Brought to you by Newscorp Australia

Proposal to change gendered language in sport

Caleb Bond, November 15, 2021 7:00PM Kids News

Print Article

Education experts at Monash University have questioned whether some of the language of sport – including terms like “sportsmanship” – are discriminatory on gender grounds. media_cameraEducation experts at Monash University have questioned whether some of the language of sport – including terms like “sportsmanship” – are discriminatory on gender grounds.


Reading level: orange

“Sportsmanship” should be scrapped as a discriminatory* term, two academics* have proposed.

Other sporting phrases such as “man on” have also been called out by Monash University education experts Dr Laura Alfrey and Dr Ruth Jeanes for potentially excluding* students.

The pair made their case in an article for the Australian Council for Educational Research’s magazine.

The academics write that they have developed eight strategies for inclusive* physical education lessons and that they have considered it from an “intersectional* perspective*”, including sexuality, race, class and culture.

Father and daughter playing cricket in the garden media_cameraMonash University’s Dr Alfrey and Dr Jeanes have developed eight strategies for inclusive physical education classes that take sexuality, race, class and culture and other factors into account. Picture: iStock

Their article suggests that the continued use of words such as “sportsmanship” provides “an excellent opportunity to talk about discrimination and its impacts”.

Dr Alfrey also said words such as sportsmanship excluded “anyone that does not identify as a man and are therefore examples of exclusive language often used in a sporting context”.

“Instead of ‘sportsmanship’ you could use the term ‘sportspersonship’ or discuss ‘fair play’,” Dr Alfrey said. “Instead of ‘man on’ you could say ‘player on’.”

Director of the Foundations of Western Civilisation program at the Institute of Public Affairs, Dr Bella d’Abrera said it was unnecessary for classrooms to change the language around sports.

“Mainstream* Australians are not offended by the word ‘sportsmanship’ and would rather that the English language is left alone,” she said.

Little Boy Kicking a Soccer Ball media_cameraTwo education experts from Monash University suggest using “fair play” rather than “sportsmanship” as a way of conveying the same meaning without the potential for exclusion. Picture: Getty Images

But Dr Alfrey said gendered terms were “so ingrained* in particular contexts that some children might not notice or care” but “some children, however, do notice and feel excluded and discriminated (against) as a result”.

“A small change in language can make a big difference in terms of children feeling safe and like they belong,” she said.


  • discriminatory: treating a person or group of people differently and especially unfairly
  • academics: teacher or scholar in a university or institution of higher education
  • excluding: leaving out, not taking into account
  • inclusive: not excluding any person or group involved in something
  • intersectional: considers several forms of discrimination overlapping
  • perspective: point of view, attitude toward something, ways of regarding something
  • ingrained: deeply established, fixed, entrenched, difficult to shift


Play influences kids’ career choices

Lego to build blocks without bias

Kids give gender stereotypes the boot


  1. How many strategies have the education experts developed for inclusive physical education lesson?
  2. What four factors are included in the proposed “intersectional perspective”?
  3. Which two common phrases have the potential to exclude, according to Dr Alfrey and Dr Jeanes?
  4. In which magazine did the article appear?
  5. Dr d’Abrera is the director of which program at the Institute of Public Affairs?


1. Possible discriminatory words
Work with a partner to compile a list of words that contain the word ‘man’ or may discriminate in other ways.

Separate your page into three columns. Head the first column ‘Possible discriminatory word’, the second column ‘Alternatives’ and the third ‘Do you think it needs to be changed?’ Write as many words and alternatives below these headings then make your decision about them. Start with the examples given with the story.

Time: allow 15 minutes to complete this activity
Curriculum Links: English; Personal and Social, Critical and Creative Thinking

2. Extension
Are you offended by the word ‘sportsmanship’ and think it should be changed?

It’s important that children feel included and safe, especially during physical education lessons and activities. If children are reluctant to engage in physical activities, what are some ways to make them feel more comfortable, accepted and included? Think of your own school context to help you make some suggestions.

Time: allow 15 minutes to complete this activity
Curriculum Links: English; Health and Physical Education; Personal and Social, Critical and Creative Thinking

I Spy Nouns
Nouns are places, names (of people and objects), and time (months or days of the week). 

How many nouns can you find in the article? Can you sort them into places, names and time?

Pick three nouns and add an adjective (describing word) to the nouns.

Extra Reading in humanities