A mother teared up in defense of her daughter’s college swim team Thursday at a press conference where the team described their experiences after a male tried to join the swim team in September, according to video of the conference.
A transgender athlete attempted to join the Roanoke College swim team in September, prompting backlash from the women on the swim team, and the male later left the swim team. Riley Gaines, a former NCAA swimmer who swam with transgender swimmer Lia Thomas, spoke at the conference, hosted by the Independent Women’s Forum, alongside members of the women’s Roanoke swim team who described their experiences with the male on their team and a mother who described her daughter’s experience.
“Never in our wildest dreams did we ever imagine that swimming and sports would teach those girls to be quiet, that they would have to compete with men,” the mother said.
The mother continued on, detailing her daughter’s change in demeanor as she dealt with the male swimmer on her team.
“I barely recognized my daughter after a couple weeks at school,” the mother said.
“She hung her head low; her shoulders were slouched. This was not the kid I sent to Roanoke College. This was a defeated young lady who had something stolen from her,” the mother continued.
The female swimmers also each spoke during the conference about their experiences having to swim alongside a male swimmer.
“Every time we tried to speak up about our feelings, we were shoved aside,” Kate Pearson, one of the captains of the Roanoke women’s swim team, said.
“We were informed that even if our entire team decided to stand together and not swim and emphasize the unfairness that was happening, our coach would be allowed to have a one athlete swim team,” Pearson continued.
Others on the swim team called for the government and the NCAA to protect women by implementing policy changes that would ensure men are not allowed to compete on men’s teams.
“The Roanoke College Board of Trustees scheduled a meeting for Oct. 3, 2023, to discuss the College’s policy and future stance. Prior to that meeting, our student withdrew her request for participation on the women’s swim team. With a strong desire to cement our school’s approach to similar requests in the future, the board convened on Oct. 3 as planned and voted to formally adopt the NCAA policy,” a Roanoke College press statement on the matter reads.
The NCAA policy calls for transgender athlete participation to be determined by the national governing body of whatever sport is at hand. World Aquatics, the national governing body for swimming voted to create an “open category” which would include transgender swimmers.
“We remain committed to supporting our LGBTQ+ community and our student-athletes, all of whom are valued members of our vibrant community,” Roanoke College President Frank Shushok Jr. said in a press statement.
Brandon Poulter on October 5, 2023