Coaching Girls

One of my best friends and I met on a high school soccer field. We became friends when she and I discovered we were dating the same guy. But that's a story for a different day. Four years ago, now that we were grown-up married ladies with kids, including two daughters the same age, we decided to start a soccer team for girls.

Lovely idea, right? Well, despite the fact that girls sports have changed dramatically since my days as a soccer forward, thanks to Title IX, the first problem was that we couldn't find an all-girls league for six year olds. Then we found a great local co-ed kids soccer league, but we couldn't find enough girls to fill a team. So, we took on a few token boys.

We had eight great seasons together. One of my favorite coaching moments was when I asked the team to describe the purpose of the game. The boys said it was to score goals. The girls said it was to not cry.

Over the past four years, our team has weathered missed goals, many soccer balls kicked into many small faces and a couple of bribes to make our girls play goalie. Many of the girls and boys on the team have come and gone, but our daughters have remained passionate players.

At the end of the most recent season, we lost 12 to 1. Part of the reason: Our opponents were all boys. As kids in the co-ed league got older, a lot of girls in the team "peeled off" to all-girls leagues, and more and more often, our girls-and-a-few-boys faced all-boy teams. Few on our team cared about the score, and most teams followed our league rule that a superior team is not supposed to run up goals.

However, I did care when my daughter came to me after the last game and said the opposing team teased our girls on the field and in the postgame shake line. The boys bragged that we'd lost because "you're girls." It bugged me even more when one of the coaches defended his team's lack of sportsmanship by explaining that girls shouldn't expect boys to be "gentle" on the soccer field. (I wanted to ask when the girls could expect the boys to be "gentle," but I held back.)

So I wonder: Is it time for my daughter and me to peel off? Should I take this battle to another field? How do you teach the girls (and boys) in your life about facing and fighting gender discrimination, both on and off the field?

By Leslie Morgan Steiner |  June 5, 2008; 7:00 AM ET  | Category:  You Go Girl!
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First!

Posted by: Leslie | June 5, 2008 7:36 AM

Why? Are you loosing b/c there ARE girls on your team? And the girls are not as good as the boys? If so, then the boys were correct, if rude.

We moved to a small town where there are only boy/girl teams, with less girls as they get older. My 11-year-old boy had only one girl on his team this year. One all-boy team they played crowed with joy when they saw the girl - "We're going win. This team has GIRLS on it."

Our team won and mocked the all-boy team all the way home. Also rude - but hey, it is sports - not the most polite place in the world.

My elderly mother watched a game and said that the one girl would likely grow up to get scholarships for soccer b/c she was used to playing with boys - who play rough and tumble - and that will make her a stand-out when she gets to college among the rest of the team, who likely only played on all-girl teams against girls.

Again - it's competitive sports. Even if my children lose every game, they enjoy playing the sport. I wouldn't switch teams merely to give them a chance at winning.

Posted by: Amelia | June 5, 2008 7:38 AM

I'd like to give my children, and in fact all children, a chance to play sports without being harassed about their gender.

Seems like I'm setting the bar fairly low, frankly. Not sure why anyone thinks mockery and taunting of children is acceptable, in any setting. We're not talking pro (or even competitive) sports here. Rec league is expressly supposed to be fun for all -- there are rules about sportsmanship, every teammate getting equally playing time, etc.

And these are children under 10 years old.

Posted by: Leslie | June 5, 2008 7:42 AM

I have my newest song ready. A tribute to napping. See you at noon!

Posted by: Songster | June 5, 2008 8:04 AM

I'm surprised you were unable to find an all girls league in your area. I live in Maryland and Montgomery County has this huge league, MSI, that has rec soccer teams, single sex, starting in 1st grade. Then for upper graders they have multiple leagues, rec, classic, select, and they are all single sex. I would not want my child taunted and think there is value in playing on a co-ed team. I agree with Leslie that kids should not be taunted by gender. But, I think having single sex teams is great because it allows the kids to bond with their peers and takes the gender issue out of the picture.

But, the bottom line, even recreational soccer is competitive and no one likes to lose. They are kids and they will say rude things when they do. My daughter's team finished at the top of their league spring season so was moved up to a more competitive league for the fall. They've lost every game this season and the girls have been sniping at each other as a result. The coach has been amazing about it, praising their effort, focusing on improved skills. Most of the parents have also told the girls about how we were moved around in the league so they understand that they are facing tougher competition and don't think they are not playing as well as last year. But, they are annoyed and take it out on each other sometimes. I think it's a great learning experience for them actually. Learing how to function on a team, support each other when the chips are down are skills that they will need throughout their life.

Posted by: Pt Fed Mof2 | June 5, 2008 8:24 AM

Leslie, I started writing on this topic and couldn't stop; even by my standards it was ridiculously long. So I sent an e-mail message to your address, leslie@lesliemorgansteiner.com Use whatever you want or delete it all.

Posted by: ArmyBrat | June 5, 2008 8:34 AM

I saw another poster in another chat reply that his daughter's softball team slogan was "Play like girls - if you're good enough" I love it.

My first year playing soccer there was no 10 and under league, so at 6 y/o, it was the smallest kid on the field with the 12 & under girls' team. The next year, we did have a younger team (and suddenly I was the tallest!), but only 1 team, so we played boys. I don't remember any emotional scars.

Posted by: NC2 | June 5, 2008 8:37 AM

EDITOR'S NOTE: AS YOU READ THIS, SUBSTITUTE "OFFICE" OR "WORK ENVIRONMENT" FOR THE PARTICULAR SPORTS TEAM. VERY INTERESTING COPING STRATEGIES FOR DEALING WITH A MALE-DOMINATED WORK ENVIRONMENT AS AN ADULT WOMAN.


I have four kids: daughters who are now 19, 16, and 11, and a son who's 17. They've all played sports growing up. As a result, over the years I've coached softball for a total of 10 years, girls' basketball for three, co-ed soccer for two, baseball for one, and even volleyball for one.

I started out volunteering as an assistant coach for all my kids' teams; if they played at the same time I'd stay with whichever one needed help the most. That almost always wound up being one of the girls' teams.

For whatever reason, boys' teams never seem to have a shortage of dads or even moms who want to help out. There would be nine parents at my son's baseball practice while there would be one coach and no volunteer parents at my daughter's softball practice.

I have been happily married now for 21 years to the mother of these 4 children. My wife helps out with the programs in many ways, but she has never really been interested in sports; she never played growing up; and she acknowledges herself that she's just not qualified to coach nor is she interested in coaching.

After a couple years of assisting, I started being a softball head coach when there weren't enough other volunteers. I grew to love the sport; there's just nothing like watching the incredible grace of a Cat Osterman or Taryne Mowatt or the sheer power of a Monica Abbott or Jennie Finch. And you can't give your kids a better role model than Dr. Dot Richardson, who led the US team to the Gold Medal in the 1996 Olympics as the power-hitting shortstop while performing orthopedic surgery on days when the team didn't have games.

Enough background, on to the topic at hand.

Co-ed teams: I think that co-ed teams are fine at a young age, because there aren't many differences in ability or attitudes, and the kids' skill levels are similar. Our youngest daughter played co-ed soccer in first or second grade; she was fine with it. But it was clear that the boys were starting to get more aggressive. While some of the girls can handle it, others couldn't.

Sounds like that's the same thing you experienced. I'm not an expert on this topic, but based on numerous years of coaching I would recommend putting most girls in girls-only programs from about third grade on, and letting those girls who want to compete with the boys play in the boys league.

Girls on boys' teams: In HCYP, we allow girls to play on boys' teams if they want to. There are a few girls who play in the boys' basketball leagues because they think that makes them better players. But they often drop out as they get older because getting elbowed by a much bigger kid can hurt. Those girls just go to all-girls travel teams.

Baseball vs softball is a slightly different issue because they really are different sports. But we allow girls to play baseball if they want, and many do, particularly at the younger ages.

Acceptance tends to be on a case-by-case basis. One girl on my son's team won acceptance by out-belching every boy on the team. They were in the dugout, chugging Cokes, and belching. Brianna wiped them all out, and after that she was just one of the guys.

Some girls win acceptance by being the best player on the team. But that's an issue - if a girl happens to be one of the weaker players on the team, she's not really accepted. The boys do have a meritocracy - the better players on the team rule. But a boy who's a weaker player can still be accepted and be one of the guys because they can't all be the best player. A girl who's weaker has a harder time.

By the time the girls reach high school age, though, they often face a disadvantage in size and power. The boys are simply bigger and stronger. That's a generalization and there are some exceptions, but it's true for the most part. The daughter of a good friend of mine tried out for her high school baseball team this Spring. The coach sat her down and told her and her parents that she was an excellent player, knew the game, and did very well. However, the fact was that she was smaller and lighter than the boys that made the team; she couldn't hit with as much power or throw as hard - all of which was true. She could be a good utility infielder, but that was about it. So they agreed she'd switch to softball.

I don't really have much experience with girls on boys' teams once they reach high school - my daughters play softball and volleyball, which Maryland public schools offer only for girls. At their school - Mt. Hebron High in Ellicott City - there have been girls on the wrestling team. It can be awkward for the boys they wrestle, since a very effective move in wrestling is called a "high crotch", which is exactly as it sounds - grab your opponent on or near the crotch (they're padded!) and throw him or her. Boys often hesitate when trying that against a female opponent for the first time, and a girl who's used to wrestling boys has gotten past that and can often exploit the boy's indecision.

Boys on girls' team: this is a more controversial aspect. I prefer in general not to have boys on a girls' team because it seems unfair. (Which is probably unfair of me, but oh well.) We've never had a boy in our softball program - mostly because softball is not a boys' high school sport. We've had a few parents sign their sons up for softball in the mistaken belief that it's not as competitive as baseball, but we've always talked them into going over to baseball - if necessary by showing them how competitive fastpitch softball really is. Our organization's lawyers tell us that if some parents threatened to sue to get their sons into our softball program we'd cave and let them play, but it has never reached that situation.

When I was in high school in Louisiana, we had a girls' volleyball coach who hadn't won a game all year, so she recruited the center and forward from the boys' basketball team to play. One boy was 6 feet 7 inches, the other 6 feet 5. It turned into a big mess; the state athletic association refused to let them play and threatened to ban the school from playing football in retaliation (that's equivalent to the death penalty in Louisiana) and the boys caved. A similar situation occurred about three years ago in Howard County, MD. A school with a weak team tried to put a couple of boys on the team, claiming that since boys' volleyball is not offered in Maryland public schools they had to let the boys play on the girls' team. The solution was co-ed rules. Volleyball has different sets of rules for the men's game, the women's game, and co-ed games. The MPSSAA ruled that if the boys played, that school had to play by co-ed rules while all their opponents played by women's rules. It would have put the team at such a disadvantage that they dropped the boys from the team.

Coaching girls - I don't think that there's a heck of a lot of difference between coaching girls and coaching boys, at least the way I coach. I'm not a Vince Lombardi coach. On my teams, we work on understanding the game and playing it right, as appropriate for players of that age. This is how you hit a softball. Ignore what your dad told you about hitting; he learned how to hit a baseball and it's very different. This is how you field; this is how you throw. This is pitching; this is catching. Get it right! Then we work - a lot - on communication and playing the game as a team, because a good team will beat a group of all-stars every time. We do drills that force them to talk to each other. For example, at the start of a drill, the girls line up in age order. If they're not in the right order after three minutes, everybody runs a lap (including all the coaches). Since nobody wants to run laps, they talk to each other and find out when they were born. They start realizing that these other girls they've never met are kind of fun kids. Then we do things like have the "old geezers" (the oldest five or six players) scrimmage against the "young whippersnappers" (the youngest five or six). The batting order is "alphabetical order, by middle name" which means that they have to talk to each other again to figure out where they bat.

When we're on the field, we're all about winning, but doing it the right way. Before the game we're great friends with the other team. After the game we're also great friends. But during that 90 minutes on the field, we're there to beat them.

The team motto is "Play like a girl - if you're good enough." Players have to do two things - do their best, and have fun. That's it.

We NEVER criticize a teammate. We ALWAYS take responsibility for our mistakes. If I as a coach mess up, I let the girls know that I messed up; it's my fault; we'll fix it. If they make an error, we expect them to take responsibility for it, too. Don't blame the umpire or the other team or your first baseman if you made a bad throw.

Coaching is always about improving and teaching, never about criticism. If the shortstop made a bad throw, get past it. Let's figure out why that happened - you rushed and were gripping the ball wrong; of course it will sail. Always grip it this way, throw straight over the top and take aim at your target. It's always "here's how to do it right next time", NEVER "you messed up."

We teach them that softball is a metaphor for life. Yes, life's unfair and softball's unfair. The umpire made a terrible call. The ball took a bad hop. Somebody on the team made an error. We lost and we had no business losing. Now the question is, what are you going to do about it? Are you going to cry and quit? Because that's no way to succeed in life. If something bad happens - DEAL .WITH.IT. Put that error in the past, and do it right next time. Support your teammate who made the error; let her know that you've got her back. Get over the umpire's call; play harder.

Academics come first - skip a game or practice if you need to. My middle daughter played on Mt. Hebron High's JV softball team, which went 18-0 this year. But the best thing? Every single girl on that team - all 16 of them - was on the honor roll. The team's cumulative, unweighted GPA was above 3.7.

The biggest difference between boys and girls? The spirit and cheering. The girls just aren't afraid to get out there and sing silly songs and cheer each other on, loudly. The boys do that when they're younger but shut up when they get older. The Women's College World Series - the NCAA softball championship - just ended, and the announcers were marveling about the fact that every player on every team was always on the top step of the dugout, cheering on her teammates. No sitting back, being "Ms. Cool" and above the fray. That's just fun! (The only bad things about that tournament were that Ashley Brignac and Louisiana-Lafayette were knocked out by Texas A&M and Alabama; and that Megan Elliott of Calvert High, MD didn't get to pitch for Arizona State in the game in which they won the national championship. Other than that, it was all good.)


Posted by: From ArmyBrat via Leslie | June 5, 2008 8:39 AM

AB, that was a great post, in its entirety.

I'm not surprised at the boys, but I'd be really PO'd at their coach. Yes, of course you can expect boys that age to make cracks like that. Which is precisely why it's so important for the coach to step in and teach them good sportsmanship. "Boys will be boys" is an explanation -- not an excuse.

Posted by: Laura | June 5, 2008 8:54 AM

After the AB dissertation, I just can't wait for Matt to chime in. I'm sure he has read a treatise on women's contribution to the ancient Greek (Olympic) games--776 b.c. until 393 a.d.

Posted by: Obscure you say? | June 5, 2008 9:00 AM

That was two or three times as long before Leslie edited it. Leslie has mad editing skillz! :-)

Posted by: ArmyBrat | June 5, 2008 9:01 AM

"I'd like to give my children, and in fact all children, a chance to play sports without being harassed about their gender."

I do give my children that opportunity, Leslie, on gender-specific teams. All- girls sports teams are thriving in this area, and I suspect they are in DC and the 'burbs, as well. Recreational and club sports are not the place my kids need to learn about gender politics. My goal in having my daughter participate in sports is to put her in settings where she learns to love sports and fitness and to make friends with other girls who also value sports and fitness. Girls are in mixed-gender environments so much - in school, church, other civic clubs - why not provide the support AND challenge AND skills MINUS the sexist crap -- by participating in single-sex club sports? Whether the sport is baseball, swimming, tennis or soccer, I don't understand why you'd not support all girls sports teams and leagues, run by folks who actually know the sport, by the way. What are you teaching your girls with this mish-mash of do-it-yourself itis?

Posted by: MN | June 5, 2008 9:07 AM

Co-ed is fine until 10 or 11. After that the boys begin puberty and are just bigger, stronger and faster. Not a put down, just the truth.

P.S. I'm female and played two varsity sports in high school.

Posted by: bartlebythescrivener | June 5, 2008 9:09 AM

oh, and ditto to Army Brat's spot-on dissertation.

Posted by: MN | June 5, 2008 9:12 AM

"One of my favorite coaching moments was when I asked the team to describe the purpose of the game. The boys said it was to score goals. The girls said it was to not cry."

Um, so I'm confused.

You want equal rights and equal pay and strong women. But when they're playing sports - a field where women's leagues are grossly underpaid compared to their male counterparts, despite being just as competitive and athletic - you're proud the girls think the game is about not crying, instead of winning?

Not that being ultra-competitive is a good thing, but the boys were right: the point of soccer *is* to score goals. If we're starting out teaching young girls that the point of competing - at any level - is merely to have fun and not win, no wonder some aren't more assertive.

I played in a girl's league in Fairfax County during the 70's. Our coach wasn't mean or aggressive, but he demanded that we all play the best we could play because what was the point of playing against other teams in a formal manner if you weren't in it to win?

If you look at our team pictures, aside from different hair cuts and growth spurts, not a girl dropped out of that team for 6 years - an eternity in tween to teen years. And we won...a lot. We even beat the "select" league teams, including a boys team.

Mia Hamm did not win Olympic Gold because she didn't cry - she did it because she plays the game of soccer in order to win. How on earth do you expect women to compete with men on any level if you don't instill competitive spirit into them?

As for teaching them about gender discrimination? Tell them that their gender doesn't define them. That they need to be the best and brightest whatever they are...not the best female whatever they are. It's one thing when other people define you by your gender professionally or socially, but how you view yourself lets you beat down those stereotypes. If you see and espouse yourself to be a "female professional", then you're telling people that your gender is more important than your skill set. Just quietly and consistently *be* equal (or better) than then men surrounding you and a lot of those discriminatory remarks start to fall away.

Posted by: Chasmosaur | June 5, 2008 9:34 AM

Where I live, the rec league soccer has mixed gender until 5th grade. At that point, it becomes single-gender.

Having said THAT, there IS an "old farts" rec league at the same field that anyone can join. As long as they've graduated high school and have a sense of humour.

MM

Posted by: Maryland Mother | June 5, 2008 9:34 AM

At some point, biology kicks in and the boys will get bigger, stronger, and faster than the girls and the girls will have a harder time staying competitive. But there will, of course, always be the exception.

My son plays for a select soccer team and has on occasion faced off against a team with a girl on it. He doesn't think twice about it, which means that he doesn't discount his opponent because of her gender, but neither does he back off or treat her any differently than if she were a boy. If he needs to make a hard tackle or use a shoulder charge to win the ball, he will. He wouldn't take pains to "be gentle" with another boy on the pitch, so why should he with a girl? She's not his date after all.

My son's team also scrimmages all-girls teams (same age or a year older) every now and again. Same story. They are competitors on the soccer field and it matters not what their gender is. I've never heard any of the girls parents complain at the physicality of the boys, but maybe it's because these are select teams, accustomed to a fast pace and aggressive player. The girls certainly don't shy away from it and use their body to shield and tackle just as effectively as the boys.

I'm surprised that you are unable to find an all-girls division for your team. If you live in DC, the Suburban Friendship League (recreational) has all-girls divisions. For select teams, there is WAGS (Washington Area Girls Soccer) which is an all-girls league and ODSL (Old Dominion Soccer League) (co-ed league but with all-girls divisions). There are many options.

Posted by: SM | June 5, 2008 9:35 AM

girls shouldn't expect boys to be "gentle" on the soccer field. (I wanted to ask when the girls could expect the boys to be "gentle," but I held back.)

So I wonder: Is it time for my daughter and me to peel off? Should I take this battle to another field?

I agree with the coach, YOU fielded the team. If you want to play and triumph how good girls are then DON'T PLAY THE GENDER CARD WHEN IT DOES NOT GO YOUR WAY. This is what drives me crazy about women. I am equal blah blah and then ask for special privileges. You should be in an all girls league or play your opponent WITHOUT excuses and special requests.

Posted by: wake up to reality | June 5, 2008 9:37 AM

I put my daughter in a girls league. Boys ARE much more physical and bigger and stronger. It's not fair. She is much happier and I am too. It is a level playing field now. Strange you couldn't find enough players, we have whole leagues of girls here in california.

Posted by: Anonymous | June 5, 2008 9:40 AM

Co-ed is fine until 10 or 11. After that the boys begin puberty and are just bigger, stronger and faster. Not a put down, just the truth.

P.S. I'm female and played two varsity sports in high school.

I disagree, at age 5 we put her in an all girls team. some of the boys were HUGE and super physical compared to some of these tiny girls we had.I remember my daughter who is fearless going for a ball against an enormous 5 year old boy, she looked like she was launched from a slingshot when they collided, he barely moved. That was the wake up call.

Posted by: Anonymous | June 5, 2008 9:46 AM

The US military has different physical fitness standards for men vs. women. Yes, Leslie, there is a difference!

Posted by: One who knows | June 5, 2008 9:48 AM

Rec league is expressly supposed to be fun for all -- there are rules about sportsmanship, every teammate getting equally playing time, etc.

I pulled my son out of rec league for a couple of reasons. One, Winning. I think you should try to win everytime. HOWEVER, if you win and you develop no skills, it is a waste of time. 2. rec leagues are kick and run after it affairs, select teaches skills and maybe you win or don't but you are learning the game. The average select team is far far far better than the best rec league team.

Posted by: love soccer | June 5, 2008 9:52 AM

Hey, MN, chill out. I love all-girls teams. But there simply were not enough all-girls teams for six-year-olds. Now that she is nine there are plenty to go around! But I don't know of any place that has leagues of six-year-old all girls teams in any sport! That will be a fine day when it happens.

And re: girls crying, boys scoring goals. Give me a break, I wasn't applauding. I was touched. And amused. The boys and girls were both so terrifically sincere in their assertions. Some cultural and gender differences start early indeed!

Posted by: Leslie | June 5, 2008 10:05 AM

@wake up to reality: I completely agree! We women can't have it both ways. We either take equal treatment for what it means, or we accept less than equal treatment because we want to ask for extra privileges to raise children/keep house/whatever. Sending mixed messages only damages our credibility.

Posted by: babsy1 | June 5, 2008 10:14 AM

I played competitive soccer throughout high school and college, and I am now a "soccer mom" to my two sons.

My boys play with a club that has some very good boys' teams and very good girls' teams. The 10-year-old girls' team regularly beats the 10-year-old boys' team (and I love it). Could some of the girls legitimatley play on the boys' team? Absolutely, but why do they need to? Their friends are on the girls' team, and the level of competition is such that they don't need to.

The girls' team has played in an all boys' division and won it. They have played in the 11-year old girls' division and won it. They are now looking for out-of-the-area tournaments so they can find other 10-year-old girls' teams to compete against.

Other girls' teams in our club aren't as strong. They get whipped by the boys' teams, and would not be able to compete in a boys' league.

I guess my point is every situation is different. You need to find the right level of competition for your team (boys / girls / coed) and for the individual players. You don't want a situation where you are losing 12-1 every game (regardless if it is a girls' team in a boys' league), or a situation where you are winning every game 12-1. Every team will be different, and it's up to the coach and the club to find the league that's the best fit.

Posted by: LizG | June 5, 2008 10:23 AM

"Hey, MN, chill out. I love all-girls teams. But there simply were not enough all-girls teams for six-year-olds. Now that she is nine there are plenty to go around! But I don't know of any place that has leagues of six-year-old all girls teams in any sport! That will be a fine day when it happens."

uh, Leslie, back at ya. By your tone, you may need a bit more coffee.

That fine day is now. If there are plenty of all-girls teams and spots in the Triangle, there likely are plenty of all-girls teams and spots elsewhere. I doubt we are unique amongst metropolitan areas. Yes, you have to register a couple of months in advance and can't wait until Labor Day to decide what sport you'll register your kids for this fall.

You only have one shot to instill a love of sport. Sure, some kids get inspired later, but on average, they learn that fundamental love of sports in the window between 4 and 7. If girls get turned off because they are placed on lousy mixed-gender teams run by incompetent or bullying coaches, it's awfully difficult to recapture the exhiliration later.

Posted by: MN | June 5, 2008 10:23 AM

Our daughter is 12 and is one of two girls playing baseball in the "majors" of our local league this season. She's the only female baseball pitcher.

She was the starting pitcher for the first game of last year's season. I could hear the snickers in the opposing team's dugout..."It's a girl..." She retired the side with 10 pitches...for each of three straight innings.

This year, when she heads to the mound, we hear..."Oh no, it's the girl..."

Soon enough, the boys will outpace her in terms of strength, and perhaps then, she'll consider switching to softball. But until then... batter up!

Posted by: kate07 | June 5, 2008 10:26 AM

in our rural midwestern town we have all girls sports through the ywca from preschool on up -- 100s of girls play soccer during the week & my hubby coaches our daughter's team. there is a huge difference in aggressiveness b/t the boys and girls. as a youth i competed in rodeos and other horse events usually in an all male field of competitors. it was a great lesson in life and has served me well in all male or predominantly male work environments. my dad said i couldn't do whatever i set my mind to and i just had to work at it -- i did and did very well. on the other hand, i was never in contact sports/competitions with males. i think there is a difference and you shouldn't put your daughter at risk physically just to show she can "play with the boys". also, my daughter has a camaraderie/sisterhood with the all girls' team that i don't see her having with her coed t-ball team. that's valuable too.

Posted by: nichole | June 5, 2008 10:28 AM

@ MN - "on average, they learn that fundamental love of sports in the window between 4 and 7"

That's interesting, I didn't know that. Probably explains why I'm so afraid of sports since I didn't get exposed to them until 4th grade. Any other information/sources you can refer me to that discuss this more? Thanks.

Posted by: tsp 2007 | June 5, 2008 10:30 AM

ArmyBrat-

Why is it OK for girls to play on boys teams, and not the reverse?

Is your opinion the same for girls' sports that no longer have a boys' team due to Title IX (i.e. gymnastics, tennis, etc.)?

Posted by: Bob | June 5, 2008 10:33 AM

love soccer: I don't know a lot about travel soccer, but in terms of softball and volleyball:

- winning: rec teams play to win every time. See my post above. Friends before, friends after, but for the 90 minutes of the game, we WANT TO WIN. Rec, travel, doesn't matter.
- rules: yes, rec programs have rules about playing time; travel programs don't. It impacts strategy; it doesn't impact the goal of winning.
- sportsmanship: travel programs and tournaments definitely have rules about sportsmanship, too. I've personally witnessed a travel team banned from travel softball tournaments for a year and one parent banned for life due to bad sportsmanship. Every travel volleyball and softball tournament I've ever entered a team into has an explicit code of behavior to which you agree before being allowed to play. And punishments for violating that code can be severe.
- skill levels of travel vs rec: yes, in general travel teams are better than rec teams. It mostly has to do with coaching - travel coaches who aren't good coaches don't keep their teams very long, because the players and families quit. A lot of rec coaches are parents who are volunteering to help out and may or may not know the game. Every now and then you'll find an exception - last year we entered one of our rec teams in a travel tournament after the rec season was over and finished fourth out of 16. But that's because we had a really good coach who knew what he was doing and a super pitcher who would rather play four sports than make the commitment to one sport that travel would require.

Both travel and rec have advantages, and you have to pick what's right for your kids.

Posted by: ArmyBrat | June 5, 2008 10:36 AM

MN, not sure why you are after me today. I keep repeating myself: I love sports, my kids love sports, I'm a huge supporter of girls and boys sports in every category.

Seems like you and I are on the same field here.

It was just a weird situation that we couldn't find an all girls LEAGUE for kindergarteners. No harm, no foul, no insult to anyone intended, most especially you. Can you leave me be?

Posted by: Leslie | June 5, 2008 10:37 AM

MSI has all girls teams starting in lst grade, age 6. They have a least 20 rec teams each year. I think the Y does too. There is also a girls basketball league in our area. I'm not sure about baseball/softball because we haven't looked into it.

Posted by: PT Fed Mof2 | June 5, 2008 10:38 AM

"@ MN - "on average, they learn that fundamental love of sports in the window between 4 and 7"

That's interesting, I didn't know that. Probably explains why I'm so afraid of sports since I didn't get exposed to them until 4th grade. Any other information/sources you can refer me to that discuss this more? Thanks."

I always loved being physical, playing on the monkey-bars, running, jumping rope, climbing trees and fences. i didn't get involved with team sports until 4th or 5th grade, but I loved it and didn't stop until my mid-30's due to scheduling conflicts resulting from work and motherhood. (That was part of my personal balance - gave up the sports in order to have more peace and less fast-paced frenzy in my life).

So, I find the window of opportunity statement just one person's opinion.

Posted by: a mom | June 5, 2008 10:43 AM

Bob, I said I was being unfair in having that opinion. :-)

In general, I don't like having a boy on a girls' team because of the different levels of aggression and strength. That's less pronounced at younger ages than older but seems to exist from 7 or 8 on up, from what I've seen.

WRT the Title IX issue, I acknowledge that's real. And in many cases schools/colleges are meeting the letter of that law by cutting men's sports rather than increasing women's sports. So it's tough for a male gymnast, field hockey player, volleyball player, softball player, etc. because there's no place to play. But I don't think that just putting him on the women's team is the answer, particularly if it's a teen or older. It's just not a fair match.

(Tennis and golf in schools around here is coed. Tennis competitions have boys', girls' and coed matches; the total combined score determines the winner.)

Posted by: ArmyBrat | June 5, 2008 10:44 AM

Posted by: wake up to reality | June 5, 2008 9:37 AM

See, now, I disagree. Not with the fundamental point that women can't have it both ways. But with your agreement with the coach. To my mind, that's not a gender issue at all -- that's a sportsmanship issue. I don't hear Leslie complaining that her team lost; the problem was how the other team acted in winning. If the league has a rule that you don't run up the score, then you either comply or get the rule changed. When you win, you win graciously, and never taunt the other team, period. It's not special treatment for girls (though that's a really good way to deflect blame for your team's conduct) -- it's a basic courtesy that all of your opponents deserve.

The coach was completely out of line. Not because his boys refused to play "down" to the girls. But because his team acted like jerks, and he justified their behavior instead of correcting it (indeed, he apparently saw nothing to correct). Of course, his own attitude goes a long way to explaining his team's. Apple, meet tree.

Posted by: Laura | June 5, 2008 10:45 AM

What you said, Laura.

Can't believe the coach was backing his boys in teasing the girls.

One of the reasons I totally love coaching is the opportunities for "teachable moments." I thought he really missed one here.

Posted by: Leslie | June 5, 2008 10:48 AM

If the league has a rule that you don't run up the score, then you either comply or get the rule changed

Exactly how is that accomplished? don't shoot if you havee a wide open shot? have one person on offense? play left footed ?, etc. Your team could also have forfeited, not recommended but a possibilty to. It just was a crappy situation. Now I will amend my post, teasing people in the shake hands line was inexcusable, but really Leslie always see some sort of victimhood in every situation and it's tiring.

Posted by: wake up to reality | June 5, 2008 10:54 AM

If the league has a rule that you don't run up the score, then you either comply or get the rule changed

I coached oneof these games from the winning side. we went up 4-0 in the first five minutes, i put my worst players up front, THEY scored 5 more goals. It's just that way sometimes, The coach was a jerk to let the boys pile on. My kids tried that but I quickly shot that down. It really was not a fun game to tell you the truth

Posted by: agree with laura | June 5, 2008 10:57 AM

If the league has a rule that you don't run up the score, then you either comply or get the rule changed

I coached oneof these games from the winning side. we went up 4-0 in the first five minutes, i put my worst players up front, THEY scored 5 more goals. It's just that way sometimes, The coach was a jerk to let the boys pile on. My kids tried that but I quickly shot that down. It really was not a fun game to tell you the truth

* * * *

One way to handle this (in recreational leagues) is to mix the two teams up and balance things out. You need to have the buy-in from coaches obviously, which in the case Leslie blogged about probably wouldn't have happened.

I think the real issue in the blog post isn't about gender disparity but about sportsmanship. Kids need to learn to win graciously, and lose with dignity.

Posted by: Anonymous | June 5, 2008 11:06 AM

"If the league has a rule that you don't run up the score, then you either comply or get the rule changed

Exactly how is that accomplished?"

In many ways, depending on the sport and team.

Some sports have mercy rules of one form or another. For example, in many lacrosse leagues - even high school - the clock runs continuously once one team has a big enough lead. In softball and baseball, the game ends early if one team is too far ahead - say, more than a 10 run lead after 5 innings.

There are also team behaviors. For example, in a game where my team has a 15 run lead in the third inning, not only do we not steal bases, we don't advance on wild pitches or passed balls, either.

We'll go with a third-string pitcher to let her get innings in. She'll play hard and try to strike everybody out; she's just the third-best pitcher on the team.

In soccer, you can clear your bench, and let all those substitutes play who never get in games until the end. Or you can switch positions - let the goalkeeper be a striker or the midfielder play in goal.

You can even work on your passing to run out the clock.

The bottom line is that there are a lot of things that can be done to hold the score down if you want, without anyone losing face. We've already decided which is the better team; there's no longer any question. So now let's do something that both teams will benefit from, rather than waste time.

(And by the way, if you think that the professionals don't also work to hold the score down, you're sadly mistaken. No major league baseball player will steal a base with his team ahead by ten runs. If an NFL team has a five touchdown lead in the fourth quarter, the quarterback, running back and most other starters are on the bench.)

Posted by: ArmyBrat | June 5, 2008 11:06 AM

If an NFL team has a five touchdown lead in the fourth quarter, the quarterback, running back and most other starters are on the bench.)

you obviously forgot about the Patriots...

Posted by: Anonymous | June 5, 2008 11:10 AM

ArmyBrat - my brother played with HCYP, back in the mid 70s. Wonderful organization.

Great post Laura. It is indeed the coaches fault and responsibility here.

Co-ed until age 10. It isn't the boys that growing then, it is the girls. And sometimes growing isn't a good thing for sports. The new body concerns, just can be too much for any kid, girl or boy. I mean really, girls are menstruating at age 10 or 11. That means their bodies are changing. The boys catch up 2 years later. So Leslie, it is likely peel-off time. You'll find there is actually MORE competition in the girls only leagues. Traveling teams, which are 12/13 up, come from the single gender teams.

Posted by: dotted | June 5, 2008 11:11 AM

I didn't play sports as a kid- tried to but my parents said I was too old (at 12) and seemed uninterested in girls sports vs. my brothers for whom they spent every night at baseball practices and games. My sister is a good volleyball player but they have only been to a couple of games. She also did a very competitive bowling league when younger but the same story there. I don't know how many parents have this blatant or maybe subconsious sentiment over girls/boys sports but it is my experience. For myself, I parlayed my energies into academic pursuits and becoming a huge trivia nut/geek! :) Can anyone here speak to this issue?

Posted by: FloridaChick | June 5, 2008 11:11 AM

I totally agree with Laura and Leslie on the point about the poor sportsmanship of the coach. I really think that encouraging young boys to think that that sort of taunting is acceptable leads them to think later in life that the reason women are unsuccesful is that they are women. No need to teach at an early age that there are things women can't do- I'm reminded of my first flight instructor who, in talking to another student while I was pre-flighting his C-172, said, hey look, even the fillies are learning to fly these days. Fillies? Needless to say I switched instructors...

Posted by: canary28 | June 5, 2008 11:15 AM

Very timely topic for me, as I have a 2nd grade girl on a co-ed soccer team. the team is split evenly boys and girls, but they play mostly all-boy teams. And I can really see the difference between 1st and 2nd grade. There were a lot more girls on the teams in 1st grade, and the boys are much more aggressive this year.

Some of the girls do fine, some do not. They get more afraid of the ball coming at them and winning the ball.

But, they had a good season, won as many as they lost - and they played hard, learned some new skills, and never gave up. The whole team showed really good improvement.

I'm considering the all girls team for 3rd grade, but it will most likely be a group decision, as the girls on the team are all friends and want to stay together.

Our last game is this weekend, and my daughter's team is playing the undefeated all-boy team. This is also the team that has the reputation for bad sportsmanship. They are the winners and let you know you are the losers. And the parents and coach don't do anything about it.

Posted by: prarie dog | June 5, 2008 11:18 AM

"I totally agree with Laura and Leslie on the point about the poor sportsmanship of the coach. I really think that encouraging young boys to think that that sort of taunting is acceptable leads them to think later in life that the reason women are unsuccesful is that they are women."

Kids always have and always will tease each other. You obviously never heard girls when they are teasing boys - "Girls rule, boys drool!!!'

Posted by: get over it | June 5, 2008 11:18 AM

MN: Interesting thought about instilling a love of sports between the ages of 4 and 7. For me, Title 9 was just kicking in and as I recall in K-1st grade years t-ball was the only option I had. Then I lived overseas and didn't have access to team sports. I played field hockey in HS half-heartedly and rowed in college but ended up a runner - I will never be an elite so it's really me against my last effort. Never considered that perhaps the seeds were sown a long time ago.

As far as all girls leagues for 6 year olds in Alexandria I am pretty sure it's co-ed only (my cousin has twin 6 year boys) and the rules require certain number of girls on the field at all times. They also swap players if a team is short.

Posted by: Kate | June 5, 2008 11:20 AM

I don't know how many parents have this blatant or maybe subconsious sentiment over girls/boys sports but it is my experience

Maybe, but I enjoy my daughter's games just as much simply because she is my daughter. Her fierce kamikaze style of play also is very entertaining.

Posted by: Anonymous | June 5, 2008 11:21 AM

Kids need to learn to...lose with dignity.


Hillary also needs to be taught this!

Posted by: Anonymous | June 5, 2008 11:25 AM

When the girls knock over an opponent through regular aggressive play, they don't apologize as it is part of the game, but they do ask the other girl if she is OK.

Posted by: soccer mom | June 5, 2008 11:31 AM

I would encourage anyone whose kid (girl or boy) really likes soccer to get the hell out of any rec league. Join an academy or select team, the kids want to play, the coaches are better and they learn the game. Watching legions of daisy pickers in rec taught me that.

Posted by: loves soccer | June 5, 2008 11:39 AM

@loves soccer: "Watching legions of daisy pickers in rec taught me that."

How many different rec programs did you look at? All of them?

Generalizing a bit from our experiences, aren't we?

Posted by: Anonymous | June 5, 2008 11:46 AM

"I would encourage anyone whose kid (girl or boy) really likes soccer to get the hell out of any rec league. Join an academy or select team, the kids want to play, the coaches are better and they learn the game. Watching legions of daisy pickers in rec taught me that."

Nice thought, but three potential problems. 1. Cost can be prohibitive 2. Practice and game schedule can be prohibitive depending on family size, number of kids in activities, job committments, committments to extended family, school considerations. YMMV. 3. These programs generally have try-outs, and many kids who want to be more competitive than rec can't make the cut.

Posted by: BTDT | June 5, 2008 11:47 AM

@loves soccer: "Watching legions of daisy pickers in rec taught me that."

How many different rec programs did you look at? All of them?

Generalizing a bit from our experiences, aren't we?


Let's see, played in several rec leagues as a kid,played on select teams, coached 6 seasons of rec, wife coached 4 seasons of rec, one son plays in select now. Yea, that should cover my "experience"

Posted by: loves soccer | June 5, 2008 11:51 AM

My daughter played club volleyball for the first time this year. It is expensive. It is definitely a higher level of play with coaches who are trained to be coaches as opposed to parents who are volunteering. It is competitive and winning is everything. The coaches coach to win.

There are definite starters and subs and no rule that everyone gets some playing time. I went to matches where girls played 3 minutes of one game and 0 minutes of the other 2 games of a 3-game set. While I don't believe that everything should be completely "fair" and that the girls should have "equal" playing time, I also think that some of these coaches contribute to the kids losing their love of the game. I have seen coaches play the starters for entire games without substitution even when the outcome of the game would not be affected by playing the second-stringers.

Yes, the kids want to win, but basically they are there because they want to play, not sit on the bench 95% of the time.

Club, travel, select, or whatever you want to call these programs are great for those who are the best and will play all the time, but not so good for the child who is good enough to make the cut but not a star. If your child falls in the second category, then rec may indeed be a better choice.

My eldest DD played rec soccer all through high school. She considered trying out for the uber-competitive State champion high school team but decided that she would rather continue to have fun playing on the rec team than watch from the bench on the high school team.

Posted by: observer | June 5, 2008 12:38 PM

Leslie, what does your daughter want to do? Does she want to continue to play co-ed, or does she want to switch to an all-girls team? This sounds like it should be her decision.

Some coaches are wonderful examples of good sportsmanship, and some are not. My brother played youth-league soccer for 10 years, and had good, supportive coaches who emphasized teamwork, integrity, and skill-building.

One year, they played against a team whose coach, when he was supposed to be shaking hands at the end of the game, held his nose and yelled at our coach, "It stinks! I can smell it!" Yet apparently he didn't actually have a complaint to file, he was just upset about losing, and expressed it in an unsportsmanlike way.

The next time our teams played, I walked up to the other team's coach, introduced myself as the editor of my school paper (I was) and told him I was writing an article about good sportsmanship (I wasn't) and was there to watch the game. That was the entirety of our conversation; I never mentioned the earlier incident.

At the end of that game, he went over to our coach and apologized for his prior behavior.

Some people are jerks and think anything they do is justified. But sometimes they'll make changes when it's pointed out that other people can, in fact, see them and what they do. I don't know which group the coach you mentioned falls into, but it might help to see if you can find out.

No doubt there will be some of the posters who think I was also a jerk, for inventing an article to use as leverage. And maybe they have a point. But he was the one who was supposed to be acting as a role model for those kids.

Posted by: KateNonymous | June 5, 2008 12:39 PM

Let's see, played in several rec leagues as a kid,played on select teams, coached 6 seasons of rec, wife coached 4 seasons of rec, one son plays in select now. Yea, that should cover my "experience"

Posted by: loves soccer | June 5, 2008 11:51 AM

how many different counties did you coach? how many different leagues did you coach? you coached 6 seasons but were they all in the same place or did you move around? if you were the coach why were there daisy pickers on your team? as a coach it is your responsibility to be a coach. don't blame the daisy pickers on your inability to be a good coach. it's easy to coach super stars. it's harder to coach the daisy pickers. you picked the easier job. embrace your decision.

Posted by: quark | June 5, 2008 12:40 PM

Two things: #1 - could someone, ANYONE explain to my why girls don't play baseball? I don't get why softball is a better option for them.

#2- loves soccer - I think its important to distinguish why someone plays a sport. Some people play simply because they enjoy the game. Sure, winning is nice, but they don't want to dedicate their every moment training and driving around the eastern seaboard to do it. Some people are and want to be ultra competitive and there is a place for them. Frankly, I think it is sad that we seem to have moved in this country to a mindset that doesn't allow for the casual, enjoyable pursuit of anything. Everything must be done to the nth degree. As it relates to sports, I think it makes it such that the children who want to play just for fun, dont' have a place on the field and I think that is sad.

Posted by: moxiemom | June 5, 2008 12:41 PM

MN, not sure why you are after me today. I keep repeating myself: . . . Can you leave me be?

Posted by: Leslie | June 5, 2008 10:37 AM

Leslie, you are unusually defensive today. Why? What is it about this topic that's such a big deal to you? Over time, people have insulted your husband, your appearance, your choices, your wealth, your selection of topics having squat to do with balance. None of these comments bother you. But you're worked up into a lather over the fact that I disagree with you on specifics relating to this topic. Why?

Posted by: MN | June 5, 2008 12:41 PM

fr prarie dog:

>Our last game is this weekend, and my daughter's team is playing the undefeated all-boy team. This is also the team that has the reputation for bad sportsmanship. They are the winners and let you know you are the losers. And the parents and coach don't do anything about it.<

There's got to be higher-ups that you can report this "coach" to.

Posted by: Alex | June 5, 2008 12:46 PM

moxiemom: "#1 - could someone, ANYONE explain to my why girls don't play baseball? I don't get why softball is a better option for them."

The system that's in place today.

If your asking the question, "is softball more suited to girls than baseball? Is there something about the game that naturally suits them better?" the answer is no, there is no difference. Girls could have easily gotten started in girls' baseball programs.

However, that's not what happened. For whatever reason, girls historically got started in softball. Maybe it's because it was perceived as "softer" or "smaller" or more feminine; I don't know. (The ball is softer; a COR of 0.47 vs 0.55 for baseballs. The field is smaller; 60 feet between bases vs. 90 for baseball, and usually about 200 feet to the fence for fastpitch.)

But today, if you're a girl, you look at baseball and say "I could play in the local youth league with the boys, but that's about it. I might make the high school team with the boys if I'm exceptional and the coach is understanding and supportive. And in the best case I might join the two or three women who have played college baseball. But that's it."

Then you look at softball and say "I can play in the local leagues. I can play at the rec level, or at three different travel levels. There are high school varsity and JV teams for me. There are college scholarships available; the college championships are on TV every day for a week. And at the top of the peak there's the US national team, which will go to the Olympics and likely win its fourth straight Gold Medal. I can make good money from endorsements like Jennie Finch and Cat Osterman and Dr. Dot Richardson and Lisa Fernandez and... I can go to other countries and play professionally if I want. And I can play recreationally all my adult life in my local community if I want."

That's generally not a hard choice for most girls to make.

Posted by: ArmyBrat | June 5, 2008 12:58 PM


how many different counties did you coach? how many different leagues did you coach? you coached 6 seasons but were they all in the same place or did you move around? if you were the coach why were there daisy pickers on your team? as a coach it is your responsibility to be a coach. don't blame the daisy pickers on your inability to be a good coach. it's easy to coach super stars. it's harder to coach the daisy pickers. you picked the easier job. embrace your decision.

You have asked so I will answer. First off, I don't need to do a cross country survey, if 10 seasons of coaching and being involved aren't enough for you,too bad. kids are kids. Some are terrible, some are fantastic. Just like life. The daisy pickers were kids who were just there, some were there because of their parents, some just didn't care about soccer. That is why rec is around to see if you like it. some didn't. Not bad kids but daisy pickers. My job as a coach is to put the effort in helping kids according to their ability. For some merely kicking the ball in a game was a proud moment, others carried the team. I was proud of their accomplishments but facts are facts. Some kids are terrible at soccer and may be better at another sport. Some kids would beg to play the whole game others would stand around during the game and beg to go sit down. Lastly you are right superstars are easy to coach. I think kids who don't like soccer and want to pick daisies during a game should find something they DO like, it is better for the kid and the team and let's someone have that spot who really wants it.

Posted by: loves soccer | June 5, 2008 1:01 PM

I have to go to work but as a last thought. My original post was to the kid who really wants to play BETTER soccer. Get out of rec (if you can). That in no way says that your kid cannot have fun in a rec league and enjoy the "beautiful" game.

Posted by: loves soccer | June 5, 2008 1:09 PM

I played soccer in HS and am now playing on a rec league for work and I'll say that men's and women's style of play is vastly different. Girls have to make more runs and passes because we can't wail the ball up the field as far (the goalie on my current team can throw to half-field). Playing with guys required some adjustments, but luckily we're all older now and have slowed down considerably. Playing with boys at their high school peak would have been nearly impossible.

As far as sportsmanship goes, my boyfriend coached high school sports and looked forward to the first loss of the season to give his "measure of a man" speech. Basically, he says that it's easy to be gracious while winning, but what defines a person is how they handle loss. He and the other coach's goal was to see who could deliver the speech well enough to get the boys to tear up, but that's another story.

Posted by: Em | June 5, 2008 1:13 PM

Sorry, what privileges are we asking for? Seems to me some of you are saying that girls need to play by the boys rules and behavior but not to ask the same of them. That's BS.

Posted by: Privileges? | June 5, 2008 1:13 PM

"Frankly, I think it is sad that we seem to have moved in this country to a mindset that doesn't allow for the casual, enjoyable pursuit of anything."

Couldn't agree more. A lot of the justification I hear for it is that everyone hopes for a college scholarship. Of course, we all know the odds of that, but those odds never apply to our kids, now, do they? Because they're special. :-)

But there was an interesting series in the NYTimes a month or so ago that examined the real value of a college scholarship. Turns out, unless you're in one of the big-money sports (which is pretty much limited to football and basketball), the scholarship money is almost nothing -- we're talking Division 1 baseball players and swimmers getting offered maybe $2K. Not something to turn your nose up at, but not exactly a good return on all the money paid to help get the kid to that level of competition and performance. One swimmer's dad basically summed it up as "yeah -- the scholarship pretty much paid back the last year of travel team fees and costs."

Posted by: Laura | June 5, 2008 1:16 PM

At the high school sports meeting for parents, one of the coaches discussed college scholarships. "if you want to improve your child's chances of winning a scholarship, have them hit the books". academic scholarships are much more prevalent than athletic scholarships.

Posted by: Anonymous | June 5, 2008 1:22 PM

Laura, the scholarship money is often small, but there are exceptions. One softball pitcher in this county has a verbal commitment to the University of Michigan for a full ride, which she got as a sophomore. (She also has an unhittable riseball, which is how she got the scholarship. Oh, and she bats .679. That'll get you some money in a hurry.)

But the other thing about the "scholarship" is that it gets you IN to the college. There are thousands of applicants to the name colleges; thousands of fully qualified students are turned down every year because there isn't room. But having a coach say "this student is qualified and I want her" gets you past that - if you're qualified, you're in. And to people who are never going to make a living at a sport, the ability of the sport to get you somewhere that is useful in making a living is key.

(Disclaimer: none of my kids is ever going to get a college athletic scholarship. Hopefully, the all get academic scholarships instead. :-)

Posted by: ArmyBrat | June 5, 2008 1:32 PM

Y'all are scaring me... and I have a boy! I had no idea this was so complicated under 10 years old.

Posted by: Shandra | June 5, 2008 1:46 PM

"Y'all are scaring me... and I have a boy! I had no idea this was so complicated under 10 years old"

It's not, just in Leslie's world where everything is viewed through the prism of victimhood.....

Posted by: Anonymous | June 5, 2008 1:48 PM

Does anyone want my song today or do you like softball that much?

Posted by: Songster | June 5, 2008 1:59 PM

There truly are many more partial than full scholarships in sports. But there are exceptions. Which proves the rule. I can give examples of both sides.

Of course, you can just go to a CSS for undergrad and save the big costs for graduate school. Having said that, I don't believe in the concept of a CSS. It is just part of the OB mythology!

Posted by: dotted | June 5, 2008 2:00 PM

what song, songster? I looked but I didn't find it????

Posted by: dotted | June 5, 2008 2:01 PM

"But there simply were not enough all-girls teams for six-year-olds."

Really? In DC? DD played on an all-girl team from ages 5-8 here in Las Vegas. I had three different leagues in my area from which to choose. My sister started playing on an all girls rec soccer teams when she was six in California in the 1970s. She later went to college on a full NCAA soccer scholarship. I'm really shocked that the DC area still didn't have this option a mere 3 years ago.

I'd highly encourage you to give your daughter the opportunity to play in an all-girl environment. I suspect their goal will change from "not crying" to "scoring goals" in no time flat!

Posted by: Vegas Mom | June 5, 2008 2:03 PM

The situation for athletic scholarships is worse for boys. Most of the male scholarships go to basketball/football. Football predominates. Getting the numbers to be even means there are more scholarships available to girls in other sports.

There is no crying in baseball!

Posted by: dotted | June 5, 2008 2:04 PM

I wonder how those 'token boys' felt about their situation....

Posted by: Anonymous | June 5, 2008 2:07 PM

The other thing about being scouted/scholarships is that it may expose a kid to a college they hadn't considered. We have a family friend whose daughter went to Holy Cross on a half scholarship for basketball - cost to her family was close enough to her sister's in state rate at UVa which made it financially viable choice.

Posted by: Kate | June 5, 2008 2:07 PM

"Does anyone want my song today or do you like softball that much?"

Let's have the song, Songster!

Posted by: ArmyBrat | June 5, 2008 2:10 PM

Hey, Moxiemom,

For more trivia that just can't be beat, do you know why women are historically limited to barrel racing and calf roping in western events?

Modern-day, professional rodeo first got its start in 1882 when Buffalo Bill Cody made the events part of his successful Wild West Show and July Fourth celebration in North Platte, Nebraska. Cody was a dime store novel hero, buffalo hunter, and vaudeville star, and his wild west shows drew huge crowds and widespread media coverage. Cody wanted to depict life in the "real west," so he hired cowboys, Indians, and Mexican ropers to act out war dances, buffalo hunts, Pony Express rides, and stagecoach robberies. The crowds were enthralled with the roping and riding contests. Open to local residents, the contests that pitted neighbor against neighbor quickly became show staples. Not surprisingly, women didn't play pivotal roles in Cody's shows. Actresses played bit parts: doing laundry, cooking, herding a wild brood of children, obediently trailing behind their men as they marched across the rough and tumble territory.

In 1885, when Cody hired sharpshooter Annie Oakley, he was on to something big. Oakley was adored by the crowds because of her carefree spirit and wild antics. Recognizing the potential Oakley represented, Cody promptly hired 12 lady riders as stars of his wild west shows. Cody's success spawned other wild west shows that flourished through the 1930s. As the events expanded, cowboy contests became more advertised and prizes became,more lucrative. Cowtowns worked year-round to organize community celebrations where friendly competition was the theme, and many were modeled after Cody's shows.

In 1897, the first Cheyenne Frontier Days was held and it soon became the most prestigious event of that time. Women competed in bronc riding or the cow pony event or trick riding, and the crowds loved it. Realizing a need to draw larger crowds, officials throughout the country began adding women's events to their own. Until 1920, women had many competitive opportunities and frequently competed against men for prizes. Newspaper and magazine coverage reporting on women in early rodeo was a mixed bag. Some towns gave the rodeo unbiased coverage, including the women's sports, but most omitted the results from the women's events as if it didn't happen. A few sprinkled coverage with dour comments and sexist overtones. More than one writer pointed out that, although the women were competent competitors, perhaps they would fare better in the kitchen. Pioneer cowgirls tried to find a foot hold in the shifting, male-dominated world of rodeo. Some trick roped or trick rode. Some participated in sponsor events which were usually no more than crooked beauty pageants. A lucky few competed. But for the few who competed, dozens more were left with no place in rodeo other than the spectator stands.

But hey! Times are changing! I mean, we can now openly discuss that only 1/3 of the cowboys of the 19th century were white, and there were a LOT of women who were doing the same job.

Posted by: Trivial Pursuit | June 5, 2008 2:29 PM

Formed as the Girls Rodeo Association (GRA) in 1948, several of the original members were female ranchers who had been forced to take over family operations as husbands and fathers were to called to service in World War II.

Though women had played an important role in rodeo's formative years in the mid-to-late nineteenth century, competing and winning against their male counterparts, by the time of the GRA's formation women's role in rodeo had been reduced to beauty pageants, with prizes (instead of prize money) such as cigarette cases. These women were exceptionally competent riders and ropers, whose skills had been honed working the open ranges of the American west, and they found it demeaning to pushed to the extreme edges of rodeo.

The WPRA also has an All Women's Division which sanctions rodeos exclusively for women. These All Women's rodeos feature five events - breakaway calf roping, tie-down calf roping, team roping, bareback riding and bull riding - in addition to the barrel race.

Posted by: Anonymous | June 5, 2008 2:31 PM

An ode to one of my favorite pastimes, nap time!

To the tune of Silly Love Songs

You'd think that people would have had enough of daytime sleeping.
But I look around me and I don't think it is so.
Some days, I want a little daytime sleeping.
And whats wrong with that?
I'd like to know, cause there I snooze again
I love naps, I love naps,
I love naps, I love naps,
I can explain all the shades that I need, I just don't want to see!
Ah, sunshine and lights, no, not for me.
Now I don't wanna' see,
Whats wrong with that
I need to know, cause here I go again
I love naps, I need naps.

Day beds come in all sizes.
All sizes, I don't know what for.
I only know that when I'm in one.
I am sleepy, yes, I am sleepy, yes, really sleepy after all.

How can I tell you about my love for a siesta?
(I love naps)
How can I tell you about my love for a siesta?
(I love naps)
[repeat and fade]


Posted by: Songster | June 5, 2008 2:32 PM

But the shame of it is the flip-side. Men are not permitted to compete in the professional barrel race. They can compete in the futurities and open barrel races.

Sounds like they need to start pushing for their professional league to open up barrel racing to men, in addition to getting the women's league to open it up too.

Posted by: Trivial Pursuit | June 5, 2008 2:33 PM

Trivial,

Your posts remind me why I read this silly blog - there's some good stuff here from time to time!

Posted by: MN | June 5, 2008 2:56 PM

God, you're like a dog with a bone in her teeth! You and Leslie basically agree, she's not being overly defensive (if anything, you're being overly confrontational) - just let it go!

Posted by: To MN | June 5, 2008 3:00 PM

No good comments for my song? You are hurting my feelings!

Posted by: Songster | June 5, 2008 3:46 PM

Trivial pursuit - that's actually really interesting. Sounds like there is a movie, akin to A league of their own, in there!

I've always felt that softball was a little "less" than baseball, othewise why would it be a pursuit so frequently played by people who never play it and often played while drinking? I"m sure Army Brat will not like it, but that's how I perceive it. I've always thought that soccer is one of the few sports that women play as well as men when it comes to spectating, but I'm sure that's another conversation or bag of worms all together.

I'm all for co-ed sports before puberty. Many of the girls on my daughter's soccer team are bigger and badder than the boys. I think it is a great way to let boys see girls as aggressive competitors and for girls to see themselves as aggressive competitiors. I played co-ed soccer until I moved to CA in 5th grade where everything was single sex and even at 10 I was amazed at how much less aggressive the girls on the all girls teams were compared to my co-ed team. Granted that was, ahem, some time ago, but nonetheless, I think there is great value in them competing together while the physiological playing field is generally level.

Songster, one of my favorite songs, and a wonderful take on it. I've got to go have a cup of coffee! I haven't had a nap in I dunno how long.

Posted by: Moxiemom | June 5, 2008 3:46 PM

God, you're like a dog with a bone in her teeth! You and Leslie basically agree, she's not being overly defensive (if anything, you're being overly confrontational) - just let it go!

Posted by: To MN | June 5, 2008 3:00 PM

Sorry, Ms. Nosyparker Anonymous. In the real world, there's nothing confrontational about a difference of opinion. Then again, in the real world, folks like you don't exactly have anyone lining up for your advice, especially with that endearing bossy delivery.

Posted by: MN | June 5, 2008 3:51 PM

Posted by: To MN | June 5, 2008 3:00 PM

AMEN!!! God its been nice that mehitbel hasn't been around but MN has certain seen fit to fill her shoes.

Posted by: Regular who agrees! | June 5, 2008 3:56 PM

moxiemom, I don't take offense - I chalk it up to belief that you're associating "softball" with "slo-pitch" with its 12-foot arc; mass consumption of beer; and rules on many fields that balls hit over the fences are outs. Too bad the Women's College World Series is over. I could have pointed out when you could see real softball.

(I have nothing against soccer, btw. Learned to play it in Munich. Back in those days the Army fields in Munich were called "Harlaching Field." It was a piece of ground shared with a club called FC Bayern Munchen, which was coming into its own as the best team in the world. We used to go to baseball practice, then sit around afterward and watch the likes of Beckenbauer, Muller, Hoeness, Maier et alia practice. Incredible.

Here's some trivia for you: go to Google maps and look up "sabener strasse 51 munich germany" Go to the satellite view. That's Bayern Munich's training ground. In the southwestern corner - lower left in the picture - you can see the remnants of two baseball fields where hundreds of American kids - and troops - played the game back in the day. :-)

Posted by: ArmyBrat | June 5, 2008 4:10 PM

AB: that was totally cool.

Posted by: kate07 | June 5, 2008 4:21 PM

Hey,

I played slow pitch softball as a child and as an adult. It's a different game than fast pitch, but it is still competitive. And I never heard "over the fence is an out".

Brooks Robinson once said that the only thing he could never hit was a slo-pitch softball.

Posted by: wait a minute | June 5, 2008 4:24 PM

Last week and yesterday Leslie was all about how women should be able to be passionate, strident, assertive or even angry. Then MN disagrees with her substantively on a QUESTION SHE ASKED and Leslie whines. MN didn't make any personal attack or say anything even remotely rude, she gave an opinion on the topic of the day and Leslie took offense.

Posted by: whatever | June 5, 2008 4:29 PM

a couple of random thoughts:

does anybody remember the washington post mag article on the soccer coach who really drive his all girl team hard? to the point where he had them throw away their medals because they won second place not first? that is exactly the kind of coach i would want to avoid at all possible costs. like an earlier poster said, what ever happened to the idea of playing just for the enjoyment of it? there's nothing wrong with wanting to play your best but i just think the coach in that article was way twisted.
i guess that is what a rec league is for & the travel league is for those who want to really play.

Posted by: quark | June 5, 2008 5:00 PM

there's nothing wrong with wanting to play your best but i just think the coach in that article was way twisted

really? what insight you have.....

Posted by: Anonymous | June 5, 2008 5:34 PM

Songster, writing as a daily napper, I loved your song. I can't relate to the soccer topic at all. I arise at 0400, and my daily nap is my 20 minutes of heaven every afternoon after I get home. Some comedian once said that the difference between children and adults was that a 4 year old would never say, "Hey, I'm going to grab a quick 40 winks on the couch," whereas an adult loves to do just that.

Posted by: babsy1 | June 5, 2008 5:53 PM

Gee, AB, I took a shot at you yesterday and you did not respond. I guess I am losing my touch!

Kate07,

You daughter can always go on to play on the men's USC team! Probably would be the best player on the team.

Posted by: Fred | June 5, 2008 6:24 PM

Ouch Fred, I have to admit you're right on that one. Imagine my dismay when noting that UCLA is faring slightly better this year.

Posted by: kate07 | June 5, 2008 8:04 PM

I've seen some extreme classlessness and rudeness on the sports fields over the years. I think boys need to be taught some class in the situation described, winning doesn't buy a ticket to disrespect. I've seen my daughters get the most out of playing in all girls leagues, vs. coed. There are exceptions, when a competitive, confident girl player can benefit from learning how to play a more physical, aggressive style with boys. I think it really comes down to why your daughter is playing. Is it recreational, where the main goal is social interaction and exercise without a lot of competition, or is it to gain a mastery of a sport and competition with winning as an articulated priority. Neither one is right or wrong, but different purposes.

Posted by: coachofbothboysandgirls | June 8, 2008 7:14 AM

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