One of my colleagues stopped me other day to tell me about his experience watching his daughter play soccer. He kind of laughed as he first explained that his daughter was a defensive player, and at one point in the game, another girl was trying to get by her when she was able to steal the ball and clear it. His daughter then turned to the other girl and said, “Not in my house!” He said he laughed at first, but then later had a serious conversation with her about how inappropriate her comment was.
As a coach and as a mom of two girls, I was particularly interested in this story—and perhaps that’s why it’s the topic of my writing. This story, albeit told in passing, made me begin to think about my coaching and parenting practices almost immediately. “How would I have handled this situation if I were the coach?” and from there, “If I were the parent?”
Having coached male and female athletes at the high school level, I can honestly tell you that if it were my daughter that made that comment, or anyone else’s daughter for that matter, I in no way would have deemed it inappropriate. In fact, I would encourage her competitiveness! After all, she wasn’t degrading her opponent. She didn’t use profanity. She didn’t insult an official or break any rules. She was, simply, in the moment. She was developing and building confidence, and she was COMPETING… and that, my friends, is NOT common among many young women.
Let’s be real, women’s athletics needs more, “Not in my house!” from its participants. In men’s sports, this comment (and many others far worse) are entirely overlooked as, “Oh, he’s just being competitive” or “he hates to lose”…and the adults all seem to be OK with this, but when it’s a girl making the comments, it’s somehow deemed inappropriate.
Though my colleague is a great guy, I wonder if he had a son and his son made the same comment, would he have responded the same way? Would the comment have been deemed competitive and manly? Or still inappropriate? These are questions that more and more coaches and more and more parents need to ask themselves.
Why do we parent and coach girls and boys differently? Why can’t we let girls compete the same way we do boys? So the next time you are out watching your son/daughter play ball, sit back and observe the adults.
It’s the adults who are keeping the gender gap in athletics alive, sadly. The answer is simple: Let the Girls Compete.