Knoll 1

“Girls Can't Play Hockey!”
By DANNY KNOLL September 27, 2010 At about age 5, I was enrolled in a novice hockey program and absolutely loathed it. It was possibly the worst thing that could have happened from the viewpoint of my young, undeveloped mind. Why was my dad punishing me like this? What did I do to my mom that she felt the need to make me go through this every week? I went out there, struggled, and eventually, like most of the kids who get signed up, learned what I had to do to keep myself afloat and, after many months of practice, was advanced into a legitimate league with practices and games. I was a hockey player. Of course, seeing that I was doing it, my little sister was suddenly interested as well. It didn't matter a bit that she didn't understand the idea of the game of hockey; she was going to be a hockey player because her big brother was. Cut to about 7 years later – now, 2010. After being on many house-level teams, a few terribly ranked school teams, and a somewhat successful medium tier travel team, my hockey career is at a stand-still. The end result for me is going to be a beer-league somewhere. I will play hockey for fun, and that's about all. My sister, according to surveys and stereotypes, should have been long past her hockey days as well, and onto things such as gymnastics or dance, if she was involved in any activities at all at this stage of her life. (Hannon) Instead, in her second year of high school, she's well on her way to getting a very good sum of money towards her college education in the name of collegiate sports. She currently plays on a girls' team, but she didn't always. Up until last year, she played on boys' travel teams, and along with that, played up two or three age brackets against the huge goons in my house leagues. Most recently, she was drafted

Knoll 2 for an all-star team of sorts, and helped her all-female team win the gold for her age group in the Empire States Games held at the University of Buffalo. Any girls' team she has played on so far, she's been one of the top three strongest players. There is no coincidence here: playing with the boys definitely gave her the upper hand. Not all girls can enjoy the same outcome – and it may have absolutely nothing to do with their talent, self-discipline, or work ethic. Cliché as it is, there is a lot of adversity in becoming a successful athlete in a sport that is traditionally played, and therefore organized, sponsored, and enjoyed, by men. Going with the hockey example, a woman's best way to succeed is to play in a high-ranking men's league – the highest they're capable of. It's just fact that the men's games are more fast paced, more aggressive by nature (checking is allowed), and because of this, a female looking to develop her skills for use later on in her career is going to want to play amongst boys and men as much as possible, and for as long as possible. The problem that faces many girls trying to improve at a sport like hockey by playing on the highest level they can is predictable: there's still sexism in the world of sports, and it's ugly. Because most of the people at the top of organizations for contact sports are males, there is a lot of tradition that hasn't quite vanished yet, and it's having a negative effect on female athletes. If you're a girl trying to get onto an all-male contact-sport squad, a few things may happen. First, they'll might just tell you that you don't have a prayer right off the bat. Others might go through the entire process, tryouts, etc. to make sure they're covered in every way - but still won't allow you to play on the team. The only real way someone could argue against gender equality in sports and still be anywhere in the neighborhood of political correctness is if a female were denied the right to

Knoll 3 compete based on the idea that it's very easy for them to get injured. Michael Burke, author of “A Feminist Reconstruction of Liberal Rights” from Journal of the Philosophy of Sport, refers to this philosophy as the AEC, or Anatomical Exclusion Clause (Burke), which provides opportunities for sporting organizations to exclude people of one sex from participation in competitive sporting activities against members of the other sex where strength, stamina, or physique of competitors is relevant. Seeing as females are, as a whole, not as quick, or strong, or capable of endurance as males, this may seem like a legitimate point. The problem with the AEC that Burke brings up as well is that it is based on stereotypes that do not categorize females as a whole. The AEC is an idea that relies on a theoretical female being smaller, slower, and having less stamina than a theoretical male attempting do accomplish the same task. What it doesn't account for is the many variations our species has – we have people that are all shapes, weights, strengths, and heights. Because a board of male coordinators think the average physique of a female is weak and brittle does not mean that they all are. It also doesn't account for the eccentricities of men, meaning that you could have a male who is 4'8" out playing contact sports and no one would think of banning him from playing. There are plenty of weak, tiny, or otherwise disadvantaged males playing sports like hockey that simply don't belong out there, and are posing a risk to themselves just by playing the game. On the flip side, I've met plenty of girls who are more than physically capable of playing contact sports just as well, if not better than your average male, and definitely better than a below-average male, whom we shouldn't forget isn't questioned when he signs up for a sport. As a whole, it's quite clear that boys are the dominant group when it comes to contact sports. But since when has being the lesser of two competitors stopped a competition from taking

Knoll 4 place? Take into consideration the scenario of two boxers setting up a match. You have a lightweight boxer who thinks he's the cat's meow. He challenges the heavy-weight champion. There is not going to be any committee that steps in in the interest of the light-weight and tell him he can't handle the challenge and prevent him from entering the ring. If the light-weight gets killed, so be it. No one forced him to fight, he chose it. This principle should be applied to all competition – let the athlete decide if they think they can handle the competition. If a girl misjudges her talent or strength and gets hurt by a boy during competition, so be it. She did it of her own free will instead of being handed down an order to cease and desist, and learned her place naturally and with dignity instead of being told what it was by whatever authority is currently being recognized. Another great comparison that Ken MacQueen made in “Boy Vs. Girl” is the gender issue, or lack-thereof, in the US Armed Forces. If a woman has the capability to go and handle all the duties a man does, she's more than welcome. Females enlist every day, are deployed every day, and put their lives out on the line right alongside the men – every day. No one is excluding the female troops because of the average physique their gender has. (MacQueen) Many suggest that not only should female athletes logically be allowed to step up and take on their male counterparts, in some areas, they actually have the advantage. For instance, MacQueen also points out that women as a whole have better depth perception, and many are more adept at reading body language. To get a better understanding of exactly what kind of advantages girls had in sports over boys, specifically hockey, I decided to have a talk with someone who has the best seat in the house – a hockey coach. Scott Welch has been coaching since 1988. He's coached around 9

Knoll 5 teams, most notably including a boy's high school hockey team at Hamburg High School, a men's college team at Erie Community College, and an Empire State team, which is very prestigious in the State of New York. Along with that, he's coached through the various levels of girls' hockey, following his daughters up the ranks, and is considered an authority on both boy's and girl's hockey. When I asked him who he thought had an easier time understanding new drills and ideas he would express to them during a practices, he didn't even have to consider his answer. “Definitely the girls. I've done both, and I'm actually real close and good friends with Dave Smith, who has been coaching at Canisius College; he was my assistant last year on my twelve and under (girls') team, and his comment, watching some of the drills we do now, was 'My boys would have a tough time picking up on these conceptually.' Boys can finish (the play), but as far as understanding concepts and doing multitask-type drills, you know, I think girls are much more cerebral when it comes to things like that.” This is coming from a man who had coached high school teams, coached college teams, gone to large state-wide competitions, and was offered a full-time position coaching the men's team at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute. (Welch) Before the new millennium rolled around, it was even harder to get the elite of sports interested in female athletes. In 1972, a federal education law entitled “Title IX” was passed in order to force colleges that received state funding to dish out just as many scholarships for female athletes as they did for male athletes. Although the number of female athletes has been increasing since the passing of Title IX, there's still a huge gap in the number of male athletes versus female athletes. What that means for females trying to take their sport to a collegiate level as a means of paying for their education is that there's more money per capita available. If it's

Knoll 6 unclear why I'm bringing this to the forefront, it's because it serves as drive for female athletes. Because it's easier to get the collegiate assistance through sports, more girls are going to be training harder in order to get those spots. In contact sports, the best place for girls to advance themselves is by playing with whatever boys' team they can, because by the nature of it, boys' competition is more intense. And while playing in these boys' organizations, a girl takes her mission very seriously – to attain college scholarships. There won't be any stereotypical feminine conflicts, there won't be any flirting with the members of her team, and because of the rewards that lie ahead of her, there won't be any letting up. A female on a mission to succeed athletically at a collegiate level and above is a powerful thing. The dedication and seriousness of many female athletes in and out of competition speaks volumes for this. (Parker-Pope) What you should be taking from this today is the question: “Why would any athlete stop short of their potential?” Better yet, “Why SHOULD any athlete stop short of their potential?” For the situation to improve, for females to stop being discriminated against, organizations, coaches, boys playing contact sports, parents, everyone needs to ask themselves: should a female athlete should be resigned to playing on a designated girls' team, when she's physically and mentally capable of higher competition? People need to consider whether logically, every girl should be judged by the average body type of a female. What most discriminating coaches, peers, and fans don't realize about women in sports is that as a whole, they aren't trying to be “uppity” or “show the boys who's boss”. For most, there isn't a “I'm going to show the boys how it's done!” type demeanor. No one is trying to be a hero – athletes just want to have the best competition available, and the vast majority of times, the best competition for a serious athlete is in any men's division available to the sport in question.

Knoll 7 Works Cited Hannon, James, et al. "Gender Stereotyping and the Influence of Race in Sport Among Adolescents." Research Quarterly for Exercise & Sport 80.3 (2009): 676-684. Academic Search Premier. EBSCO. Web. 7 Oct. 2010. MacQueen, Ken. "BOY VS. GIRL." Maclean's 116.21 (2003): 26. Academic Search Premier. EBSCO. Web. 7 Oct. 2010. Burke, Michael. "A Feminist Reconstruction of Liberal Rights and Sport." May 2010. Web. 07 Oct. 2010. <>. Parker-Pope, Tara. "As Girls Become Women, Sports Pay Dividends -" Health and Wellness - Well Blog - 15 Feb. 2010. Web. 07 Oct. 2010. <>. Welch, Scott. Telephone interview. 30 Sept. 2010.

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