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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?

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My son is in second grade and playing soccer and even at this young age, I think gender makes a difference, in the sense that boys would rather pass to boys and girls would rather pass to girls. Whether that's a good thing or not doesn't enter into the equation - it's just how it is. This is part of the reason we chose a soccer group that offers only single sex teams (that plus it was the one in our neighborhood). Frankly, I view sports as an extra and if my kid isn't going to enjoy it, dog knows I don't need the extra stress of getting to practices and games and all of that stuff. So I think if it's going to make your daughter not like the sport, I think it might be worth looking for another team or skipping it.

I enjoyed co-ed soccer until 8th grade and was a little sad I had to be on the girls team after that. But that was all I had known. Living in a small town, there just weren't enough girls. I think it made me a more aggressive player, so I saw it as a plus.

Talk to the coach about it. Maybe he doesn't see them not passing to the girls or maybe he doesn't know it's a problem.

what a bummer, honestly. I grew up on the East Coast (CT) where soccer is king (or queen?). The inter-town league starts at pre-k. There isn't a co-ed team past the age of 5. The town travel teams are so competative that you have to try out for them. I played on one the many town teams (our one town had probably 10-12 teams, maybe more? I can't even remember - but there were no shortage of teams to play they were arranged by neighborhood basically) and they were not co-ed. I played until 8th grade - the oldest you could be on a town team. I hope she can still enjoy it and not get bulldozed by the boys.

I'm the mother of boys who play soccer and am actually fairly bummed about the lack of co-ed soccer. There are at least two girls who play soccer who would otherwise be on my son's team who play better than any boy I know. It would be awesome if my kids could see the girls being just as, if not way better, than the boys. Wiping away any budding stereotypes on the field.

I played on a co-ed soccer team in 7th and 8th grade. I felt like I had an unfair advantage. Not in practice so much, but definitely with the opposing team. They'd always hesitate -- maybe they were afraid to hurt a girl -- and I'd steal the ball.

I went to a one room school house in grade school, where I was the only girl between 1st and 5th grade, though. This made me both a tomboy, and very aware of my girl power.

I played soccer on an all girl team in high school, and I found other girls to be much more intimidating.

I was really bummed out to see, at the Mt Tabor Soccer Club fest in August, that teams start to be single-sex at third grade. I want my 2nd-grade boy to be playing with boys AND girls at least until puberty, because otherwise the obvious questions arise for all of us, including "why do girls and boys play on different teams?" Starting those stereotypes early, or what?

Anyway, then it was even sadder that on the first day of practice, my 2nd-graders team turned out to be...all boys. Lame.

I played co-ed basketball from 1st - 6th grade and co-ed football in 5th grade (although our team was the only one with girls on it - we had two- in the league). I played girls soccer in 1st and 2nd grade and hated it because most of the other girls knew each other and didn't want much to do with me. The boys teams were fine, especially once I got to about 3rd grade and the boys figured out I could actually score points in basketball. This might have been because I had an outgoing personality and always got along well with boys. I would let your daughter try to get to know some of the boys on her team and make sure the coaches were into encouraging the boys to play equally with her. The football team I played on was so much fun! I learned how to run plays and throw and catch a football pretty well. Made me a better fan later on and instilled some love for the sport.

This is our first fall in Portland, and I was surprised that my second grader's team is all boys. The parents told me that last year the teams were single sex as well. It'd be nice if boys and girls could still play together.

I suppose it depends on the kid somewhat. While I certainly see the benefits of playing on a co-ed team, I think I'm glad my 1st grader is on an all-girls team. I think (though can't say for sure since she hasn't played co-ed)she's more comfortable and agressive (in a good way) w/o boys. It shouldn't matter but to some it does. As the parent of a boy and a girl, I definitely see some differences.

We have 9 years old twins - a daughter and a son and they love playing soccer together with friends. During the game gender doesn't play a role, at least not at yet... I wish it would be so when they grow up, too.

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