The headline said, “Rather than wrestle a girl in the state championship, this high schooler forfeited.” I have mixed feelings about this one:
- Should girls should be allowed to participate in any sport where they have the aptitude, ability, desire and skill set, vs.
- Should boys and girls should not compete in CONTACT sports?
Should girls should be allowed to participate in any sport where they have the aptitude, ability, desire and skill set.
It would be easy to say this guy forfeited because he didn’t want to risk “getting beat by a girl” in the Colorado State Wrestling Championships. Maybe that’s a factor. But the young man articulated some thoughtful reasons for opting out saying, “that the physical aggression required in wrestling isn't something he's comfortable showing toward a girl, on or off the mat. “ He also cited “religious” reasons, which must be respected prima facie.
As you see from the pic, this girl is in GREAT shape and passes the eye test of a formidable opponent. I hope she gets a chance in college or the Olympics one way or the other.
Now for the issue of girls & boys playing contact sports together. My experiences lead me to generally advise against it. In grad school and beyond in Ann Arbor, I sometimes got to play pick-up basketball with the varsity basketball and football players at Michigan. Having played D-III ball at Rhodes College and possessing a skill-set that got everyone’s attention (I could play AT the rim until about 4 years ago & had about a 60% lifetime FGP over 45 years with ambidextrous ease), I made some friends on the Michigan teams who invited me to play sometimes. (I once took it to the on Roy Tarpley, but also had Anthony Carter dunk OVER me one day. Thad Garner liked playing with me because I would tip him rebounds in traffic, but would trash-talk me when I had to guard him.) You get the picture.
When Penny Neer showed up, they HAD to let her play. After all, she was all BIG TEN on the women’s team, won the shot and discus in conference meets and threw the disc in the 1992 Olympics. And when she and I showed up at the same time, they ALWAYS had the short white guy and the girl guard each other. I developed a nice friendship with Penny from these games and at track meets, where I sometimes officiated. We had time to talk during games, because we were BOTH sometimes frozen out by teammates, and had some nice conversations.)
Now for the downside: At the Marin Y about 15 years ago, I was in a high level pick-up game, and matched up with a girl who was a pretty good high school player. As I was the only guy under 6’, they matched me up with the girl, as usual. She was skilled, but no match for me. What the high school wrestler said about displaying aggression toward girls prevented me from going all out on defense, and I went out of the way NOT to hurt her. THEN we both went for a rebound in heavy traffic and one of her teammates brutally knocked me into her, causing my thigh to strike her in from behind in a sensitive area. Obviously, I did not intend that, but she was rightfully furious and insulted. I explained to her what happened and she calmed down, but was not happy. I’m pretty sure her teammate did that because he didn’t want HER in the game.
When I coached a high school girls junior varsity team in Marin County for a year, I scrimmaged with them a couple of times in the beginning. When it was clear that the best player couldn’t even get a dribble off me, I quit dressing out for practice. I wasn’t about to present a “bullying” dynamic in a girls high school basketball program.
So there are two valid sides to this argument. Girls are at a disadvantage because males generally have 30-40% more upper body strength than females, and a better all-around skill set. But if a girl can compete, she deserves every opportunity to succeed. I feel strongly about that. At the same time, any male who is NOT a misogynist is naturally going to tone his aggression when competing against a female, and she is not going to see his best. Yes, “getting beat by a girl” could be a great humiliation until maybe he sees her years later on the Olympic team. Many college women’s hoops teams DO have boys scrimmage to raise the level of competition. That’s fair. In live competition, the decision must be nuanced.
H. Scott Prosterman