Kids & Sports: Does Gender Matter?
We have decided on one extracurricular for our fifth-grade daughter: soccer. We finally found a team to join, through many queries and research. Previously, our girl has done a few sessions at Portland Parks & Rec - one co-ed basketball session, one all-girls basketball session - as well as an all-girls basketball camp (a one-week session during the summer) for the past two years. We were very excited when we got to the practice field last Wednesday afternoon. Our girl was super excited about getting her uniform; she seems so eager to be a part of a team and learn about sportsgirlship.
When we got to the field, we were a little confused. We saw some younger girls practicing on one side. We saw some older boys practicing on the other side. I knew recognized her coach who was working on drills with the boys. We were a few minutes early, so I figured he was wrapping up with the boys and would start with the girls shortly.
"C'mon! Grab a ball and join us," he said to my daughter. A little confused, she did. We were expecting an all-girls team, but it turns out that there weren't enough fifth grade girls for a team. So, they formed a co-ed team to play against all-boy teams.
When we got home, I asked my girl how she felt about being on the co-ed team. Her excitement was gone and she didn't seem as peppy about the whole soccer concept as she was before. I asked, "does it really make a difference?" She said, "Well, yeah. They kick so hard and sometimes they would rather pass to another boy than to me." I wasn't surprised, as I had noticed this also when she had played on a co-ed soccer team.
I was an athlete growing up, playing tennis, basketball, and soccer from about grade 6 through high school. My early years, I played on co-ed teams. I did notice a difference, and I didn't feel like I would have reached my full potential if I continued to play on co-ed teams. Whether it be because I was less assertive when boys were on the field or whether it be because boys were less inclined to consider me a worthy part of the team, I was less comfortable playing on a co-ed team. In the younger years, it probably doesn't matter much. In the older years, though, does it?