“Girls aren’t good at sports.” I have heard this my whole life. I never understood it. Personally, my younger sister, Elizabeth, is the best athlete I know. She was the one I looked to when it came to sports. No matter what sport she played she was dominant and the ultimate competitor. Ask anyone that knows her, she took s@$% from no one. I only hoped to be a little bit like her.
So, why does society continue to tell you “girls aren’t good at sports”?
First of all, not everyone thinks this way. There are millions and millions of girls that laugh this off and are at the highest levels of sport across genders. That said, women often do not receive the same respect or media coverage for their athletic success as men. Over and over, anytime a female athlete excels in her sport and challenges this notion, the narrative often reverts to a comparison to her male counterparts. This is unfortunate. Case in point: Serena Williams.
From time to time, a female athlete transcends this narrative and shoves it in society’s face. Insert Mo’ne Davis and her success at the 2014 Little League World Series in Williamsport, Pennsylvania.
For anyone that follows the tournament, it can be sports in its purest form: children playing a sport they love that embody the ultimate sportsmanship and team culture. They play for the love of the game. Unfortunately, parents and coaches often tarnish the tournament, but that is a story for a different time. Call me a dreamer, but when I watch the tournament I look back to playing backyard baseball during the summer and the classic movie The Sandlot.
In 2014, Mo’ne Davis turned into a superhero. At only 13 years old, she was a pitcher for her LLWS team from Philadelphia, Pa. On August 15, 2014, she was the first girl to earn a win as a pitcher in LLWS history. She threw a 2-hit shutout in her team’s 4-0 victory over Nashville. She was dominating her male counterparts. She threw 70 mph and had an effective slider and curveball to showcase her range. 8 strikeouts in 6 innings.
Her success on the mound resulted in immense media coverage. Professional baseball players and athletes in all sports began to tweet at her.** She was inspiring all of America. The support for her was overwhelming. She was different.
She was the talk of the tournament. Her success led to record ratings. Over 3.4 million people tuned into watch her team in the semi-finals of the tournament, a LLWS record. *** Eventually, her team was defeated in the semi-finals, but her impact was already tangible.
While the support was incredible, her story was not all sunshine and rainbows. Unfortunately, there were haters and those who believed “girls aren’t good at sports”. One tweet in particular stood out.
A Bloomsburg University baseball player tweeted “WHAT A JOKE. That slut got rocked by Nevada.” **** Let that sink in. A 13-year old was being targeted simply for being a girl. She was being called a “slut” at age 13. Regardless of how well she played, or your personal feelings about her success, that is messed up. Mo’ne was above that. She took the high road and asked his university to remove his suspension: talk about being mature beyond her years.
While she was receiving overwhelming support, she was still being held to a higher standard by some of society. Some could not live with the fact that a girl was not only playing at the highest level of her sport, but also that she was playing better than the boys. In part, that is why she received so much attention. She was an outlier. Yet, this happens all the time. Just go to any schoolyard and watch many girls outplay the boys.
Sure, Mo’ne may be limited in her success in baseball as she gets older due to biological differences. Male athletes have the benefit of becoming bigger, stronger, and faster. Female athletes have to overcome these physical disadvantages with skill. While it is an uphill battle, women’s sports are often more of a skill game. I am not saying that women’s sports are not physically demanding or fierce, it is just the nature of the sports. Often the male sport looks completely different than the female sport.
That said, however, as a society we should not revert to comparing the sports or athletes at the highest levels. Appreciate and celebrate the differences. Kobe Bryant often states that he would watch tape on Lisa Leslie to improve his own game. ***** I’m sure Lisa would say she would use Michael Jordan or Kobe in the same way.
Male athletes can learn from female athletes and vice versa. Stop trying to say which one is better. They are different. That is all.
The next time you hear somebody say “girls aren’t good at sports” challenge them. It is easy to get angry and deny the biological differences. It is more difficult to calmly say “you are wrong” and tell them the sports are different and it is unreasonable to hold them to the same standards. That is the only way we will make progress.
In the meantime, support your female athletes, especially the professional ones. It goes far beyond just during the Olympics. It is at the youth level, high school level, college level, and professional level. Go to watch the US Women’s Soccer team, but also support the National Women’s Soccer League. The same can be said about the WNBA or the National Women’s Hockey League etc.. They deserve the same respect as their male counterparts. Maybe one day they will be paid at similar levels to their professional male counterparts, and a lot of progress has been made, but there are tangible things to be done to get to that place. Pack the stands. Force society to take notice.
Here’s to Mo’ne Davis for making society reconsider the narrative it is told. She is inspiring to athletes young and old. She continues to compete with the boys playing AAU basketball. ****** We hope to see her play D-1 ball one day. We wish her the best in her future ventures. We will always remember her name.
By: Matthew Benedict
Sites for Women’s Professional Sports Leagues: