The evaluation of the data generated a system of categories according to the analytical procedures described above. This described various phenomena in the light of the questions raised. The phenomena were concisely titled and illustrated with anchor quotations. These were interpreted accordingly.
The male view of women in the game
It became clear in the analysis of the data that the men interviewed said little about gender differences or did not attach any particular importance to them. Exemplary are the statements of male Player D:
Um, and with the woman we have in the team it is actually, yes, normal. So it’s not like we treat her differently or, um, and she’s been playing with us for 5 or 6 years. Seven years, I don’t know how long. But she’s been with us for so long that, um, yes, for us, she belongs to us and yes, like everyone else, so it’s not like we treat anyone differently or anything.
Player D does not address the question of the differences between the national teams in the following. Like the other men interviewed, D does not describe any gender-specific phenomena. It is rather the case that the men all reported normality and equal treatment. These statements seem naïve, especially against the background that the men interviewed played wheelchair basketball professionally, whereas the women on the same teams usually had amateur status, which is evident from the interviews. Here, a difference in recognition based on gender within a team becomes clear. Similarly, the men in the RBBL are clearly in the majority. On the other hand, the disadvantages based on the difference category of gender become very clear in the interviews with women. Therefore, anchor quotes from these interviews are used in the following categories to highlight the phenomena.
Women and disability: double disadvantage in mixed teams
The classification system is intended to equalise the different physical conditions and thus create equal opportunities in competition. With regard to playing positions, the data show that the degree of disability has a negative impact on commitment to the game. Gender seems to have the same effect. Women play in central, important positions at the international level, while on club teams these positions are usually occupied by men. The existing or expected physical abilities are decisive here. In the following, female Player B reports on corresponding phenomena with regard to the centre position.
And actually I have played all positions. On the national team I played centre because I am tall. On the club team I mainly played wing (…).
And what was your role on the national team?
Mainly centre player at the beginning. And then we also had leg amputees. And also some who were taller than me. When you are in a wheelchair, you have a certain inclination to sit in the wheelchair because of your paralysis. That means you sit with your bottom quite far down. Your legs are in front, practically, you don’t have any abdominal muscles to keep you in your chair and to prevent you from falling out when you move forward. And a non-disabled person has full muscles. They can sit up straight as high as they are allowed to and still support themselves forward, and that’s why my centre role was gone later on, at the moment when the leg amputees and the polios got involved and yes, or meniscus. Many of those who were no longer able to play runners’ basketball were then allowed to play on the basis of knee damage, at that time runners in general were also allowed to play [wheelchair] basketball. So they are allowed to play anyway … Yes, and then I mainly played wing afterwards.
B had started her career as a centre player. When she switched to teams with athletes with less physical limitations, she had to switch to other positions. She described being in a competition for position with runners that she could not win in the long run. Here it becomes clear that opening up wheelchair basketball to athletes without disabilities can also be a disadvantage for the athletes with disabilities. The less-restricted physical possibilities here have a clear influence on the occupation of the centre position, which is very important in wheelchair basketball. Centre players usually score many points and are crucial for the team’s success. Here, a female player with a greater disability takes a secondary role. Likewise, B described that she was able to play this position on the women’s national team and not on the gender-mixed club team. There she mostly acts as a winger. This position is clearly less relevant for deciding victory and defeat in the game. Female player B thus bears much less responsibility for the success of her team in the club team than in the national team. B does not criticise this, but accepts it as the status quo. The intertwined disadvantages based on the categories of gender and disability seemed to her to be a given and could not be changed. Likewise, for B this was interwoven into the sporting competition and was part of her career. The phenomena in competition associated with the difference category of gender are described in more detail below.
Collective stigmatising of attributions in competition
The different competition settings (mixed-gender and single-gender) are described intensively by all players in the interviews. Collective and at the same time stigmatising attributions are made for men and women in wheelchair basketball. These concerned, among other things, different ways of playing and competences in competition. At various points, the men’s game seemed to be considered superior. However, important qualities based on gender were also attributed to female players. While the men tended to refer to women’s qualities in social interaction, the female players emphasised their tactical competence. This becomes visible, for example, in the interview excerpt from female Player E:
We need to be strong to be able to play internationally. Although we understand the game, the speed of the men and the power conversion means we learn things that we as women wouldn’t learn otherwise. Thus, because we are challenged by the men and we want to play, we want to keep up; we don’t hold back. Yes, that’s all very well. But we have to be able to play with each other. (…) Yes, the women, as I said, played more with tactics, learned the blocks, learned the moves and so on. The men tried to focus a lot on speed. The women did blocks and so on. That means you have to be able to play together with the wing and centre players on the side. Then you can, if you play together, score more easily. At that time, the men always tried to play individually; whoever was faster than the other would come in and score. Yes, there was a big difference between what the women used to play and what the men used to play.
E’s statements are determined by collective attributions. These show a traditional image of men and women in sporting competition. Men play more selfishly than women and have advantages because of athleticism. It is interesting that disability obviously does not play a role here. The women have to assert themselves ‘with the men’. According to E, this inevitably leads to women having to develop tactical qualities. Thus, the women’s game is more tactical and cooperative. They seem to make better use of their teammates. According to E, the men’s game, or the way of playing experienced in the mixed-gender teams in the Bundesliga, is more physically demanding than games among women. The level of play determined by the men in the Bundesliga helps the women in their tasks on the national team (e.g. World Championships and Paralympic Games). This reproduction of a gender stereotype presented here (men are faster and stronger and have a better playing ability than women) is exemplary of the statements of the female players.
Asymmetric power structures on the field
With regard to inequality dimensions of men and women in wheelchair basketball, it can be noted that the quota of women in the gender-mixed teams was low. In addition, it is clear from the interview statements that men who can play wheelchair basketball as a profession without restrictions received better pay. The women interviewed pursued gainful part-time or full-time employment alongside sport, which represented a double burden. Thus, the male players had higher material recognition and security, although the women played this sport on the same or partly on a higher performance level. These structural components influence the complex situation and seem like a mirror for the typical phenomena that can be described in the context of the gender-mixed RBBL between men and women. These often involved stereotypical attributions and representations of gender. Female Player F described a concrete situation that again made use of the image of the strong men and the weaker women.
I was the mum of the team. Um, and what did—G [a teammate] was so sweet, (…) pretty much at the end of the season, (…) we played against Lahn-Dill 2 I think. (…) That was a cup game. And um, some asshole twisted my arm really badly, really badly. It really hurt. Um, I took the ball up here and he didn’t just take the ball from me as a huge person, but he grabbed my arm, took the ball and drove away. And so, I couldn’t play anymore. Um, and I was substituted because nothing worked at the moment and then G said ‘Save the queen’ and they really gave it to him—he played hard and shut him down, the guy suffered. The Lahn-Dill player suffered. He said, ‘If you do something to our queen, you suffer for it. You suffer for it’. And really when opponents were very rough, they said ‘Who did that? Number so and so? Mhm’. They didn’t necessarily foul, but they played hard basketball against him.
F describes a concrete situation in which a teammate committed a revenge foul on an opponent. The teammate’s intention seems to be based on a protective instinct for the ‘queen’. The male teammate interprets the female teammate as needing protection. This creates the weak position for the ‘queen’. F’s language is also striking: She describes the action as ‘sweet’ and herself as the ‘mummy of the team’. Here, too, classic role models or behaviour patterns become clear.
But it was not only the interaction in the team that was gender-stereotypically charged. The competitive situation in the team itself was also influenced accordingly. This is described by female player K (herself a 1-point female player) in a section about the internal team competition for game shares.
I compete in my category. I compete when … When I compete, I compete with the one-point men. But also not really. Um, everyone on my team has to be better than me. Firstly, men, and secondly, more points. They have to be better because otherwise ‘they’re too bad’. They have to be faster than me. There’s just no other way. They have to be faster because they have more points. If they are slower, they won’t play because they are too bad. They have to be faster than me in the RBBL. That’s just the way it is. If they’re slower: bye-bye.
K was one of two women on her team. The other woman was classified higher and thus, according to K, must be more powerful. According to K, the men must be more powerful in the competition due to their gender. This also applies to all other men in the RBBL. From these statements it is clear that the classification system reinforces gender inequalities. The hierarchisation of men and women is correspondingly charged and is openly addressed by the female players. It is a matter of course for K that the same score does not stand for an equal level of performance. A man with the same score must be more powerful. On the one hand, this results in corresponding performance pressure for the men and on the other hand, it is again taken for granted by the women.