Should boys and girls play sports together past puberty? | The Tylt
Should boys and girls play sports together past puberty?
Boys and girls have no problems competing against one another in sports up to a certain age. However, once puberty hits, they are often separated from each other—as it is assumed by many that it would be unfair to women, with the assumption that men are naturally stronger. But with women competing with boys in multiple sports in middle school, high school, and even college, should it be more acceptable girls to compete with boys longer?
In many cases, sports are a great teacher. There may be no more important lesson than equality and respect, as Editor-at-Large Jessie Blaeser outlines here:
There's no question that keeping boys and girls together for longer presents its own challenges, potential injuries included, but that comes with the territory in any sports conversation. Right now, co-ed teams stem off into boys and girls leagues after elementary school. Once that separation occurs, the style of play for men and women in a number of sports evolves on completely different tracks. For example, in basketball, women's teams often focus on fundamentals–boxing out, defensive slides, shooting form, etc.–while men's ball accentuates individualized athletic flair. Both are extremely important to the game, yet watching women's basketball versus men's is like watching two different sports.
If boys and girls remained on the same, co-ed teams for longer, their development as athletes and as individuals would completely change. With basketball, in particular, female athletes would be challenged by the increasing physicality of their male peers, while male athletes might gain a newfound understanding of the basics of the sport. By putting these athletes in an environment where they can learn from one another, the performance gap between men and women's sports would have a greater chance of shrinking.
Furthermore, keeping boys and girls together on sports teams for longer might also have a positive social impact. If co-ed teams remained during young athletes' pre-pubescent years, understanding between genders could drastically improve. By separating young boys and girls less often, each sex would have a better chance of understanding the other before succumbing to stereotypes. Because sports require communication and teamwork, they are the perfect place to start.
While equality is a great thing to strive for, promote and achieve, Sports EditorDaniel Tran feels like this is a safety issue, not an ethical one:
No one is saying they don't want equality in sports. The more men and women interact, the easier it is to foster mutual respect. But to say girls and boys should be playing sports on co-ed teams longer is dangerous. Athletics are about physically imposing your will on an opponent. If men were to do that to female competitors during their pubescent years, there could be a lot of permanent health repercussions.
According to a University of Virginia study in 2018, women are more likely to suffer sports-related concussions than men. The study listed possible factors included biological differences, such as hormone fluctuations or neck strength. Imagine if girls suited up on the football field with boys who have built more muscle mass through puberty. Football already has a concussion problem and adding women would only put them unnecessarily in harm's way.
Of course, there are exceptions to the rule. Women like Breann Smith, Brooke Liebsch and Grace Milstein proved they could keep up with the boys in high school. Still, these women are not the norm and applying a sweeping change to all girls would be irresponsible as a majority of them would be put in an unsafe position. Letting girls play with the boys through and beyond puberty should be treated on a case-by-case basis.