I came across an interesting article from Prince Edward Island today.
I found this article interesting because it talks about the idea that some sports are more for one gender than the other, and talks about how there are efforts being made to reduce those perceptions and encourage (in particular) girls to participate in sports traditionally thought to be for ‘boys’.
The article looks specifically at baseball as a case study. One of the things that is interesting is that in PEI, baseball is mixed in younger years and become segregated as children age. I have limited knowledge of baseball but my guess is that at that age girls options in baseball become more limited so they are encouraged to move to softball – a sport which appears to be more for ‘girls’.
The other interesting thing that caught my eye in this article is that a lot of girls seem to stop playing sports about the time they hit puberty and while the exact reason isn’t really known (they list some probable causes) I wonder about this a bit. I think we all know that puberty is a pretty confusing and difficult time for both genders, but what I wonder is how reducing sports participation (and activity) impacts the experience. From my own experience, I also stopped participating in gymnastics and swimming around puberty although the reason was more financial rather than desire. Part of me wonders if the difficulties I experienced in my early teens (including a big weight gain) may have been reduced if I had stayed more active. Activity is such a big part of my life now and a huge part of my stress relief.
Putting that aside, I wanted to air some thoughts about segregated sports in general. I do completely understand why it is good to have both male and female divisions in most sport, but competing in a (generally) mixed partnered sport myself, I wonder why there are not more options for mixed team sports – especially for youth.
I am aware of some leagues of soccer in my city that have mixed teams for adults. I am not familiar enough with other team sport associations to know if there are options in baseball, softball, field hockey, lacrosse, or other sports, and I am completely oblivious if any mixed options are available for teens.
I wonder this because I think of the advantages of dance – one of which is that from a young age children learn to be respectful of each other – regardless of gender. Its a lesson that could certainly transfer to other sports, at least in my opinion. Adding to that, it could also provide practical education for things which we seem to be questioning as society as a whole – such as equality between the sexes and gender roles.
If we grow up participating in sports together – as it appears we do when we are younger – perhaps the ideas of treating each other with respect, and equality are not things to question when we get older because it is part of our culture that the sexes always mix.
I am not saying there is no difference between the sexes, clearly there is or else we wouldn’t have them. But what I am saying is that perhaps we focus too much as a society on issues of sex and gender to the point that we almost make too big a deal – leading to segregation and the idea that some sports are for ‘boys’ and other are for ‘girls’.
Perhaps I am also very biased, after all I participate in a sport that should be for both sexes but is currently experiencing a severe shortage of male participants, but when I see an article like the one in the link it gets me thinking and wondering – why do we focus on segregating some sports and not offer more options for mixed teams?
Demand is part of it, I am sure. But that also begs the question – is there a lack of demand because it isn’t expected or offered? Is it because our cultural norm is to have separate teams?
Another interesting thing to note in the article is that some sports, dancesport included, are more popular with both sexes (or the opposite sex, such as field hockey mentioned in the article) in Europe and other places overseas.
Perhaps I have opened a can of worms here but I feel that this is an issue well worth thinking about.
Food for thought.