Your Kid’s Not Going Pro

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Posts Tagged ‘women

If girls play football, boys will grow up to be wife beaters!

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Dave Cisar is an authority on coaching youth football, especially in the ways of the old-timey single-wing offense.

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However, I’m not so sure he’s an authority on girls playing football, a subject upon which his thoughts are as old-timey as that offense he borrowed from Pop Warner to dominate at Pop Warner, or some such youth football equivalent.

I think you’ll catch his drift with the headline on his piece about girls and football: “Should girls be playing youth football? NO!”

Sorry, I should have said “spoiler alert.”

Cisar, writing at EZine Articles:

In inner-city Omaha [where Cisar founded the free athletic program Screaming Eagles Sports] nearly 70% of our players have no man in the home. If you think I’m exaggerating, we have had games with 2 people in the stands and both were females, not enough for a chain crew. This was not a one time deal, we have had many games where we did not have 3 males to run the chains. Many of our players have no model of behavior in the house to “copy” of how to properly treat a woman. The kids often see first hand women being physically and mentally abused and of course they hear it in the music they listen to, on TV and in print. I’ve been coaching youth football for 15 years and the “dadless” house problem is getting worse every year. Tom Osborne in his book “Faith in the Game” claims this problem is increasing and is responsible for the majority of crime and problems with young males.

If we let girls play tackle football with boys, we teach the boys that harsh physical contact with females is acceptable behavior. In fact as coaches we would have to encourage and reward this physical contact. Our players would get in the habit and be used to being physical with females, the act would desensitize everyone involved in the activity of physical force being applied to females by males. The female in the meantime is learning that harsh physical contact with males is acceptable, it is now a habit. Now while having females on your team may help the short term progress of some of our football teams I’m not sure we are helping either the boy or the girl in their long term development as productive members of our society.

Now, I’ve coached co-ed basketball teams, so I know that, at least initially, boys and girls do feel a little weird about playing together, especially when there’s contact involved. And I don’t doubt Cisar’s sincerity that he wants boys to overcome a tough environment and treat women well.

But I think kids are capable of separating their on-field actions from their off-field actions. If that wasn’t the case, then Cisar would have been teaching the inner city boys of Omaha that it’s acceptable, off the field, to body block anyone who gets in their way.

His concern is based on an old canard: it’s not OK to hit a girl. I mean, it isn’t. But what I’m saying is, implicit in that statement is that it IS OK for boys to hit each other — which, off the field, isn’t supposed to happen, either. (By the way, it’s nice that Cisar wants to keep women free from the chains, if not of bondage, than of the first-down marker.)

So how does Cisar explain his no-gurlz-allowed policy to families who want to sign up their daughters for football?

In our rural program we have had no female football sign ups. In Omaha we have had a few moms try and sign their daughters up for football. After the initial disappointment wore off and the mom was told why we think it makes sense in the long run for females not to play, the moms were very supportive. I can think of just one case where mom didn’t “get it” and pulled her son out of the program because we would not allow her daughter to be pummeled by boys on our team. I can still see her today, a single mom with 3 kids that needed the program who refused to listen to reason. This mom had two missing front teeth, probably caused by the same cycle we were trying to help break.

She lost her front teeth because her significant male other played football against girls as a kid?

Dave Cisar may already be too late in his crusade to keep football girl-free, and not just because he might run into Natalie Randolph or Debbie Vance at a coaching clinic. For instance, he must have missed the memo that the Florida High School Athletic Association officially has declared football a co-ed sport.

Written by rkcookjr

April 2, 2010 at 4:42 pm

Sarah Palin and the political evolution of the soccer/hockey mom

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In 1995, Denver city council candidate Susan Casey, PhD, a former director of the presidential campaign for Gary Hart (she was known, perhaps unfairly, as the person who scheduled the Monkey Business cruise), came up with a campaign slogan to make herself more human and less plugged-in politically, even though she was getting a lot of out-of-state contributions from old pals: “A Soccer Mom for City Council.”

The next year, in the 1996 Presidential election, the term “soccer mom” was everywhere — a shorthand for white, middle class women who were considered to be the key swing vote. Over time, the term went from a desired demographic to a pejorative. A “soccer mom” was a dull-minded, misinformed, minivan-driving person whose political activity was butting her nose into conflicts involving her never-going-pro athletic children. (By the way, Casey’s son did go pro — Conor Casey is the leading goal-scorer for the MLS’ Colorado Rapids and was a member of the USA’s Confederations Cup team, the one that stunned No. 1 Spain in South Africa a few weeks back.)

One of the most interesting things about the short, comet-intense, parabolic political career of Sarah Palin is how the soon-to-be-former Alaska governor turned the concept of the political sports mom on the opposite direction. A hockey mom wasn’t something a politician became to relate to the hoi polloi. A hockey mom was something that made a person ready for bare-knuckled politics.

No matter what Palin’s next move is after her stunning announcement Friday that she was resigning after only two-and-a-half years as Alaska’s governor, she always will be remembered for her introduction to the national stage at the Republican convention, one that heralded the arrival of a new era of sports motherism: “The difference between a hockey mom and a pitbull? Lipstick.”

2838903036_598e06ffef1“What’s the difference between Sarah Palin and me? I pee and poop outside.”

When my wife recently became secretary of our kids’ elementary school’s PTO, we joked that this was the first step to her 2016 vice-presidential bid, given that Palin started her political career on her kids’ school’s PTA. However, there is something inspiring that a woman can take a first step in a political career somewhere that is traditionally a woman’s venue, whether hockey mom or PTA. That could serve as a strong signal to future female candidates that you don’t have to start off in a traditionally man’s world to build a political career.

But Palin’s career also shows how being the hockey mom can inspire passion on both sides — to the point that future hockey mom candidates need to consider how much hockey momism is desirable in their political personalities.

In the politics of the youth sports sideline, a particularly intense mother inspires one of two, very passionate reactions. One is the love and support of other parents who see someone willing to stick up for them and their kids against a youth sports culture aligned not in their favor (or, thanks to her, now aligned in their favor). The other is the dislike of other parents, particularly those whose spouses are coaches, who find them a major pain in the ass. To say who is right and who is wrong is immaterial. What’s important is that both sides will never agree, and will make that parent the constant center of conversation and gossip either way. Especially if she’s good-looking.


Definite hockey-mom conversation-generator.

Is there sexism involved in a lot of the attacks on soccer/hockey moms and Palin in particular? You betcha! It’s shocking to see, in Todd Purdum’s recent Vanity Fair breakdown of the McCain/Palin breakdown, McCain staffers wondering whether her difficult personality is a result of post-partum depression. I guess if Palin hadn’t just had a child, those staffers would have wondered whether she was on the rag. Of course, that Palin is “difficult” is its own sexism. I would hardly be the first to point out that a man who had Palin’s, um, difficulties would be lauded as a tough-ass.

So Palin has had to cut through a lot of crap as a real hockey-mom-turned-national-political-figure. On the other hand, she’s brought a lot of crud on herself as a real hockey-mom-turned-national-political-figure. Being Sarah Barracuda, browbeating your way to the top, can bring a backlash at the PTA level, but not to the level of people trashing you on national television. Palin’s mavericky-ness that can work for a hockey mom at some point runs into real opposition once you reach a real political level. Palin might still be a star among certain Republicans, but often she sounds like a hockey mom who thinks everyone likes her, and doesn’t realize or ignores the sniping behind her back.

It would be wrong to assume Palin’s political career is over, even though many, even Republicans, took to the cable news outlets soon after her short, hurried resignation speech to bury her. One thing about a hockey mom: she might be down, but she’s never out, unless it’s on her terms.

The best thing about Palin’s career, whether it ends now or with an unsuccessful 2012 Presidential run (and, really, whatever you think of Palin, it’s hard to see her with a strong shot at winning at this point), is that a real soccer/hockey mom can go from the sidelines to the frontlines, rather than a candidate running to the soccer/hockey mom sidelines to seem real. The next-best thing is that future soccer/hockey moms are getting to learn from her mistakes and successes.

Where the women coaches at?

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One out of my 6-year-old son’s five T-ball coaches is a woman. Various studies say that sounds about right for that level — depressingly so. However, I’m not so sure the researchers are 100 percent right as to why 20 percent would, in most cases, be considered a fairly high ratio of female-to-male coaches.

3154176261_7784ce4c5fA rare sighting.

On Wednesday night (or tonight, if you’re reading this on Wednesday), the University of Minnesota’s Tucker Center for Research on Girls and Women in Sport is hosting a discussion on why the number of female coaches is so low, especially given we’re almost 40 years into Title IX throwing open the doors of gyms and gates of fields to girls.

Given the guest list, the answer is going to be: because the Man is keeping them down. The guest speaker is University of Southern California sociology and gender studies professor Michael Messner, whose research has purported to show that the lack of female coaches in youth sports has to do with men’s effort to keep old-time gender roles ingrained. This is the abstract from “Separating the men from the moms: The making of adult sex segregation in youth sports,” published in the February edition of Gender & Society:

Based on a multiyear study, this article analyzes the reproduction of adult gender segregation in two youth-sports organizations in which most men volunteers become coaches and most women volunteers become “team moms.” We use interviews and participant observation to explore how these gender divisions are created. While most participants say the divisions result from individual choices, our interviews show how gendered language, essentialist beliefs, and analogies with gendered divisions of labor in families and work-places naturalize this division of labor. Observation reveals how patterned, informal interactions reproduce (and occasionally challenge) it as well. We show how (mostly) nonreflexive informal interactions at the nexus of three gender regimes—youth sports, families, and workplaces—produce a gender formation with two interrelated characteristics: an ascendant professional class gender ideology that we call “soft essentialism” and a “gender category sorting system” that channels most men into coaching and most women into being “team moms.”

If you have absolutely no clue what that means — try dropping a few “(mostly) nonreflexive informal interactions” and “soft essentialisms” at the next soccer board meeting — maybe this excerpt from the first chapter of Messner’s latest book, with the dripping-with-irony title “It’s All for the Kids,” will make things clearer. Like most youth sports books, it wouldn’t exist without the Shocking Moment involving My Own Kid:

Back in 1995, when we arrived at our six-year-old son Miles’s first soccer practice, I was delighted to learn that his coach was a woman. Coach Karen, a mother in her mid-thirties, had grown up playing lots of sports. She was tall, confident, and athletic, and the kids responded well to her leadership. “Great, a woman coach!” I observed cheerily. “It’s a new and different world than the one that I grew up in.” But over the next twelve years, as I traversed with Miles, and eventually with his younger brother Sasha, a few more seasons of AYSO (American Youth Soccer Organization), a couple of years of YMCA youth basketball, and over decade of Little League baseball, we never had another woman head coach. It’s not that women weren’t contributing to the kids’ teams. All of the “team parents” (often called “team moms”)—parent volunteers who did the behind-the-scenes work of phone-calling, organizing weekly snack schedules and team parties, collecting money for a gift for the coaches—were women. And occasionally I would notice a team that had a woman assistant coach. But women head coaches were very few and far between.

The research findings stretched me beyond a simple study of sex segregation in youth sports coaching. My observations and interviews led me to explore how youth sports fit into families and communities. I gained insights into how peoples’ beliefs about natural differences between boys and girls (what sociologists call “gender essentialism”) help to shape men’s and women’s apparently “free” choices to volunteer (or not) for their children’s activities. I discovered ways in which gender divisions of labor in families relate to more public displays of masculinity and femininity in activities like youth sports. And the study gave me provocative hints about how gender beliefs, family structure, and youth sports are key elements in constructing symbolic boundaries in a community that is defined (often covertly) as “white” and “upper middle class.”

Not to minimize the problem of a lack of female coaches, but it sounds to me like under academic trappings, Messner has done what just about all of us involved as parents and coaches in youth sports do — take our own experience, combine it with our ingrained biases and determine This Is How the World Works.

Not to say that Messner, or the Tucker Center, is completely off-base in saying there is an old-boys’ network that exists in youth sports. Their first mistake is assuming any boy can get in it — or that a woman cannot. Being involved in youth sports coaching and management is much like getting involved in politics. Those who are involved are really, really involved, and oftentimes make decisions based on their own interests. If they happen to benefit everyone, well, all the better, but that’s not always necessary. I’ll admit, I have no academic basis — that’s just my own observations ladled with my biases, probably.

Nicole LaVoi, the associate director of the Tucker Center, told the Minneapolis Star-Tribune that leagues tend to ask the dads, while women are saying, “Ask us. Invite us.” From the article:

In her study of mothers, LaVoi discovered that many would like to coach — and they had concrete, workable suggestions that could bring more women into the ranks.

Some said they wanted to feel more competent before taking the responsibility of leading a team. Training clinics expressly for women would help, they said, by providing an unintimidating and welcoming environment in which to develop their skills. They also advocated female mentors and co-coaches as ways to build confidence and make it easier for women to get into coaching.

Others said having fewer games overall and more in their own neighborhoods would ease the time crunch that keeps some off the sidelines.

All of these are wonderful ideas. However, in a youth sports environment that is mostly volunteer-run, the chances of any and all these ideas being put into place is quite slim.

Again, reflecting my own experience, I don’t believe that leagues are intentionally trying to keep women out. Believe me, most leagues are desperate to get anyone who passes the I-didn’t-molest-children background check. Most leagues either don’t have the time, resources, or organizational ability to set up training or mentoring programs for anybody, women or men. I’m fortunate my baseball and softball league hosts one session with the local high school coaches to share their wisdom with us parent coaches.

Plus, forget fewer games or games closer to home. The schedule isn’t going to be rearranged for anyone’s convenience.

And that takes me, finally, to a major reason, one offered by my wife and other women I know, as to why they aren’t coaching: they don’t have time. After all, they’re busy at work, raising kids and juggling everything at home. Not that dads aren’t doing the same, but it ain’t the same. Last year for my daughter’s softball team, I wanted to get for an assistant a mom who had played softball in high school. She sent her husband instead — she said she was busy at work, raising kids and juggling everything at home. If there’s some soft essentialism going on, it’s that these particularly busy women didn’t want one more goddamn thing on their plate, while men were more apt to see coaching as something they could make time for (probably because their wives were doing everything else, but that’s for another gender study.)

Here’s another theory I was given by a female sportswriter friend of mine: As women’s sports have become more popular, more men have found it acceptable to coach them.

I agree with Messner that it’s great to have a female coach. I would agree that perhaps leagues can take steps to attract more female coaches — something, anything to send the signal that they’re not just looking for guys.

Where I split from Messner is that I (and maybe it’s because I’m a man in a War Against Soft Essentialism) don’t see this as an issue of the Man keeping women barefoot and pregnant at home. I also believe that women (in most cases) are indeed making a free choice, not some unconcious decision made because men have somehow brainwashed them, or some such thing. If we are to have more female youth sports coaches, league officials, coaches and parents need to realize that individuals have their reason for not coaching.

I encouraged the mom to coach on my team, mainly by making it clear you didn’t have to be a baseball genius to coach T-ball. (I did the same thing with the dad coaches, too. After all, I am no baseball genius.) All I know is, each woman has her individual reason for not coaching. Assuming there’s only one reason isn’t going to grow the ranks of female coaches.

I encourage women (and men) to comment. Like most, I’m basing my conclusions on what I’ve seen in my own immediate circle. I’m curious to hear what others’ thoughts and experiences might be.