Let The Girls Play
The funny thing was, after I tried on the phrase…let it ring around in my ears and permeate through all those chauvinistic stereotypes I had ingrained in me through sport for years, I realized two facts. First, she was right, I was a feminist, and second, I liked it.
How did this come to be? Well, I’ve been reading the constitution of a variety of hockey leagues in the area, and across the Province, and found a fact that didn’t make sense to me: girls play shorter games.
Why? Beats me. On average, those differences equated to 6-10 minutes less per game for the girls, compared to boys of an equal age. I couldn’t, and can’t, understand why that might be, unless as a society we’re placing less value, or less importance on girls sports. Unless we don’t think girls deserve equal time. Or worse, that we don’t think girls are equal, period.
Let’s start by debunking a few things first. If a game is 6-minutes shorter, that equates to 2-minutes less per period. I guarantee if I asked any girl on a team with three lines, if they could play one extra shift per period, they’d say yes. Ok, so it’s not that girls can’t handle it.
Is it that girls “don’t need” the extra time in a game? Well if a boys team can score in the final 6-10 minutes of a game, so can a girls team, that’s just simple to understand. In terms of development, some of these girls we’re restricting will be heading off to play University hockey, while we give more ice time to some boys teams who won’t even make a local beer league team.
Maybe parents of girls hockey teams have less money? I don’t even need to waste time on this one, because it makes no sense. Sure, more ice time will need to be booked for longer games, but if parents of male athletes can pay, surely those same parents can pay for their daughters.
So what is it? I have to think there is a little misogyny involved. A belief that female athletes are more delicate, or less capable of strenuous competition. Let me tell you, as someone who coaches and trains both boys and girls hockey players, in my experience, teenage girls are often more intense, more dedicated, and more willing to push themselves physically to improve than their male counterparts.
This inequality exists at nearly every level; in junior loops, our local high school league, and minor hockey. But why? It’s not even restricted to hockey either, there are shorter quarters in sports like basketball as well.
Admittedly, my head has been in the sand for years. I didn’t know this inequity in ice time existed, which makes me even more mad.
And don’t give me any, “calm down, it’s only two minutes crap.” It’s not about the time, it’s about a feeling of being limited.
These girls can play, so let them play. Our local female athletes are of equal importance, and have equal aspirations of playing at a higher level (and if you say just because they can’t make millions in the NHL, those dreams of earning a hockey scholarship are less relevant, I’ll jump through this screen and take a cross checking penalty unseen in any girls or boys league before).
This is one of a handful of social issues in hockey, and rules I’ve learned about, that don’t make any sense, except to tell girls that their game, their passion, is less important. That the boys version of a game is more important. Worse, it’s just another example of ingrained societal chauvinism, telling our young women that in general, they are less important, not just their teams or sport.
If you have any involvement with a local team or organization, I suggest you start saying “let the girls play,” again and again, until someone listens, I know I will be.