“I am not paying to watch girls play basketball.” She said it almost with a mocking tone, as though the idea anyone would pay to watch girls play basketball was ridiculous. She said it unapologetically, seemingly unaware of how damaging her statement was.
She said it in front of my son.
The youth basketball league that my son plays in gifted each player a ticket to watch our hometown University Women’s Basketball team play. Parents and siblings had to pay for their tickets, which ran a whopping $5 each.
Many parents decided they weren’t going to attend. They didn’t feel that these women were worth the $5 they would have to pay for an additional ticket.
I wonder if this woman who decided her sons wouldn’t be interested in watching women play, recognized that she referred to the men’s team as men but the women’s team as girls. I wonder if she realized that her sons were listening to her mock the women’s team.
We're Treating Girls' Sports Differently
We are a very athletic family. Both my children play sports and have participated in soccer, basketball, hockey, dance, gymnastics and swimming.
I have noticed a real difference between how we, as parents, treat the girls’ teams versus the boys’ team.
When it comes to my son’s soccer team, parents are actively involved. They make sure that the kids attend every practice. They sit on the sidelines of each game and cheer the team on, encouraging their boys to play with aggression and intensity. When a player makes a mistake in the game the coach calls them on it, teaching how to improve his game. Everyone from the player, to the coach, to the ref and the parent are involved and actively participating.
That isn’t the same situation with my daughter’s soccer team. Soccer practice for the girls' team is often cancelled because not enough players are showing up.
During games, parents set up their chairs on the sidelines and they cheer the team on, but it lacks intensity. I hear a lot of “good try” and “way to go” and parents clap for each goal. But the excitement just isn’t there. They don’t encourage their girls to play with aggression, in fact if one player bumps another and it leads to someone hitting the ground you can hear the collective sigh of shock amongst the sidelines. If a player makes a mistake many coaches seem reluctant to tell them what they did wrong and instead pat them on the back for the effort. Most parents don’t encourage competition and when the girls naturally add up the goals scored and talk about who won the game I often hear parents telling them it’s not about who won it’s about how much fun they had.
Parents just aren’t as invested.
What worries me is that this isn’t the case in sports that are stereotypically associated with girls such as gymnastics, dance and figure skating. What, I wonder, is the message our daughters are gaining from this?
What's the Impact?
Studies show that as girls get older they participate less in organized sports. Are we as parents to blame for that?
Does my daughter feel the lack of enthusiasm from the parents on the sidelines of her soccer game versus her brother’s games? Does she hear her brother get praised for scoring the game-winning goal but when it’s her turn she hears that it doesn’t matter who won the game?
My daughter is very active. She loves to run, jump, climb and swim. She loves kicking a soccer ball across the field, diving off the dive blocks at swim club and cartwheeling across the floor at the gymnastics gym. I don’t want her to lose her enthusiasm for sports because she doesn’t feel encouraged. I want her to continue to be active. I want her to compete because I think competition is good.
So I sit on the sidelines and cheer her on. I try and encourage her to play with passion and with aggression. I take her games just as serious as I do my son’s.
Most importantly, I take her, along with my son, to watch women play sports. We sit in the stands and watch the women play soccer and basketball and we cheer them on with just as much gusto as we do the men.