The Women’s Sports Foundation supports a position that girls and boys should be encouraged to compete with and against each other in sports whenever possible:
"Prior to puberty, there is no gender-based physiological reason to separate females and males in sports competition. In fact, research demonstrates that girls who participate with boys in youth sports are more resilient. ... After puberty, coeducational competition should be encouraged at all levels where there are rules that require equal numbers of females and males on both teams and also rules that maximize fair competition between the sexes."
The Women’s Sports Foundation cites numerous benefits for girls who play sports with boys. But here's another one that I didn't see mentioned on the foundation's related position paper.
In my last post, I discussed the benefits of "Playing Up". For strong, competitive girls who want to Play Up against better competition, they have a unique option. Beside playing against other talented girls, they can also Play Up against boys.
Not only will girls more easily locate good competition, but they will probably find that they need to adapt their game to compensate for boys’ greater physical strength and power (on average). This, in turn, will provide these girls with the opportunity to develop new and different skills, adapt to a faster game, and learn how to play with even more intelligence to offset any physical disadvantage. Playing Up against boys has another benefit—it can provide girls with a competitive advantage when they play against other girls.
Here's some advice that you may want to give to your daughter to better prepare her for when she first plays with boys:
TIP 1: "You may initially face resistance from certain boys who don’t want to play with girls. You may be teased, much the same as a boy who is somehow “different”. Don’t let this deter you. You can either ignore the teasing or calmly look the boy in his eye and “name his sin.” Many other boys will respect your talent and want to play with you. Try to form allegiances with them. They will likely support you if the teasing gets out of hand."
TIP 2: "Remember that boys value competency in team sports—especially as it relates to you knowing how to play a role that can help the team win. With most boys, your play will define whether you’re accepted in the group or not. Show a willingness to initially play a team role and select one you can do well. Once you're accepted, your roles will grow based on your ability." (This is the same approach any new boy would take playing with other boys for the first few times.)
TIP 3: "Boys are sometimes confused about how they should play competitive sports with girls. If you’re intent on improving your game, you should insist that boys treat you the same way as they would another boy. You may need to challenge some boys to do so. In these situations, talk yourself up. For example, suggest to whoever is covering you that he 'can’t handle your game.' On defense you might say, 'You can’t get past me.'"
Copyright © 2012 Jeffrey S. Rhoads. All Rights Reserved