Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Where Are All the Women?

This is my second season coaching soccer. This year we're in the Under 5 league, which means that the cuteness level is still dangerously high but the skill level is actually starting to catch up. At least most days.

The world of kids sports is an interesting one. You certainly can get the parents who are already living vicariously through their children's heroics on the field, but I've only encountered a few of these so far. I imagine the ratio grows steadily larger the older the kids yet.  Occasionally you get a kid who talks trash, but again, they might be a bit too young for this to be a big deal.  The trash talk is kind of funny when they do come up with it. Probably not quite on par with what's heard on the sidelines of the world cup, to say the least.

Possibly the most interesting part of this so far has been the coaches. I grew up playing sports from right around Josh's age. With the exception of one year of volleyball and track, I had women's coaches through my sporting years.  Most of the girls I was friends with were involved in at least one sport. Gymnastics, soccer, softball, field hockey, track. In college many of us continued by playing intramurals and I've been a part of a co-ed volleyball league this past year in the Triangle in which many women my age are involved.

But out on that field? I have only encountered one woman coach and that was last year in the Under 4 league. She may or may not have been a college student trying to get some community service hours.  So where are all the women?  Early in my marriage, Reed and I would have (usually congenial) arguments about who was going to teach our kids which sport. I called volleyball, he had dibs on basketball, I got baseball, he's excited about football, etc.  We both played soccer and both looked forward to coaching and figured we'd take turns. My schedule works best with this and so I get to do it right now. I wonder if other marriages have had similar encounters or if this is an area where gender stereotypes still reign?  Maybe it's just a foregone conclusion for many that the dad will coach, if anyone is going to do it?  It certainly looks and feels that way.

I'll be honest. I think this is a shame. While I think men can be and are great coaches, I also think women have a ton to bring to the table here, especially those who stay home more than their husbands.  For a lot of us, we interact more regularly with bigger groups of kids.  We're usually the ones going to the birthday parties or arranging the play dates. We often chaperone the preschool trips and try to come up with creative projects on rainy mornings.  So why aren't we out on the fields?

I imagine that for some women, sending their kids off with dad for practice is actually a much welcome break, a chance to have an hour to themselves or to get dinner started without children underfoot.  I totally get that reasoning and if I had more than one kid I've wondered if I'd urge my husband to do the coaching so I could get a break.  But for some women, I wonder if it's just not on the radar. Maybe they haven't played sports since middle or high school and there's a confidence issue. Maybe they aren't sure they have the time to be creative and come up with good practices. I fear, though, that some of this is just that sports are still a man's world.  And when only dads are coaching, that's all the kids will see.   

I'm not a sociologist and have no hard stats to back up any of these musings. I've just been pondering, after two weeks in a row playing against coaches I wouldn't want my son to have, where all the women are.  And wondering what kids soccer would look like if a few more took the plunge and risked severe head and shin injuries by playing "Kick the Coach" every week. 

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