Some people out there actually think it is “unladylike” for girls to play certain sports, like football.
These naysayers believe girls don’t have the physical strength, mental toughness, or endurance to be active, contributing participants.
How ridiculous is it to think that in today’s society, some people have slammed the door in the faces of young girls who want to play sports simply because they have traditionally been played by boys?
Knowing sports are amazingly powerful, wonderfully enriching, and tremendously life-altering, why would anyone want to deprive girls of the chance to reap those same benefits?
In Tonawanda, N.Y., 9-year-old Kayli Reynolds loves playing football. The only girl on her youth football team--the KAT Raiders--she was anxiously looking forward to playing her second season.
The team’s coaches--including Kayli’s dad--thought it would be good for the kids to join a new league that was more competitive. Then, at the team’s first scrimmage, league officials told them of a rule of which the coaches weren’t aware: no girls allowed.
Talk about putting a sledgehammer to Kayli’s season.
“They said football is open to all eligible boys, and cheerleading is open to all eligible girls, and that she was going to have to leave,” Kayli’s father told WGRZ’s program, 2 On Your Side. “All other leagues in the area and anywhere else, they can play.”
Of course, the news didn’t go over well with Kayli--or her teammates.
“I’m not happy about it,” Kayli told WGRZ. “I think they should say girls can play. It’s like saying boys can’t cheerlead, but they can.”
“Girls can do whatever, too,” one of her male teammates said, and another added: “Sometimes she hits better than us.”
Get Over It
For those who agree that girls shouldn’t be allowed to play youth football, and I’m guessing there are some of you out there, please don’t use the safety factor as a crutch. The league apparently told Kayli’s father that they were concerned about her safety.
C’mon now, 9-year-olds come in all shapes and sizes, and the injury risk isn’t any greater for a boy or a girl at that age. If the youngster wants to play, and the parents are on board with it, why crush a youngster’s interest?
Sports- and recreation-insurance specialist John Sadler offered his opinion on the matter: “Mixing participants of different sizes, ages, or skill levels should be avoided, and can be an indication of potential negligence. The fact that a football player is female does not necessarily trigger these concerns. Injury risk in tackle football can be reduced by the implementation of standard risk-management precautions.
"For example, all players/parents should already be required to sign a properly drafted waiver/release form which should include a risk warning of the dangers inherent to tackle football, and the acceptance of such risk. In addition, the use of pre-participation physicals or medical clearance forms is standard practice in the sport of tackle football.
"If there are additional concerns about a higher-than-normal risk for a particular participant, the sports organization could require the participant to sign a custom-drafted waiver/release that addresses the specific concern.”
Tim Jerome, recreation supervisor for the town of Hamburg, N.Y., Department of Youth, Recreation and Senior Services, gets it, too:
“I support and encourage any young girl with the desire to participate and play youth football. With gender-appropriate football equipment and proper training, a girl is at no more risk of injury than a boy of the same age group.”
Luckily, the league had a chance to do the right thing. The board gathered to vote on whether the rule should be changed, needing only a two-thirds majority vote to get Kayli back on the field.
So how did things turn out? The board voted 10-4--to uphold the ban on girls playing.
It also turns out that Kayli isn’t the only girl who wanted to play in the league. Another team that joined the league had sisters who were looking forward to a fun-filled season of football, and now are unfairly being pushed to the sidelines, along with Kayli.
The next time you come across an organization that doesn’t allow girls to play, tell the members to get their heads out of the sand and join the 21st century.
Fred Engh is founder and CEO of the National Alliance for Youth Sports (NAYS) in West Palm Beach, Fla. He can be reached via e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org. To join more than 3,000 communities by starting a NAYS chapter, visit www.nays.org or contact Emmy Martinez at email@example.com or (800) 729-2057.