As we all know, boys traditionally play baseball, and girls traditionally play softball. Most of the time, everyone is happy with this arrangement, and the issue of girls playing baseball never comes up. However, every now and then, someone's daughter might want to play, and find that no softball team is available, or the girl (or her parents) may want her to play baseball instead. Can girls even play baseball? Or, perhaps a better question is, should girls play baseball?
In many of our local parks, girls usually only play baseball with the boys at the teeball level. As soon as they are old enough to progress to coach pitch, girls move to softball, and boys play baseball. However, this does not have to be the case.
Some larger cities have girls-only baseball teams, and even girls only leagues. Liekwise, there are a couple of national organizations dedicated to girls baseball. However, Title IX legislation protects a girl's legal right to play baseball wherever it is available in her community - regardless of whether alternative sports (such as softball) are available.
Naturally, this includes academically-driven sports organizations, such as middle schools, high schools, and colleges, but it also includes all established youth baseball organizations. According to Little League baseball statistics, approximately 100,000 girls are currently playing in their organization. In fact, eight girls have participated in the Little League World Series since girls were first allowed to play in 1974. The bottom line is this: no person or organization can prevent a female from signing up and playing baseball in any league that receives public funding or plays on public property.
Of course, the "good old boy" network of baseball coaches may not approve, and may do everything in their power to prevent a girl from playing. In this case, you as a parent have to be firm - go to the league board or president if you have to, and make sure to quote the law. Again, even if the league provides a girls only softball team, it still does not mean that your daughter cannot play baseball!
Now that we have established that girls can play baseball, let us consider whether they should.
If your daughter is looking to play for a school team, or another team where tryouts are mandatory, you must take into consideration the very real fact that she may not make the team - especially if you had to deal with opposition from the coach to begin with. Even if she makes the team, many of the boys will likely be stronger than her, and will almost certainly be more aggressive than she is. Odds are very good that she will have to proove herself to the rest of the team - to be accepted among her teammates, she will have to be as good as (or, in most cases, even better than) the rest of them. Even once her own team has accepted her, she will almost certainly be mocked by opposing teams. She will be different, and kids often treat anyone who is different in a negative manner; your daughter should be prepared to deal with that.
Favoritism is all too often a given in youth baseball; we have all been involved with teams whose coach played his own son over more deserving players. It is quite likely that your daughter will find herself having to fight for every bit of playing time in what could potentially be a hostile environment. Again, you should keep a close eye open for discrimination; you have no recourse against a coach who plays his son over other boys, but if your daughter is discriminated against solely because of her gender, you may be able to intervene.
Before you sign your daughter up to play baseball with the boys, take an honest assessment of her personality. Talk to her about the very real challenges she could face. If she is a fiery, competitive type, she will likely thrive, and become that much stronger of a player (and person) because of the potential adversity.
As a coach, I personally have never had a girl on my team, but I would have no issue with one. If she's good enough, I would gladly make a girl my starting shortstop; if she's the worst player on the team, I would just as easily put her on the bench. This is the same philosophy I have with any player; to me, the geneder is a nonissue.
The bottom line is this: if a girl truly wants to play baseball, there is no reason why she should not. Do, however, be realistic about it, and talk to your daughter beforehand. Make sure she understands the extra baggage that can go along with her experience. If she loves the game and is willing to be mentally tough, she will have a great time, and make some great memories.
By Author. All Rights Reserved. Date
February 01, 2008
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