Why Co-Ed Sports Leagues Are Never Really Co-Ed
July 25, 2018 1:06 PM   Subscribe

It started as a mystery. Why aren’t women playing adult co-ed sports? And why, once they start, do they so often drop out? The mystery actually started as a question to myself, but it was a different question: Am I crazy?, I texted a friend after a particularly frustrating Friday night soccer game a couple of years ago with my co-ed team... Were the guys really not passing to me, or was I just not as open to receive a pass as I thought I had been? ... And why didn’t any of the other women there seem to be angry?
I know now that I wasn’t crazy, and I wasn’t alone... Most, if not all co-ed leagues are set up to render women as second-class athletes.
posted by kevinbelt (94 comments total) 35 users marked this as a favorite
 


Oh yes does this ring true. When I first moved to my new city I joined a co-ed sports league as something to do and played for several years. We experienced things like the other team saying extremely sexist things to the women on the field and I have been injured because a guy from a team we were playing against basically body-slammed me against a concrete brick wall. We had similar rules about the minimum number of people of each gender that must be on the floor (two).

I eventually stopped playing but not because of the guys we were playing against, but rather those on my own team in the last year I played floor hockey in the league. We were a team of several people who had been playing together for a couple of years and had usually done reasonably well. During this season many of us signed up as usual, but then one of the guys brought along a woman that he played with in the league on another night and she joined our team as a non-paying member a couple of games into the season, which was fine. She played goalie and was pretty good at it. At first, we continued to have two women on the floor other than the goalie but then the guys on the team realised that - hey! - they didn't actually need to have two of us women on the floor playing because they had one in goal! So they suggested via our team email string we only have one woman on the floor of the five players, plus the female goalie. I said that, no, the women were going to continue to be two on the floor other than the goalie (who was not even a paying member of the team to boot!) and my other female teammates generally supported me on that, but things got AWKWARD. I didn't sign up the next season.
posted by urbanlenny at 1:17 PM on July 25, 2018 [5 favorites]


I played in some adult co-rec soccer leagues a decade or two ago. In an indoor 6 v 6 league, I played on a team that was pretty even between men and women as far as sharing the ball and positions. We did pretty well, winning the league a couple of times. I was a pretty mediocre player even though I played varsity soccer in HS. Didn't score much. Mostly did D.

I got asked one week to sub on another team. They weren't very successful, in general. For some reason they thought I should be a forward. I was a monster. I scored 3 goals myself, and the final was 6 - 1, the three other goals all coming from women. The team, especially the women were astounded. They said that usually the men didn't pass to them and the ball just moved among the three men. The women on that team were really good soccer players and knew the game. I would pass the ball, and they would feed it back to me in perfect time, and vice versa. I think the other team expected them not to get the ball, so they were lax guarding them. They knew me from my usual team, and didn't expect much from me. It was such a pleasure to humble them and to do it by playing soccer the way it's meant to be played. Joga bonito!
posted by Mental Wimp at 1:17 PM on July 25, 2018 [87 favorites]


Oh and this article asks why men are playing in co-ed leagues if they're not planning to involve the women: it's often because, with few exceptions, the teams are organised by one of the women on the team (the ages-old emotional labour).
posted by urbanlenny at 1:23 PM on July 25, 2018 [39 favorites]


From the article:
I’m thinking about anger and where it goes. About how the world has told men that it will readily absorb their anger, whatever outlet they choose: catcalling a woman on the street; shooting up a school; screaming at a ref because if you don’t win this game you don’t know what you’ll do, because you hate your job; spouting hate speech at women on Twitter.

When I get angry I’m supposed to do a sheet mask and write in my gratitude journal.

posted by Emmy Rae at 1:24 PM on July 25, 2018 [81 favorites]


I have a lot of thoughts and feelings and yet nothing that hasn't been said a million times already. Yeah, it is just fucking tiring.

OK I do have one thing to say. I get ultra-competitive about sports sometimes. I get unreasonably angry if I perceive something to be unfair. I am ashamed to admit that I have blown my top at a ref in a recreational intramural sports league. Because that's unacceptable behavior for anyone over the age of 7, I stopped using that league as my pressure release valve. But I don't know, we've been talking and talking and talking about this for so long and yet men still get to spew their shit all over everyone else and expect other people to just deal with it.
posted by muddgirl at 1:24 PM on July 25, 2018 [4 favorites]


I quit playing in a coed kickball league after a guy got up in my face and pressed me against the backstop fence yelling at me for kicking the ball (AND SCORING) instead of bunting. I walked off the field and never went back.
posted by ThatSomething at 1:24 PM on July 25, 2018 [7 favorites]


In general, men seem to have trouble sharing things they think are theirs with women.
posted by agregoli at 1:24 PM on July 25, 2018 [51 favorites]


At first, we continued to have two women on the floor other than the goalie but then the guys on the team realised that - hey! - they didn't actually need to have two of us women on the floor playing because they had one in goal!

This is why, in my experience playing rec soccer in NYC, the gender minimums exclude goalkeepers from the count. . .
posted by Exceptional_Hubris at 1:30 PM on July 25, 2018


Sport. Not even once.
posted by Damienmce at 1:35 PM on July 25, 2018 [4 favorites]


There should be gender PARITY in a co-ed game, not female minimums. Same as how the government and the Supreme Court should be, and how the world is naturally, but not socially arranged. That this isn't so is insane, and that men generally don't think this is insane is even more insane!
posted by agregoli at 1:36 PM on July 25, 2018 [28 favorites]


It started as a mystery. Why aren’t women playing adult co-ed sports? And why, once they start, do they so often drop out?
Lol did it though
posted by schadenfrau at 1:41 PM on July 25, 2018 [84 favorites]


When I played rec-league soccer in grad school, we were the only co-ed team in the winter league. I have very strong memories of the male players on the other teams harassing the women on my team.

At least once, my very tall and athletic female teammate took down one of the guys on the other team (some sort of slide tackle or something) and the ref let it go because he'd figured out what was going on. Of course the ref didn't call the men who were fouling us...
posted by suelac at 1:42 PM on July 25, 2018


TL; DR: men
posted by GenjiandProust at 1:48 PM on July 25, 2018 [54 favorites]


As a young boy with a significant amount of unearned privilege, the irrational hostility and senseless abuse I encountered from other boys (of similar privilege) on my own team while playing team sports in grade school was enough to put me off of participating in team sports for the rest of my life (30+ years and counting). I cannot even begin to fathom how much worse it is for any girl or woman playing on a co-ed team.

At least once, my very tall and athletic female teammate took down one of the guys on the other team (some sort of slide tackle or something) and the ref let it go because he'd figured out what was going on. Of course the ref didn't call the men who were fouling us...

Interesting approach from that ref; it's all good as long as the women start fulfilling toxic masculinity expectations, too...
posted by davejay at 1:49 PM on July 25, 2018 [10 favorites]


My then-wife-to-be and I played co-ed volleyball back when we were younger. What made it work well was that only one of the guys had extensive experience in the sport but the women were all good. We guy types would stand around and be tall and do what we were told and we won a lot. Funny thing, the one guy who did know the game was our setter. You'd think the skill job with secondary height requirements would have gone to one of the experienced women, but Lance was both ridiculously talented and one of the kindest people I've ever met so it worked pretty well. The league featured a pretty low level of play and he was obviously better than all of us, so setting was a place where he could make all of us better and not score on the other team at will. We honestly didn't know how good he was until one week when another team started riding the ref really hard and it roused his silent anger. He reeled off an uninterrupted string of jump serve aces to end the game right there and went home for the night.

Anyway, TLDR is avoid sports that are traditionally guy territory and you start off in a better place almost immediately. (Side note: many years later our daughter took up the game and we found that volleyball dads aren't nearly as bad as in some other sports. In talking with others we think it's because they don't have the self-confidence rooted in years of playing. Like the Swiss flag, it's a big plus.)
posted by Cris E at 1:49 PM on July 25, 2018 [16 favorites]


It was such a pleasure to humble them and to do it by playing soccer the way it's meant to be played

god the ugliest most horrible witch cackle erupted from me upon reading this, thank you.
posted by poffin boffin at 1:50 PM on July 25, 2018 [11 favorites]


I just watched the Friends Thanksgiving episode where they all play football, and both teams make Rachel stand out of the way, effectively making her not part of the game, and certainly not giving her a chance to play.
posted by gucci mane at 1:52 PM on July 25, 2018 [3 favorites]


My husband and I were on a co-ed kickball team when we moved to our new city. We were in what was called the "beer league" because most of the teams were far more concerned with drinking in the park than winning. I was kind of shocked that there was actually a rule that you had to have two women on the field, who weren't the catcher. Then I saw all the other teams we played who never put girls on the field beyond their required two. Our team at one point had just two guys on the field because the dudes kept getting injured.

Other teams would comment on how neat it was that our captain was a girl and all the girls on our team "actually played." Like it was some sort of novelty. Oddly enough, even though we'd do jello shots if we made it to second base, we came in second in the championship 3 years in a row. Then our 1st and 2nd basewomen got pregnant and our best pitcher/captain had two kids in as many years and we struggled to field a team. Eventually, the team disbanded because even when the leftovers tried to play on other teams in the lowest competitive level in the league, the asshole guys wouldn't let us play, or were shitheads about a girl pitching or whatever.

So yeah, not at all surprised but pleased my experience was way different.
posted by teleri025 at 1:53 PM on July 25, 2018 [6 favorites]


men also really cannot handle it if a woman is better than them

Men also cannot handle it when another man can handle it. You get accused of being a white knight or some shit.
posted by klanawa at 1:57 PM on July 25, 2018 [44 favorites]


Yeah, all it takes is one shithead. In a Coed soccer league in college it was my job was to smush the guy who would want to either get handsy or rough with any of our women who had the audacity to play well. Every week I had to knock a guy down. Every fucking week.
posted by Abehammerb Lincoln at 1:58 PM on July 25, 2018 [14 favorites]


I feel like "men can't handle it" is turning up to be a decent summary for like. most things.
posted by nogoodverybad at 2:03 PM on July 25, 2018 [46 favorites]


I had a great experience in a co-ed sports league. We generally had 60/40 ratio of men to women. Our league really focused on the social aspects of the league and downplayed the competition. It only takes 1 overly competitive asshole, man or woman, to ruin a game. We had to remind them that such behavior wasn't welcome and if that's a problem we will refund their fees.
posted by ShakeyJake at 2:05 PM on July 25, 2018 [3 favorites]


I'm not in a co-ed sports league, but I've experienced this pretty much every time I've played co-ed team sports, even when it's something that no one should be talking seriously.

One time I went out to play whirlyball with people from my department. For those of you not in the know, whirlyball is basically lacrosse played in bumper cars. You can choose to be competitive, but you don't have to, and in fact that's why we chose it. No one would be good at it, and it's too silly to care if you win or lose. But still, there was one man who had to win, and who assumed the women had to be told what to do.

I remember thinking: "I'm in a fucking bumper car and this is still happening?"
posted by Kutsuwamushi at 2:13 PM on July 25, 2018 [22 favorites]


Having played women's soccer (in an over 45, duffer league) I can tell you that some of these old female players got very heated while playing and the risk of injury from opposing players was very real. It was difficult to field a goalie because they kept being injured by opposing players and could not play the rest of the season. I could not figure out some players' aggressive behaviour. At 45 and older you heal slowly and duffer soccer is not worth a permanent injury.
posted by Gwynarra at 2:15 PM on July 25, 2018


finally upon reading the actual article this stands out to me pretty strongly:

“A bunch of our women kept getting thrown around like rag dolls,” said Amanda Giobbi of her former ZogSports basketball team in New York, which she used to co-captain.

let's not discount the absolute undeniable fact that, wholly separate from a man's ability to deal with the possibility of women doing something better than they do, a nonzero number of men look forward to an opportunity to physically hurt women in a manner that can be handwaved away as socially acceptable.
posted by poffin boffin at 2:17 PM on July 25, 2018 [86 favorites]


I've talked about this issue tangentially on the blue before because dealing with it is a core value in the sport I play and coach: Ultimate (frisbee).

A number of years ago the sport put the desire to achieve gender equity (not the same as equality) into writing and has had working groups, 5 year action plans, traveling community forums and awareness programs at all levels.

One thing that was done was to demand that at High Profile Events the finals we not automatically scheduled to place the men's game last, and several of the partner companies that film the games, for streaming or broadcast have contracts such that their main focus would be on mixed and women's.

There is a burgeoning (semi) pro league that faced a boycott by many elite male players last year in order to get the league to figure out how to give opportunities for elite women to play. mixed success, but movement has generally been in a good direction.

These things are geared toward encouraging the next generation by showing them that female players are valued at the high levels of the sport.

On the local league level the most important thing has been having conversations with female players about their experiences on the field, and in that light this article simply reinforces what i have heard many times.

In mixed games/leagues women have been valued because they fill a roster requirement. Once they are on the field they get fewer touches, and are often physically intimidated away from the disc even though it is a non-contact sport.

Awareness programs begin with even the basics, like the language we use. We now try to call "match-up" or "person to person" defense, instead of saying "let's play man to man", we often begin introductions in situations where players are new to each other by stating our preferred pronouns, we alternate female and male captains calling set plays or pulling the disc into play at the beginning of points.

some of these measures have been successful, and there has been a lot of buy-in by the current generation of players to make the game reflect these values, but there are still many obstacles to overcome to get girls who play and love the game to be adult women who play and love the game and only time will tell if what we are doing now has a lasting effect. I hope that it does.
posted by OHenryPacey at 2:19 PM on July 25, 2018 [42 favorites]


i think sports are beautiful, which is why it's sad though not surprising to read the stories in the article of, well, men being assholes in social spaces.

it doesn't have to be this way. i stepped into a pond hockey game in Minnesota one winter, in -10F temperatures, borrowed stick and skates. pond hockey's simple - whoever shows up plays, everyone rotates among teams, and there are no goalies so to prevent things getting out of hand you can only score a goal with the puck on the ice.

there was a wide disparity of skill, and what was really touching was how much the better players didn't mind the skill disparity in the game - they'd adjust their level of intensity based on the player they were up against in the moment; there'd be intense flurries as two really fast and maneuverable players went head to head, and things would mellow out into the gliding loping falling clumsy-thwacking of mostly poorly but enthusiastically played hockey.

i got a little ahead of myself in one play, tried to do some good stickhandling and found myself crashing headfirst into another player. expecting an eyeroll, I instead got a hand up as I was apologizing. "It's okay," he shrugged. "I'm a bad stopper, too."

The evening was memorable for how sweet and welcoming it was. "Pond hockey is the heart of the sport," my friend said, insistently, as we walked home, sweat freezing in the cold.
posted by entropone at 2:20 PM on July 25, 2018 [42 favorites]


also iirc it was restless_nomad who mentioned something many years ago, in a previous similarly-themed thread, about doing martial arts in mixed gender groups and how even at advanced levels there were still some men for whom it seemed like their primary goal was to take women down with way more deliberate and obnoxious aggression than they'd use for a male sparring partner.

anyway the human race was a mistake and i've decided to become a jellyfish
posted by poffin boffin at 2:25 PM on July 25, 2018 [71 favorites]


I'm pretty heavily involved with and play in a co-ed 7-a-side half-field soccer league in Seattle (called, appropriately enough, Pub League), and I've watched it grow and change quite a bit over the years to become much more friendly to newcomers and especially women. Because it was explicitly constructed as a learn-to-play league in the beginning, there have always been rules about "graduating" players out of the league who are simply too good or too aggressive for the average has-been or never-were looking to get some cardio, run around with some friends, and learn what a cross is. These "graduated" players are almost always men, of course. In the last few seasons, the league has developed two divisions, "Premier" and "Classic" (I am not fond of these names, but whatever). The Premier division is basically where the competitive play-hards go, and it gives them somewhere to go while the rest of us remember that we're in a Sunday afternoon kickaround and probably hungover. I'm going to be talking about the Classic division for the rest of this comment. The Premier division is slightly better than what's described in the post, but not by much, and the very low percentage of women players there is proof of that. This is something I want to fix and talk to the league commissioners about frequently.

While there are always injuries in any sporting endeavor, I know of very few in our league that have come from inappropriate aggression or contact. We're really, really harsh about that shit, and the refs blow up early, before things escalate. Like, closing down someone too fast or too intensely will get you whistled, little contact required. That isn't to say that there isn't assholery, unfortunately and of course, but we try to keep it monitored and punished, and far more league bans have been handed out for careless aggression than for anything else.

One of the things I find encouraging about our approach is not only how many women return to the league, season after season, but how we're constantly getting new women players. We seem to hover between 30% and 40% women, which I think is pretty good for a league with no gender quotas or requirements. It helps that we're constructed from the league down, rather than the teams up; everyone participating for the season is placed in a pool, and the coaches of the 4-team league divide players evenly according to skill level, preferred positions, age, etc, so that there's a good mix on each team and the emphasis is on learning and playing with different people rather than winning. Then each coach is randomly assigned a team, so that there's not a lot of playing favorites or trying to stack a team if the coach themself is too competitive. There's also a private process for calling out "missing stair" type people, so that if someone definitely shouldn't be on a team with someone else, that doesn't happen, and the someone else is watched pretty closely. Obviously, that's not perfect and in some cases it's much too lenient to assholes, but I'm glad there's some kind of process in place to protect people.

To wrap this up, I want to be clear that our league operates the way it does precisely because the rest of Seattle co-ed soccer is such a shitshow when it comes to gender, aggression, and competitive levels. I miss playing full-field soccer sometimes, but man, you'd have to pay me a lot to go back to the idiocy, arrogance, and recklessness that characterizes lower-level soccer around here. These guys think a Sounders scout is coming to their Tuesday night celebration of shots off target. Everything in the article is true, obvious, and easily visible on any given weekday night in these leagues. I'm glad to be involved with a group trying to do things differently and address these issues, but that doesn't mean they're not huge issues throughout so-called "recreational" adult sports.
posted by Errant at 2:30 PM on July 25, 2018 [18 favorites]


Related: How 9-Year-Old Me Learned the Folly of Coed Sports, about mixed teams in youth sports.
posted by chrchr at 2:35 PM on July 25, 2018


I have many many feelings about co-ed sports that at complicated by being trans. On the one hand, co-ed sports were for some years the only hope I had of participating I organised team sport. On the other hand, quotas for women felt hugely tokenizing--the way to be goos in our league was either to have a handful of exceptionally good men or a lot of women. Didn't matter if your women were exceptional or goalkeepers (who didn't count towards the quota, so couldn't play in goal), the only good strategy for using them was to rotate them fast. And, well, quotas really don't work if different people read your gender differently.
posted by hoyland at 2:48 PM on July 25, 2018 [4 favorites]


The hate toward women in sports is something I remember literally as far back as I can remember, with another four year old sneering that an adult woman who was a professional athlete could NO WAY OUTRUN HIM because she was just a GIRL. Junior high gym class, playing soccer - the boys don't pass to girls, including girls who play soccer outside school. The teacher may or may not say anything about this. High school I was spending all my time in dance class but nearly failed gym because the teacher felt my desire not to participate in team sports was a moral failing rather than something drilled into me by every gym class ever. After high school, as the only girl in my martial arts class I worked as hard as I could and had a couple of guys who would take every opportunity to bully me, and then found out the teacher was "going easy on me" as though life ever had.

Roller derby was the exception to this, and I left that due to work and that one of the other women on the team decided it would be cool to use me to get her estranged husband's attention. Prior to that, though, roller derby was great - really supportive, come-as-you-are, emphasized teamwork and teaching.

In total, this is why I've spent most of my life riding my bike, before my health took that away: because I could do it on my own, and I didn't have to deal with men being horrible.
posted by bile and syntax at 2:56 PM on July 25, 2018 [11 favorites]


After reading the OP comments, I want to add: There are a few men in the comments saying that they would never be aggressive towards a player, but they have occasionally blown up at a referee in a rec league. It should go without saying that this is completely unacceptable. I removed myself from a rec league because I couldn't help but take my issues out on the refs. They aren't paid to be anyone's punching bag and I hope that adult leagues are ejecting players that abuse the refs.
posted by muddgirl at 2:58 PM on July 25, 2018 [10 favorites]


I don't know any guys who have stuck with these leagues because there are too many raging assholes.
I'm sure it's 100 times worse for women.
posted by bongo_x at 3:16 PM on July 25, 2018


I stopped playing co-ed soccer because of a recurring injury I wanted to rehab without getting shit from other people in the league (mostly men, but some women too). I basically wrecked my body in different forms of co-ed soccer.

Anyhow, I find it hilarious that they talk about Zog because they took over the Meetup group for women's pick-up soccer in my area and now it's just advertising their league. It's annoying because I am getting the itch to play pick-up again but I don't know where I can find a chill (like actually relaxed!) pick-up game that is cool for out of shape women in the East Bay. I've thought about going back to the league I used to play in, because they are usually desperate for women, but I know the level of competition has been steadily escalating and I just don't want to harsh some ex-collegiate midfielder's attempt at easy glory. I also got really tired of feeling like I was a liability because I wasn't fast or skilled enough to fulfill some people's notions of how we were supposed to be playing in ostensibly a non-competitive league. I know at one point, I made up for a lack of finesse with a willingness to go in for physical challenges but that also lead to lots of sprains, muscle pulls, a concussion and broken hand.

One of the leagues I played in had a big debate about the requirement to field women when I was on the board. Basically there was a minimum of 3 women on the field for a team at any time, but what if only 3 (or fewer) women showed up? Could they sub off or would they be required to play the full 90? What if they wanted to sub? There wasn't really consensus because it seemed like it was punishing women who did show up, thus making it less attractive to keep showing up. But at the same time, if a woman didn't want to sub-off (like oh so many men) why should she? Never was there a discussion about making the gender parity in the league make it so that it wouldn't be an issue (like dropping men and collapsing teams to make sure we had a closer to 50/50 roster). The sense I got from the men is that they liked co-ed leagues because they were easier than a lot of the men only ones, but a lot of them were still total jerks. It was annoying when I would point out somebody being an asshole to one of my male friends in the league, and they would usually shrug and just say something, "yeah but that's soccer". And they wonder why I'm really hesitant to come back to that league? Actually to be fair, there were a lot of women in the league too who liked the league because it was easy enough for them to dominate.

Anyhow, I wish it was easier to find pick-up games for people who aren't very good.
posted by kendrak at 3:19 PM on July 25, 2018 [6 favorites]


Oh and this article asks why men are playing in co-ed leagues if they're not planning to involve the women....

It's not a complete answer, by any means, but "join a co-ed sport or activity" is one of the most commonly given pieces of dating advice when someone asks how to meet men/women. Even on MeFi, if I recall right. (It comes right after gymming up and hitting the lawyers, or something.)

So a non-zero number of participants, both male and female, are there as a kind of dating hack, which probably explains some of the behaviors documented in the article, including some people not caring about the sport aspect and the various mating ritual overtones.
posted by rokusan at 3:34 PM on July 25, 2018 [2 favorites]


dating hack: meet a woman, tear her ACL so she can't get away, ????, marriage!
posted by poffin boffin at 3:41 PM on July 25, 2018 [40 favorites]


I play pickup basketball down the street from me once a week - literally no stakes games - and I see men get furious, angry - yelling and screaming. I don't understand it at all. Where does this come from? And why is it so pervasive? They look obnoxious and make the whole thing unpleasant for everyone. Why are these men in the co-ed leagues so territorial? It's never made a lick of sense to me.
posted by holmesian at 3:43 PM on July 25, 2018 [3 favorites]


COED NAKED AGRESSION
posted by capnsue at 3:57 PM on July 25, 2018 [6 favorites]


Where does this come from? And why is it so pervasive?

Sayre's Law.
posted by asterix at 3:58 PM on July 25, 2018 [2 favorites]


I've played co-ed ultimate for years in Toronto, and while I've definitely been on teams with men who wouldn't throw women the disc as often, it's generally a pretty equal space. I think it helps that there's no contact in ultimate, and that the type of man who plays ultimate as their primary sport tends to be a little less aggressive than those who choose flag football or soccer (not that I haven't witnessed men throw flaming tantrums occasionally, but to be fair, I've seen women do the same thing). It's also a pretty universally understood rule of ultimate that the team with the better female players tends to win, as the skill spread between females is generally larger than it is between male players (at least once you get past rec level to intermediate and above). Anyway, I guess what I'm saying is that if you're a woman who wants to get back into co-ed sports, maybe try ultimate frisbee, 'cause sports like soccer really are far more aggressively masculine and unwelcoming (I still play co-ed soccer too though...I'm stubborn like that).
posted by Go Banana at 4:01 PM on July 25, 2018 [1 favorite]


dating hack: meet a woman, tear her ACL so she can't get away, ????, marriage!

Surprisingly this works; if you can get your relationship through rehabbing a knee reconstruction you're probably good for the long haul. (YMMV, I wasn't even on the field when my wife blew her ACL, it was co-ed Ultimate and that's how we met)
posted by N-stoff at 4:04 PM on July 25, 2018


men also really cannot handle it if a woman is better than them.

My nine-year-old daughter has recently gotten excited about soccer. She has played basketball the last couple years but is now looking forward to joining her school’s soccer team this fall. She wishes she could play on a mixed team instead of having a separate girls’ team. She asked me why girls and boys couldn’t play together and I didn’t have a good answer; I just said “I don’t know, I think it’s stupid.” She apparently asked one of the PE teachers at school and a nearby boy butted in with something along the lines of “because girls aren’t good at sports.”

Thanks for giving me a better answer to her question.


(The coach’s answer was some ok-but-not-helpful thing about how it would be great but would upset a lot of people)
posted by nickmark at 4:12 PM on July 25, 2018 [3 favorites]


Side derail: Everyone here is saying "co-ed," which I understand to be shorthand for co-educational. I've always said "co-rec," short for co-recreational, and it seems to be the norm where I live. Any wordies have insight into this difference in terminology?
posted by Mental Wimp at 4:15 PM on July 25, 2018


One of the leagues I played in had a big debate about the requirement to field women when I was on the board. Basically there was a minimum of 3 women on the field for a team at any time, but what if only 3 (or fewer) women showed up? Could they sub off or would they be required to play the full 90? What if they wanted to sub? There wasn't really consensus because it seemed like it was punishing women who did show up, thus making it less attractive to keep showing up. But at the same time, if a woman didn't want to sub-off (like oh so many men) why should she? Never was there a discussion about making the gender parity in the league make it so that it wouldn't be an issue (like dropping men and collapsing teams to make sure we had a closer to 50/50 roster). The sense I got from the men is that they liked co-ed leagues because they were easier than a lot of the men only ones, but a lot of them were still total jerks. It was annoying when I would point out somebody being an asshole to one of my male friends in the league, and they would usually shrug and just say something, "yeah but that's soccer". And they wonder why I'm really hesitant to come back to that league? Actually to be fair, there were a lot of women in the league too who liked the league because it was easy enough for them to dominate.

It's amazing how allergic these men must have been to the idea of "have more than the league required minimum of women on your team".
posted by kafziel at 4:20 PM on July 25, 2018 [1 favorite]


I've thought about trying to get half the field "girls only" and/or half the basketball area only for girls at my kids elementary school during recess time because the boys take over those spaces so intensely. I can see them just not seeing the girls which, you know, makes it hard for the girls to get in the game. The boys are so focused on each other, one-upping each other, surprising and dominating each other and, god forbid, a girl show up and best them, that's about the only time their consciousness seems to turn toward them and...it's usually not nice, to say the least. I'd like girls to have the space to play and use the balls and run and trounce but they seemingly cannot when it is co-gender.

But, I hesitate because you can just imagine the backlash and it would be just another thing for the public school teachers to enforce and they don't care. But, maybe if the girls had a chance and maybe if the boys saw them play....
posted by amanda at 4:30 PM on July 25, 2018 [5 favorites]


I don't know any guys who have stuck with these leagues because there are too many raging assholes.

Same here. I've tried adult co-ed leagues twice (an indoor soccer league and a kickball league) and both times hypercompetitive assholes ruined it for me. Admittedly I'm not the most athletic person but it's a recreational league for God's sake - if you're screaming at me to try harder then you're doing it wrong.

Then again, my wife was in a pickup softball league for years (before we met) and says that was never an issue for her team. I've met most of her former teammates and they're very laid back. Maybe she just got lucky.
posted by photo guy at 4:35 PM on July 25, 2018 [2 favorites]


"Co-ed social sports leagues aren’t really co-ed. They’re men’s leagues, where women are required to be present for the game to happen." QFT.

I really enjoyed playing sports when I was growing up, but I never got used to the gendered baggage that they carry. In high school, there was one random semester where, in lieu of regular gym class, we ended up playing racquetball at a city college. The courts usually self-segregated by gender. Boys would play silently and go hard. Girls were more focused on communal aspects of playing a game with others; there was a lot of complimenting others and apologizing for how "bad" you were. At the time, I was more comfortable with the former than the latter.

I think part of the issue is that Zog-type leagues are large and attract players of a wide variety of levels and motivations. I've played with my company's soccer team a couple of times. Some corporate teams were running drills and practicing between games. Other teams were composed of complete strangers who had been tossed together. Even if my coworkers and I came to the field intending to suck pretty hard and then go to a bar, we would end up playing teams that were taking things really very seriously (thankfully, not to the point of assaulting players). In those instances, I could tell that I was slow, and not keeping up or helping, and that I was really only there as a token. And that made me not want to go back.
posted by evidenceofabsence at 4:36 PM on July 25, 2018 [5 favorites]


I am currently in the process of trying to avoid the final night of a bowling league with the male spouse and some friends. It was in week two that I looked around and saw I was the only female human bowling there out of about 40 people that I sorted out I did not want to be there. This feeling has only gotten clearer and clearer, and bowling is barely a sport. Have gotten into beer-based arguments with (ALWAYS) dudes on other league teams trying to make it clear that it was a straight-up forbidding place for women to be. They had heard me on the phone outside the bowling alley complaining to my dad what a boyzone the whole thing was and they got offended for men everywhere, I guess. Anyway, I hope we don't make playoffs, because eff those jerks.
posted by lauranesson at 4:37 PM on July 25, 2018 [5 favorites]


I don't know any guys who have stuck with these leagues because there are too many raging assholes.

I played in a co-ed rec league for over ten years and finally gave it up mybe three years ago. Part of it was injuries and travel time... not wanting to fight traffic afetr work at 8pm on a Tuesday... but if I'm honest a lot of it was the raging assholes, both on opposing teams and my own team. And because we couldn't get women to show for the matches. There were a couple of women who would always show up, but often we'd end up fielding a team of eight players. This article is a reminder of why that was.

I play pickup soccer with a group of guys twice a week now at lunch, and it's great. That said, we have had women play with us for some stretches of time, but now we have precisely none. Part of that is because they changed jobs or moved away, but I am sure part of it is that--even in a means-nothing lunchtime game--it gets pretty heated.
posted by Kafkaesque at 4:53 PM on July 25, 2018 [2 favorites]


So I actually have a practical reason for posting this. (I actually considered posting it to the green instead of the blue.) As a guy, and a captain of a company volleyball team, what can I do to make things better for women? Obviously things like passing the ball to them and not screaming or being physically violent, but what else? Especially in terms of increasing turnout - we have a couple of women playing, but it'd be great to have more.
posted by kevinbelt at 5:01 PM on July 25, 2018 [5 favorites]


I no longer play rec league team sports due to the toxic attitudes involved. I love the game(s) and the competition but inevitably at least once a season some guy gets so flusterfucked they try to start a fight with a bystander, an ump, a teammate, or competitor. I've played with co-workers, friend groups, church-members, and quick games at lunch... it always happens.

I think that learning to work, win, lose and fail gracefully together are lessons that were reinforced through the years of team sports, but I hesitate to put my kids through them as the most vivid memories are not the games we won or lost but the explosive attitudes of parents and coaches. I found running cross-country my senior year instead of playing football a far more enjoyable experience.
posted by Quack at 5:03 PM on July 25, 2018 [2 favorites]


She asked me why girls and boys couldn’t play together and I didn’t have a good answer; I just said “I don’t know, I think it’s stupid.”

"Because some boys get very, very upset when a girl is better than him at sports, and then he tries to hurt her. And the refs will try to prevent that, but they can't always get there in time. So we have separate teams because some boys don't know how to control their tempers."
posted by ErisLordFreedom at 5:09 PM on July 25, 2018 [20 favorites]


Yeah, I really missed playing soccer and softball, so I joined my department's co-ed soccer team. We had three torn ACLs and a broken collarbone in one season because the men were SO OVER THE TOP. I nearly got into a fight because I got literally run over by the same man four times in one game and told him to calm the fuck down. I resented the "x number of girls on the field" rules because I'd end up exhausted and still never get to touch the ball. I played one season, and gave up on it entirely. I think it would have been much more fun if - rather than a MINIMUM GIRLS rule, they had a MAXIMUM BOYS rule. I would really like to play rec softball, but it's been a while and I feel like there's not really a league with room for growth where I wouldn't be a drag on the team - and thus, a drag on women as a class of people playing sports.
posted by ChuraChura at 5:22 PM on July 25, 2018 [5 favorites]


I played one season, and gave up on it entirely. I think it would have been much more fun if - rather than a MINIMUM GIRLS rule, they had a MAXIMUM BOYS rule

That was the coed rec league I played in, in Portland some years ago. There had to be at least 5 women on the field, and no more than five men on the field (I forget what the rule was w/rt goalies). So if only 4 women showed up, you played one person down because she couldn't be replaced with a guy. It helped to encourage teams to recruit women, because no matter how good the male players might be, you can't win with only half a team on the field.
posted by suelac at 5:28 PM on July 25, 2018 [6 favorites]


Some friends organized a co-rec soccer team in grad school because we liked soccer and liked each other and thought it would be fun. Two of our women had played NCAA soccer, and the rest of us had played a lot more casually but were ok. In our league, two women had to be on the field at all times, and that was easy for us because our team was maybe 2/3 women. We played maybe 3 seasons before it fell apart. In that time, 3 women had their legs broken by overly aggressive, really out of control men. One then got a pulmonary embolism because that's a fun thing that can happen when you get a compound fracture and you're on birth control. But the broken legs were not what broke our team up.

What really broke us up was the "old men's team". They managed to convince the league that men over 50 should count the same as women (they didn't have any women on their team but didn't want to play in the men's league anymore). Some of them were really big guys and they all played way too aggressively, but that wasn't the problem. The problem was one of my teammates who thought it was hilarious to yell at them "Who's the girl? Come on--which one of you is the girl?" He insisted to us that it wasn't that he thought there is anything wrong with being a woman but that he knew they did. He insisted he was just saying it to piss them off. But he clearly thought there is something wrong with being a woman, and that a 50+ year old man will still always be a better player than any woman (including our college soccer vets). And thus ended our co-rec team.
posted by hydropsyche at 5:50 PM on July 25, 2018 [16 favorites]


A friend of mine went to a broomball event her law firm threw for team building. Usually broomball is fun because nobody's good at it and people fall over a lot. I'm sure you can see where this is going: the male associates (80% of the associates) got HYPER aggressive and competitive, and in particular were coming after the female associates. Screaming, getting in people's faces, etc. Finally the one hyperaggressive guy body-checked my friend so hard she broke three bones.

She quit her job and sued her law firm and got a bunch of money. The guy didn't get fired -- I guess hypercompetitiveness is an asset, even if you cost your firm a few million in settlement costs! -- but the firm no longer does sports bonding events.

On a brighter note!
Where I went to college we had only single-sex dorms, and people stayed in the same dorm all four years. So we had a lot of intramural sports things, including a big festival in the spring with a bunch of different sports, usually with a men's division and women's division in every sport (flag football, 3-on-3 basketball, etc.). My junior year they decided to include old-fashioned tug-of-war, and while all the men's dorms signed up, my dorm was the only women's dorm to sign up. After a bunch of debate, they shrugged and decided to let my dorm compete in the men's tug-of-war tournament. I think it was 5-on-5, big ol' rope, mud pit in the middle, get the ribbon across a line style (which usually meant the other team went into the mud in a heap).

So we go to the first match (I was only cheering, I was not competing), much trash talking and mockery ensues, and the men start yanking and yelling at each other while the women have elected a captain, decided on an order for pullers, and the only noise is "pull! pull!" to coordinate their yanking from the captain and grunts of effort from the team. WE WIN, and the men go in the mud puddle.

It happens a second time.

It happens a third time.

The men are completely losing their shit -- these are big guys, a lot of Division I varsity athletes! -- but what they cannot manage to do is work together as a team, instead of screaming at each other and all trying to show off their extreme manliness. The women, arms sore, keep encouraging each other, working together, and following their game plan.

We won the championship! Every single men's team fell face-first into the mud before our tugging prowess. (And of course they then complained it had been an unfair competition.)

The next year, due to demands of the men's dorms, tug-of-war was no longer co-ed.
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 5:52 PM on July 25, 2018 [129 favorites]


I play coed soccer on a couple of different teams. I've definitely seen obnoxious and aggressive play of the type discussed in the OP and in this thread, but almost exclusively between men. Particularly in the more competitive of the leagues I play in, there's an unspoken agreement that men don't go in hard on women. (There's also a less-unspoken agreement that men mark men and women mark women.) Still sexist, but at least with less risk of injury.
posted by asterix at 6:07 PM on July 25, 2018 [4 favorites]


I didn't go bowling! No more activities for me where I get shit on 'cause of boob-having. At least no one's broken my bones on purpose, holy shit.
posted by lauranesson at 6:08 PM on July 25, 2018 [7 favorites]


hydropsyche, I read that story a few times before I could figure out pronouns and such and then realized it was some dude on your team disparaging the old-man team for being girls and then I nearly went on a punching spree.
posted by lauranesson at 6:11 PM on July 25, 2018


I just finished up a curling league a few weeks ago. It was a beginner's league so we barely kept score. My team was 2 guys and 2 women (the women are friends playing together, me and the other guy were randomly assigned.) I don't think the teams have to be co-ed and I don't think it matters. I don't see anything about curling that gives one side an advantage. We had so much fun we are signing up as a team for the fall league. Good co-ed experiences are out there, its a shame they are so rare though.
posted by COD at 6:18 PM on July 25, 2018 [4 favorites]


this is the second time in recent months that someone here has mentioned axe throwing as a pleasant pastime and not as a felony assault so i looked it up and i regret to inform everyone that you throw the axe at wooden targets and not at your enemies
posted by poffin boffin at 6:23 PM on July 25, 2018 [38 favorites]


Hah, the bowling comment reminded me of my worst date!!! I am not good at bowling and I do not like bowling and I didn't really want to go bowling, but this guy was going on and on about how much fun bowling was and how great this place was, so I agreed to go bowling with him. I proceeded to bowl literally the best game of my life - I had over 130 going into the last frame - and I was handily beating him. So I'm bowling my very last frame and I swing the ball back, and he tried to hit the ball out of my hand. Except my fingers were in the holes and they didn't pop out of the holes when he hit the ball, they just twisted. I didn't break my fingers, but it was a close thing. And that was what really brought home to me how much some men's self-worth is predicated at being demonstrably better at things than women.
posted by ChuraChura at 6:35 PM on July 25, 2018 [40 favorites]


Speaking of disparaging men by calling them girls, I go for walks in the fall past a field where a middle school, all-boys football team practices. I have actually heard the coach yelling at the team and calling them "girls" and "ladies." Maybe that's where this attitude begins.
posted by whistle pig at 6:42 PM on July 25, 2018 [2 favorites]


" I go for walks in the fall past a field where a middle school, all-boys football team practices. I have actually heard the coach yelling at the team and calling them "girls" and "ladies." "

I would 100% call the school district and make this complaint to the superintendent and to whomever oversees athletics. (If you have any children in the district, I'd also call the principal directly, even if it isn't your kids' school.) Being the nosy Nellie that I am about school stuff, I personally would raise a very public stink if it didn't stop, but I get that is not most people's bag. You should certainly make the complaint; this kind of sexist bullshit got coaches disciplined twenty years ago, it's completely inappropriate.
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 7:23 PM on July 25, 2018 [34 favorites]


I'm in a combat sport (fencing, specifically sabre) and in general though some teenage boys are a pain because they don't know enough about how the world works, otherwise it's pretty equitable. At practice, we all fence one another and encourage one another, and everybody takes turns fencing everybody. But except for occasional local events, our "real" competitions (national events and the various qualifiers) are single sex, and further separated by age and/or ability level.

Some of the women, mostly the older ones like myself don't love the "for fun" mixed events because we do get bashed more than we'd like, but then it's mostly because the guys only have one speed and don't know how to adjust. Honestly, I hit pretty hard myself. Last night my 6'2" opponent was clutching his arm and saying, "jeez." I just said, "I thought you were going to go back, not come forward," and he said, "Yeah, I know, but it still hurts," and we kept going. And there's always one guy I avoid at practice because there's something wrong with him and he can't seem to learn.

But for the most part, when I beat a guy at one of the occasional mixed events I do, he's usually as gracious about it as a women is, which is to say it's a mix.

I wonder if part of the dynamic is the "team" part of it. Some people seem to get weirdly amped up and socially intense when they're part of a team. We do have "team" competitions in fencing, though they're usually single-sex, and sometimes they get out of hand in odd ways, with people trying to avoid bringing in certain team members, or trying to "stack" ad hoc teams with higher-seeded players.
posted by Peach at 7:58 PM on July 25, 2018 [3 favorites]


so i looked it up and i regret to inform everyone that you throw the axe at wooden targets and not at your enemies
posted by poffin boffin


The sport you describe is having a tournament on Crone Island! Let's start a league!
posted by agregoli at 8:26 PM on July 25, 2018 [8 favorites]


Or team! I don't sports, really!
posted by agregoli at 8:28 PM on July 25, 2018 [2 favorites]


So I actually have a practical reason for posting this. (I actually considered posting it to the green instead of the blue.) As a guy, and a captain of a company volleyball team, what can I do to make things better for women? Obviously things like passing the ball to them and not screaming or being physically violent, but what else? Especially in terms of increasing turnout - we have a couple of women playing, but it'd be great to have more.
posted by kevinbelt


Couple of suggestions, because, in addition to ultimate (see above) I have played v-ball for 40 yrs.

First, advertise for a female co-captain for your team. Make her an equal and don't just expect her to do the team snacks and the admin stuff. If she's a player let her recruit, set the line-up and call plays as much as you do.

Second, talk to the league, other captains, your teammates and most importantly female players about how the league works and whether it is a good space for them, and how well the league retains players.

Third, consider playing Reverse

Volleyball is lucky that there are so many female players that stay in the sport, but it can also be an aggro testosterone zone. It's up to the players and the league you are in to decide whether you value female players enough to listen and change to make it as much about them as about the dewds.
posted by OHenryPacey at 8:39 PM on July 25, 2018 [4 favorites]


(It is still annoying in ways that a gender-fair version of a game is called "Reverse," but I like what's going on there generally.)
posted by lauranesson at 8:49 PM on July 25, 2018 [2 favorites]


what can I do to make things better for women?

I haven't done coed sports (and obviously never gonna do any other than bowling, I never had anyone lose their shit on me there) but I think the #1 thing might be to have the right people on your team. Don't have aggressive macho guys. I don't know if you can swing that, but policing for assholes and removing them would be great.
posted by jenfullmoon at 11:13 PM on July 25, 2018 [2 favorites]


i regret to inform everyone that you throw the axe at wooden targets and not at your enemies

...

...

I think we are going to have to agree that different regions have different approaches to any sport.
posted by GenjiandProust at 4:14 AM on July 26, 2018 [5 favorites]


I'm in a combat sport (fencing, specifically sabre)...

My son fences - foil. One thing I noticed is that when they are younger, in the 8-14 age range, the girls, because they tend to mature quicker I think and thus just have better physical control, tend to win on the strip, a lot. As the gangly pre-teen boys pass through puberty they catch up, but I think those years of losing regularly to girls is very good for the boy fencers, as they grow up into men that aren't surprised by a woman with a strong parry riposte. I don't know if I can generalize and say that attitude passes through to other aspects of their lives. though. I think it has for my son, who is an adult now.
posted by COD at 5:22 AM on July 26, 2018 [14 favorites]


I haven't done coed sports (and obviously never gonna do any other than bowling, I never had anyone lose their shit on me there) but I think the #1 thing might be to have the right people on your team. Don't have aggressive macho guys. I don't know if you can swing that, but policing for assholes and removing them would be great.

When you're doing something physical, especially, safety for everyone is key and aggressive behavior should be condemned. But don't forget that "policing for assholes" should cover non-violent things, too! I've been lucky not to be around many physically aggressive guys in my life, but a man determined to be passive-aggressive can destroy team cohesion. If a dude is "jokingly" isolating women from the team, that's a problem. Look for someone who doesn't pass/cooperate with them, mocks other men when they treat the women as full members of the team, denigrates the women when they succeed, etc. (It can be helpful to imagine a gender flip. Some men treat women in a way they'd never treat another man, because there's always a chance that the man will be the short-fuse/punch-to-the-face/don't-disrespect-me kind of guy and no one expects a woman to respond that way.)
posted by grandiloquiet at 7:56 AM on July 26, 2018 [6 favorites]


Particularly in the more competitive of the leagues I play in, there's an unspoken agreement that men don't go in hard on women. (There's also a less-unspoken agreement that men mark men and women mark women.) Still sexist, but at least with less risk of injury.

That was also really annoying in those leagues because while some men got the memo not to go in hard on women, not all of them did, so there was always a risk with new guys - "are they going to take me out? do the know there's no slide tackling in this league?". There's also the fact that it can be super isolating to the women and lead them to getting fewer touches which then puts it into the "why even bother being out there?" category of play.

I will admit, I did exploit this soft rule and would often physically challenge men twice my size because they wouldn't really react. Eventually many of them figured out that I would go in on them and they would be willing to challenge me, which was fine. (I only ever really was injured from flailing Fancy Dan strikers who had no control period - there was no malice.)

This is one of those topics that I really wish we could talk about patriarchy and toxic masculinity and the need for women to embody those shitty behaviors to fit in with the guys, or that we've been cultured to believe that's how competitive sports works. (One reason I loved and hated playing indoor soccer was that it made me a monster.) When I played in women only leagues, it was better in some ways but there were still a lot of the same problems.

But don't forget that "policing for assholes" should cover non-violent things, too! I've been lucky not to be around many physically aggressive guys in my life, but a man determined to be passive-aggressive can destroy team cohesion.
YES! THIS! Assholes abound (and I know I've been an asshole). I wish there were better ways to police that as well, but how can you unless everybody is on board, which I've never seen happen. When I was on the board of a league and ostensibly a team captain, it was really hard to manage or coach the team because so many dudes just ignored or discounted what I was saying even though I probably had a better grasp of tactics than they did. It was totally casual sexism and I had to use a respected guy to help be the mouthpiece. But what could we have done to tell those jerks to actually recognize me as captain? Or what about another league I've played in where one team was really aggressive and petulant compared to the rest, but they were friends with the head of the league so their behavior was excused. Playing them sucked. My team got in trouble because we kind of pushed back and we were made to look like assholes. It was just another reminder that toxic masculinity takes all forms and it often excused in sport.
posted by kendrak at 9:01 AM on July 26, 2018 [3 favorites]


After more than a decade playing coed sports multiple nights a week, I have so many thoughts on this I don't even know where to start. In general my experience has been very good (better with volleyball than soccer) and most people have been very nice, but there have been many... I suppose you could say microaggressions? problems? annoyances? as well.

For the person asking about making your volleyball team more welcoming to women, I strongly suggest (in addition to the good suggestions mentioned by others) that you keep an eye on who is receiving the balls and in what area. Setting the women is certainly an irritating issue on a few teams, but most people know it's a thing and it isn't usually too extreme. But almost all teams I've played on have had at least one player, invariably male, who will recklessly charge across the court to take any ball they think they can reach - without checking whether anyone else is going for it (sometimes even if someone is directly in the ball's path without moving). Somehow it is very often the female players who end up having their balls stolen or getting crashed into. I still have a scar from someone stepping on my foot (badly scraping it) several years ago to steal a ball that I was clearly receiving. Somebody I know had a rib broken in a similar scenario, and there have been countless bruises and scrapes.

I know some of it is unavoidable and don't mind taking physical impacts (and stolen balls) in that spirit, but it is also very clear that some of those people - let's be honest, it's always men - either assume the women on the team are incapable of playing the ball well or just don't see them as a player on the court at all. And that is very, very irritating and unwelcoming. And I swear none of the guys on the team ever notice or see it as a problem. They apologize if they hurt you but keep freaking doing it. A lot of women are less willing than me to be potentially injured by some careless idiot, too.

So I would ask that you actually watch for that behaviour and do something to stop it if (in my experience, it's a when) it occurs.
posted by randomnity at 9:11 AM on July 26, 2018 [5 favorites]


My son played boys lacrosse for a year and there were three girls on his team. They didn't have enough for a girls team in his age group. The coach didn't have a problem with the girls playing, (He thought it was great they were,) but he was concerned they'd pick up bad habits, because they were essentially learning a different game than the one they'd have played if the team was entirely girls, playing against other girls teams.

There are surprisingly large differences between the girls version of lacrosse to that played by boys. Quite large. Girls lacrosse is a game of speed, strategy and finesse, with very little contact between players, who are only allowed to "stick check". Boys lacrosse is a full contact sport. It's kind of violent and intense, but there isn't a lot of finesse to most plays. The two kinds have different rules, equipment, fields and allowed behavior.

To start with, their sticks are different. Girls use a flat headed stick with no pocket. (see the second image at that link). Boys sticks have a deeper pocket to catch and hold the ball with. It makes gameplay quite different. It's harder to catch and hold a ball on a flat net and run with it.

The field for boys is 110 yards long.
It's 120 yards for girls.

10 players on a boys team.
12 players on a girls team.
Different positions and different configurations for each. Girls lacrosse doesn't have midfielders, or "middies." The games have different rules, too.

Boys have to wear a helmet, mouth guard, cup, shoulder, elbow and chest pads as well as padded gloves.
Girls have to wear eye goggles. That's it. Just eye protection. No padding. No helmets. That ball is solid, hard rubber, too.

So on my son's team, the girls played with the boys, and because they wore helmets and were pre-teens, no one on the other teams would know they weren't a boy. They held their own. They received the same lessons and training as everyone else and were treated equally to the boys. No one cared what gender they were. Not their teammates, nor the opposing team.
posted by zarq at 9:37 AM on July 26, 2018 [4 favorites]


But don't forget that "policing for assholes" should cover non-violent things, too! I've been lucky not to be around many physically aggressive guys in my life, but a man determined to be passive-aggressive can destroy team cohesion.

Absolutely. In my season that just finished, there was one guy on another team who was playing too hard and got reprimanded a couple times. He managed to tone it down, but then he started talking a bunch of shit. When one of our team's larger women strikers was chasing down a ball and didn't make it before it went out, he sneered at her, "I don't know why you're running, you're way too fat to get there." A few minutes later, when the ball went into some thorn bushes by the field, he sidled up to me and said, "Those bushes are pricklier than my ex-wife." We reported his stupid misogynist ass, and he was gone for the rest of the season and hopefully won't be coming back ever. Fuck these people. There's no place for them, and anyone who's deliberately trying to make another person's day worse needs to get the hook. But you do need to have people in charge who are willing to tell other people, no, seriously, fuck off and don't come back. When bad behavior gets excused or only show-punished, it tells other people that they're not valued, and that's death to any cooperative-competitive endeavor.
posted by Errant at 11:09 AM on July 26, 2018 [16 favorites]


Like fencing, swimming is mixed-gender practice; age and sex separated competition (except mixed relays, which are two men and two women, but everyone swims). It is also a sport where the boys are beaten by fast-maturing girls early and often. I swim on a master's team and the gender ratio is still very good. Men in swimming aren't perfect, but they are a lot better than when I played Zog, for sure.

Individual sports where you train as a team are where it's at, to me.
posted by dame at 2:07 PM on July 26, 2018 [5 favorites]


What I want to know is why *chess* is segregated by gender.
posted by thewalrus at 2:45 PM on July 26, 2018 [8 favorites]


> There's no place for them, and anyone who's deliberately trying to make another person's day worse needs to get the hook. But you do need to have people in charge who are willing to tell other people, no, seriously, fuck off and don't come back.

And that's a challenge, because what do you ultimately do if the guy shows up the next week? Call the cops?
posted by smelendez at 3:10 PM on July 26, 2018


And that's a challenge, because what do you ultimately do if the guy shows up the next week? Call the cops?

Hopefully not that. In my limited experience, even if people aren't inclined to stay away when you tell them to, having a large group of people saying "hey, you're not supposed to be here" is a pretty effective deterrent. I don't know too many people who willingly court that kind of public opprobrium or can tolerate it for long. But I do take your point; if someone's really intent on making a scene, it's hard to keep them from doing so. All you can really do is whatever you do in other contexts when someone's being an ass in public. We haven't had to deal with that yet, in part because lots of people in our league know each other through the local soccer supporter community in general, so there would be repercussions beyond the field. But you're right, that would be a difficult situation.
posted by Errant at 3:29 PM on July 26, 2018 [1 favorite]


agregoli: "There should be gender PARITY in a co-ed game, not female minimums."

In softball/slow-pitch, when and where my wife played at the serious amateur level, this would essentially mean no women would be playing softball below the rep level. There just weren't enough women interested. Co-ed teams were always recruiting women even though there weren't any women only leagues; and still were often getting automatic outs when they didn't have 3/4 women in their line ups.

Obviously women being discouraged from playing by aggressive males aggravated the co-ed recruitment problem but a league that mandated parity wouldn't have any teams sign up.
posted by Mitheral at 8:16 PM on July 26, 2018


Good. Leave it that way and figure out ways to get more women involved. Why you'd want a group that's co-ed but not even with men and women doesn't make sense to me, but like I said, I don't Sports.
posted by agregoli at 5:33 AM on July 27, 2018 [1 favorite]


I think it also just comes down to bare-bones, what are the rewards to playing in a mixed gender sports team? Identify what those rewards are and then systematically go down the list and make sure that women are getting rewarded. Especially in those sports leagues where women players must meet field minimums, like, being the token woman just isn't the fantastic reward that some men seem to think it is (if they even think about it at all). This same issue goes for any space where women are striving. If the rewards aren't good enough then they will literally take their ball and go home. Why stay where you can't excel, where you can't find support, where your risk of injury is high, where you are tokenized if you aren't demeaned?

If you're putting together a team or a league, it's worth examining the primary motivations of the players and putting active systems in place to regularly examine whether those needs are being met and have programs to meet them. Camaraderie? Cultivate and enforce social norms that are inclusive. Fitness and athleticism? Can't meet those goals if you're getting injured! Time away from the daily grind? This only works if the time away isn't its own kind of grind.

I worked in a male-dominated workplace that loved to do these team building events outside of work that seemed to gravitate toward sport. I participated in one event and let me tell you, getting snarled at by (always male) coworkers and getting bashed about did not do anything extra to endear me to the company. I also thought it was ridiculous the number of employees who rolled ankles, broke hands, got their noses smashed at company "team" events. You kidding me? I never participated again because it wasn't being monitored and it wasn't rewarding for me in the least. I have enough problem getting paid well for the work I do and respected equally in my day-to-day work environment to put up with that bull.
posted by amanda at 7:47 AM on July 27, 2018 [10 favorites]


I think a fair bit of how this shakes out is down to the structure of the leagues, and the local player demographics. I play in two co-ed leagues:
- a six-a-side indoor league that's minimum three women in the outfield regardless of goalie gender, and;
- an eleven-a-side outdoor league that's minimum three women in the outfield, still regardless of goalie gender.

In the indoor league, you can't win without relying on the women on your team. We're an aging, mediocre squad, and we regularly frustrate teams full of talented, selfish dudes that won't pass to the women, just by having our best defenders man-mark them, and using all five of our players when we attack.

The outdoor team is an amalgam of teams from the indoor league, so we play with about a 50/50 gender balance, depending on who can make it on the night. Nearly every other team is effectively a men's team with three women on the field, and maybe one sub.

In both leagues, and various other competitions with the same teams/teammates, you could get away with not covering most of the women on the field ten years ago. On the rare occasion that one of the opposing women was a threat, everyone flagged it up and made sure whoever they were rotating with knew.

I'd say that started to change as the local schools started getting more serious about their soccer programs. I remember starting to see women playing orders of magnitude better than we were used to seeing in our lowly division, then seeing women turning up in our division who were better than what we used to see in women's premier.
In practical terms, the women on the team make the difference in our indoor league. We regularly play with four or five outfield women, and barring rumours of a reliable goalkeeper, our most exciting recruitment news is when someone mentions that their niece/co-worker/friend who went to one of those schools is looking for a fun co-ed team.

Reffing-wise, officially all outfield players are equal on the field, but in practice, the refs will allow far stronger challenges between the men, and from the women on the men, than from the men on the women, and zero tolerance for abusive behaviour.
I don't think that's down to an enlightened mindset amongst the (all-male) league admins as much as a business decision...there're loads of different leagues out here, and more facilities opening up every year. If they wind up with a reputation like the author is describing, women aren't going to play in their co-ed leagues, and if they don't want to play in their co-ed leagues, what happens to their women's leagues?
Our outdoor team is a case in point: we don't get the extreme end of the assholery described in the article, but we're still looking for a 5/5 split league for next summer. It's not that we don't feel competitive, it's more "why would we give a league $3K when they see half our team as token players?"
posted by Kreiger at 3:26 PM on July 27, 2018 [2 favorites]


Obviously women being discouraged from playing by aggressive males aggravated the co-ed recruitment problem but a league that mandated parity wouldn't have any teams sign up.

Increase the required number of women by 1 each year until you hit parity. It's unlikely that there simply aren't enough women around who might be interested in playing if they knew someone who did, unless you live in an oil field or something where the gender balance is really skewed.
posted by hoyland at 4:06 PM on July 27, 2018 [2 favorites]


I think it also just comes down to bare-bones, what are the rewards to playing in a mixed gender sports team?

The only thing I can think of is that there may not be enough women interested to form any kind of sports teams of their own.

Also, SECONDING the "why is chess gendered, unless it's because women have smaller brains and are stoopid" logic."
posted by jenfullmoon at 5:39 PM on July 27, 2018 [1 favorite]


why is chess gendered...?

Some people get uncomfortable in the change rooms and showers.
posted by rokusan at 11:23 AM on July 28, 2018 [2 favorites]


why is chess gendered...?

It’s not. Women are free to participate in chess tournaments. There are also women-only tournaments that are intended to promote interest in the game among women.

(cite: Quora answer by “a friend of Magnus Carlsen”)
posted by chrchr at 3:37 PM on July 28, 2018 [1 favorite]


People like to say that there are women-only chess leagues because otherwise, women, with their feeble brains and their lack of physical stamina*, would never compete at the highest level. We don't have a reason to believe that's true.

But it's really, really obvious that girls aren't encouraged to play chess as much or as competitively as boys, and that as a result the pool female players are drawn from is a lot smaller. When you're talking about the tip-top levels of a sport the size of that pool matters a lot for representation.

And it's also really obvious (see: the fpp) that even if physical injury isn't a risk, competing with men can be demoralizing, frustrating, and generally make you want to stab them in the face a lot. Add to that the added pressure of stereotype threat.

* Seriously, I just about laughed out loud when I got to that Quora answer. It's such obvious sexist post-hoc bullshit. So disappointed that got posted like it's real information.
posted by Kutsuwamushi at 1:57 PM on July 29, 2018 [6 favorites]


It’s not. Women are free to participate in chess tournaments. There are also women-only tournaments that are intended to promote interest in the game among women.

Chess has structural problems when it comes to encouraging/promoting women's participation. Have an argument against women's titles in chess. (Women's tournaments are a different beast. But I will also bet you that any women whose GM titles come from winning the Women's World Championship are viewed differently from those whose title came via norms.)

And it's also really obvious (see: the fpp) that even if physical injury isn't a risk, competing with men can be demoralizing, frustrating, and generally make you want to stab them in the face a lot. Add to that the added pressure of stereotype threat.

Scholastic chess is far more social than people assume and it's basically boys having a pissing contest until high school at the earliest. (Seriously, chess practice at my high school featured randomly jabbing each other in the ribs.) You rarely saw a high school team* with more than one girl (and most had none) and they tended to be the schools that weren't fed by a K-8 club.

*In Illinois, high school chess is a team sport.
posted by hoyland at 2:32 PM on July 29, 2018 [1 favorite]


Hi. I intended to link to a specific Quora response that said basically the same thing as my Metafilter answer, but I see now that my link does not go to a specific response, and a lot of the responses are bullshit in exactly the way Kutsuwamushi describes.
posted by chrchr at 1:20 PM on July 30, 2018 [2 favorites]


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