Because it’s 2016.
I thought it was just me. Still new to soccer and having never played as a kid, I thought I wasn’t getting passed the ball a lot on the co-ed rec teams I joined at the time because…well, my teammates felt a fumble was forthcoming. (And I’ll be honest, I did fumble it. But not always.)
But then I heard it. And I heard it again. And again. It was too many similar sideline conversations to be coincidental. The gripes were uttered through gritted teeth, hands on hips, rolled eyes and shaking heads:
‘Um, it’d be nice if they actually passed the ball to me.”
“This is one of *those* teams, isn’t it?”
“Do they play their girls? Because if not, I’m not subbing in.”
Many women who play co-ed sports know what I’m talking about—that team or those teammates who don’t fully engage you in the game, whether it’s not passing the ball to you or repeatedly dropping you to the bottom of the batting order. It’s that one-look assumption that because of your gender, you can’t really play.
But it’s time—well, it’s long overdue really—to play the girl. Especially in co-ed sports because you’re actively choosing to play with women. Sure the first time you pass to a new female or male teammate, you might get a fumble. Or you might get a really great pass or throw out of it. Sport is partly about taking chances and you don’t know what the result will be until you do, no matter what gender awaits at the end of the play.
And let’s be honest—there are clearly guys who also make errors on the first touch/swing/ bump/shot, you name it. The difference is, they’re often given a second, third even fourth chance to rectify that first mistake.
Instead, as many female players of you-name-the-sport would agree, women (especially new ones to a team) have one or two plays to prove themselves. And have mercy if they do fumble the play because suddenly they might find their scoring or playing opportunities limited by their male counterparts, some of whom likely don’t even know they’re doing it. No, the pressure is there to step onto the field or rink and be an immediate rock star athlete. Otherwise, you can get pushed into the pylon position where your teammates play around—not with—you. Having seen female scoring teammates from one team sub into others and still get the ball passed around, and not to, her, it leaves the whole experience feeling like a really bad grade two soccer game where boys just played with boys and girls were shut out.
To those male teammates who don’t even think twice about fully engaging us in the game, we recognize it and we thank you. To those who don’t, we know who you are too…but for a different reason.
So teams, play your women; because if 15 women making up half of our federal cabinet seems so obviously long overdue, so does the notion that women can play sports too.
~Written by Astrid Van Den Broek (Guest Blogger)