Hey, Little Girl on the Boy’s Team..

…show them how to play!

I have to admit I’ve rewritten this article about four different times over the course of the last two days. I’ve written paragraph after paragraph trying to tie the Nine for IX films on ESPN to my own experience as a female athlete in a post Title IX world.
Title IX, for those not in the know, was passed to ensure equal athletic opportunity for women/girls. (You can look at more specific details about Title IX here http://www.titleix.info/ .). For simplicity sake, it’s basically you can’t discriminate against a player just because their gender.
Thankfully, my parents never had a problem with me playing sports – even playing on boy’s teams. Upon reflection, I don’t recall anyone ever trying to convince me that playing with the boys – football, basketball, baseball, our brief attempt at soccer – was something I shouldn’t do because I was a girl. In fact, from home to school, it was a given that no matter who you play, you will give it your best and aim to be better than them. I guess that is part competitiveness, part feeling like I needed to prove I belonged. At any rate, aside from a girl in second grade calling me a tomboy (which I had no idea what that meant and I got pretty upset saying “I am NOT a boy!”) I don’t recall anything negative coming with excelling in a male dominated game.

Give me the ball Dad!

Give me the ball Dad!


I like to think my area is more progressive than it is portrayed. In actuality it was probably a combination of family support and being in the right place at the right time.
For example, when I played Pee Wee boy’s basketball I was the only girl in the league. All the other girls joined their school’s varsity teams and played in practice, maybe a few games. I played at halftime with those of us not starting and whenever Darb put me in. Now, Pee Wee/Upward leagues are co-ed with lots of girls rocking the court!
Baseball – same deal, except there was one other girl who played for Turkey Creek and she was BEAST! There wasn’t a ponytail softball league. You either played with the boys or you didn’t play.

I was totally cool with that. In fact, it never dawned on me that my playing the was different. I just figured I was ahead of the curve.
As I got older, joined the girl’s teams (now that I was big enough to hold my own with girls several years older than me), I was able to see the ranks in girls playing on boys teams swell – and I love it!

I loved the challenge.  I loved proving that I was just as good, if not better, than the boys I played against.  It was important to me, even then, for people to see me as capable.  That doesn’t mean it was perfect or easy.

My favorite jersey and helmet - and bro-ness!

My favorite jersey and helmet – and bro-ness!

The same boys I played ball with, my teammates, were the same boys I wanted to go on dates with as I got older – but it was too late.  They saw me as one of their own.  Now, as an adult, I can see that it wasn’t just me being their friend, or being de-sexed (not seen as a girl….that’s what I’m going with here anyways), it’s my personality.  I’m shy around men.  I don’t want to give the wrong impression of interest to those men that I’m friends with, so I over-think.  Men I am interested in, well, I’m awkward.  It has nothing to do with my love of sport, my ability to play – it’s just how I am.  I can’t change that, and I don’t really want to.  I love sports, I love competing, I enjoy my fandoms – and there is nothing wrong with that at all.  It’s taken me a while to understand that, but it was something that needed to be done.  I wouldn’t change a moment of those years playing with the boys.  They are some of my best friends.  They still treat me like I’m a part of their families, and I love them whole-heartedly.

Now that ESPN Films are showing films about women in sports – all areas of sport, not just on the field – those memories have come back. Not the “glory days” or big hits, but those times sitting in the dugout with my friends, cheering after a shot was made, or even playing a pick up game of football on the playground.

The Related Arts Basketball Spectacular Crew - Bath County

The Related Arts Basketball Spectacular Crew – Bath County

 

How lucky was I that I was allowed to have those opportunities without judgement or ridicule?! How lucky was I to grow up in a time of change and societal growth.  How lucky AM I that I still get to play?!

How lucky AM I?

Very.
* my Papaw is a bit of a local sport legend, could hit from both sides of the plate, and was, all in all, a fantastic fella

Check out ESPN Films Nine for IX series on. The 30 for 30 are great too, and while I think only nine films dealing with females in sport is a little on the short side, I believe that this opens the door for discussion and recognition for how far women have come in sport.

Personally, I think it’s something we’ve known all along – it’s the media that is just now catching up.

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2 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. D3Z
    Jul 25, 2013 @ 10:19:18

    So, were there not little leagues for girls? Or did you just want to play with the boys?

    Reply

    • stacigilliam
      Jul 25, 2013 @ 10:25:41

      Great question! At the time, there were only varsity leagues that were really for girls 12 and up and only in basketball. Softball wasn’t an option until high school so boys baseball was all that was available. I really enjoyed playing on the boy’s teams though. Having something to prove made me want to be a better player and it carried with me to the girl’s teams I played on later.

      Reply

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