My little daughter suggested I write about the soccer practices I do with her and her classmates. It’s funny how topics come together. I read this morning about how Saudi Arabia is considering lifting the ban on girls playing sports–this after women were included in its Olympic team for the first time only two years ago.

Saudi girls doing what many of us take for granted, playing sports

Saudi girls doing what many of us take for granted, playing sports

Here is my child, doing several sports each week–swimming, football, running, etc. I also read this morning some pieces about media bias against girls’ sport, during the recent Champs. I don’t buy the argument of bias.

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A well-honed fifth grade girl soccer player

It’s maybe another case of thinking that equality is meaningful in and of itself, as opposed to equity. The children I coach are always focused on the fact that the other teams may have more players than they do: “It’s not fair…” Life is not fair, if you think that everything has to be equal. It’s not so. No two people are the same, so ‘equality’ is an illusion about numbers. A boy weighing 90 pounds trying to carry a girl weighing 140 pounds is not equal. We have numerical equality, but what else don’t we have.

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Spindly-legged second grade boy is no match for strapping fifth grade girl

What’s equitable about someone trying to carry someone weighing 50 percent more? I would rather that we think a bit more than just about the numbers. I like to see life as if it’s a scene in a Bruce Lee movie: one person fighting against whatever or whomever–I like those odds, when I think I am much better than the rest.

I’ve been a certified soccer coach for the best part of 20 years, and most of that time I’ve coached girls, mainly in the US; now I also do it in Jamaica at my child’s school. I do not encourage defeatist attitudes and do not feel that looking to be ‘even’ is very fruitful. You succeed with what you have, from wherever you are, and don’t harp on about how you’re disadvantaged. Your mind should tell you that you are superior and then you do your best to show that to be true.

What she wanted me to write about was how they played against a boys team, and after were very sore and tired, but it was fun and worth it. The boys are preparing for the national championships later in the year; the girls have barely any experience playing a real game. The scrimmage was the first time they had played a match on a real field. “They’re so big…” “They run so fast…” “They kick hard…” Blah-blah, was what I heard as they entered the field, like the yokel team coming against the honed pros. Mismatched uniforms versus the logo-stacked shimmer of the sponsored team. Not real, but you get the image, I hope. The boys did what they were expected to. They ran hard and fast and knocked people over. But, the girls, with me playing as goalie, were being encouraged to engage them, again and again. I wanted them to learn to apply pressure, again and again, like terrier dogs, yapping at the ankles, not like mastiffs frightening with size and gruff bark. Little by little, they got the idea. They fell over, picked themselves up and dusted off their knees, got knocked down again. Sweat was running from their faces and dirt was mixing with the sweat–the best kind of make-up–like running mascara. The boys scored a goal; 1-0. But that was it. The girls started to get the ball to move up the field and even looked like scoring once or twice. I had asked if they could play for 15 minutes. Half an hour later we were finishing. “Coach, that was great! Can we play them next week?”

We were listening to the radio, as usual, as we drove over the hills to school. On came Lorde, singing ‘Team’.

 

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