By Samantha B.
There are many barriers that often effect a girl’s participation on a boys’ sports team. As discussed in class, some of these include not feeling like they are good enough because women are viewed as “the weaker sex” or that women should compete in more feminine sports like dance and gymnastics. However, it is not uncommon now to see a girl playing on a boys’ sports team. For example, Hayley Wickenheiser played with a men’s Swedish hockey team and Annika Sorenstam and Michelle Wie played in the all male PGA (McDonagh & Pappano, 2008).
The majority of the time girls are only allowed to play on boys’ sports teams when there is not a girls team being offered. However, more and more girls want to play on boys’ teams instead of girls’ teams because they often get more of an opportunity to become better athletes because boys’ sports programs are more developed than ones for girls. Courtney Greer played for her high school boys soccer team and said, “For me it was an opportunity to expand the skills that I have and improve as a player… It’s just the boys game is so different, and it allows me to develop in a whole different way.”
I grew up playing hockey in the boys’ league – I chose to play and continued to play in the boys league because I found that developmentally it was better for me as an athlete. Throughout my time playing on boys’ hockey teams, I have also played on girls’ teams, but only on competitive provincial teams or high school. Even though these teams are supposed to be competitive teams, I still never built as many skills as I did while playing on the boys, teams. The one developmental skill that I missed out on from playing with the boys that I did get while playing with the girls was the social aspect of sport. It wasn’t that I wasn’t welcomed by the boys or wasn’t friends with them, but having to get changed in a different dressing room than your team makes you miss out on some of the socialization of the sport and team camaraderie. When I played with the girls, I was in the dressing room socializing with them.
Most of the time girls who report being treated differently while playing with the boys are from the teams they are playing against and not the teams they are on. However, when girls do play on boys teams, a lot of the time they have to prove themselves which can be discouraging for some. In the book “Playing Ball with the Boys: The Rise of Women in the World of Men’s Sports” (2011) Ruth Riley says “… you can learn quickly that when you play with guys they’re not going to pass you the ball twice if you mess up the first time…” For some girls this has the potential to lower their self esteem and sense of self worth.
One of the key arguments brought up against girls playing on boys’ teams is the risk of injury for the girls because girls are viewed as “the weaker sex”. For some girls this may be true, however, females who are qualified to play these sports – even contact sports- should have the option to play where they like. These types of protests against girls playing with boys can potentially discourage even qualified females from even attempting to play on boys’ teams or participate in sports at all.
McDonagh, E.L., & Pappano L.(2008) Playing With the Boys: Why Separate is not Equal in Sport. Oxford: Oxford University Press
Ross, B.M. & George, P. (2011) Playing Ball With the Boys: The Rise of Women in the World of Men’s Sports. Clerisy Press 2011