as using two hands was believed to flatten the chest and restrict breathing. Guarding was forbidden and falling down was a foul.
In John Sippel's article, "WNBA Notes Smith's Role in Women's Basketball," he wrote that Berenson modified the rules "to prevent a young lady from developing 'dangerous nervous tendencies and losing the grace and dignity and self-respect we would all have her foster.'" Sippel added, "Berenson was among those who recognized 'that if the game did not improve its reputation for womanliness, [women] might not be allowed to play it.'"
At Smith College, Berenson's interests expanded beyond basketball. She also introduced fencing and folk dancing into the school's physical education curriculum and brought remedial gymnastics to students with special physical needs. In 1901, she arranged for field hockey to debut at Smith and helped to organize Smith College's Gymnastics and Field Association. In her continuous search for new activities, she was the second American woman to attend the Royal Central Institute of Gymnastics in Stockholm, Sweden, where she studied advanced fencing.
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