The Athletic Divide: Girls in Sports

We live in a world where athletes are predominantly men, and while women are continuing to rise in skill level and fame, they still are not the frontrunners when someone thinks of sports. There are zero women in the MLB, NFL, NHL, etc., and women’s sports are highly disregarded when it comes to television time and popularity. I’m guilty of this; I love watching baseball and football but  am not a fan of the WNBA. I’ll catch a women’s MLS game if it’s on, but it is never on my priority list, and I am a huge sports fan.

Last summer my children attended a series of sports camps through a local school, each week presenting them with a new sport to learn about. They both attended all together except for baseball and softball. Yes, she went to football and wrestling, and he even attended the cheer camp with some buddies (it starts young, ladies). Brayden is average for his age and size; he works hard, competes, but doesn’t go over the top. Emerson, on the other hand, is out for blood anytime she sets foot on a field/floor/mat, whatever the case may be.

This year we were at baseball sign-ups when we learned there would not be a softball team, due to lack of interest from other girls in our area. At first, she was okay with sitting out another year and watching him play ball. Well, about ten minutes later (literally), she decided it would be just fine to play baseball with the boys, and she was willing to go for it. It made me sick to my stomach to know we were practically throwing her to the wolves, but they promised to keep the kids together to alleviate some stress from all aspects (mainly so mom only had to drive to one game or one practice).

The first few practices were interesting. She took a ball to the face and kept composure, surprising everyone. At our first tournament, I remember sitting there watching the game as another team walked up to observe. They started laughing because the left-center was wearing hot pink cleats…until the left-center turned their head, revealing a blonde ponytail.

“There’s a GIRL on that team!!!”

That girl holds her own in a world of boys and continues to earn their respect in every game we play.

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In the regular season, she is the lead-off batter, plays the infield, and even has a home run on her list of stats this year. The kids were nicknamed “Lightning and Thunder,” because of her quick speed and…well…I’m still trying to figure out Thunder’s meaning for Bray. (I’m only kidding–he’s very consistent at the plate and makes his presence known, even with his little size!) But it’s not just on the ball field–she is naturally talented when it comes to all sports, but especially running. We ran a race earlier this summer and blew away the competition. It’s incredible to watch, but like all things in life, there is always a downside: having a twin brother who just is not at that level yet.

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Emerson has about three inches over Brayden, and the willpower to destroy anything that gets in her path. He, on the other hand, has a heart of gold and a brain that understands things I even struggle with. He thrives academically and has become a “stats guy” if you will, learning everything and anything he can about MLB players. At the plate, he uses my twenty-four-year-old bat and consistently gets on base. It’s nothing fancy, but he’s on and he’s fast. In the field, he’s usually found chasing balls as he plays the outfield, but thanks to daily push-ups he’s got an arm that can whip it back in as fast as it went out. And he’s an angel, he will listen to anything his coaches say, cheers loudly for his teammates and, especially, his twin sister. But the frustration sometimes shows up, and it’s very difficult consoling one, while cheering for the other.

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Emerson is a constant inspiration, not only to me but to the moms and sisters who still live by the girl-power movement. She goes against the norm and continues to amaze everyone with her skill and determination. Will my daughter go on to do big things in the sports world? Maybe, maybe not. Will she change a boy’s mind on whether or not girls can play sports? I sure hope so. Do teams regret “moving in” when she’s up to the plate? Absolutely.

It’s 2016. I hope and pray we can continue celebrating the triumphs of all of our children, male and female. Girls are not invading the male space, and dads do not need to feel threatened or little boys have their egos hurt if a girl can keep up (or pass them) in an athletic event.


 

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