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Breaking Gender Stereotypes in Sports

Boys play football and girls ice skate. Right? Isn’t this how it goes when it comes to sports – there are boys’ sports and then the ones that girls participate in. This couldn’t be farther from the truth. Even though we’ve come a long way since the days when girls stood on the sidelines cheering for the ‘big, strong boys’, gender stereotypes still persist. What can you do as a parent or a coach to break down these biases that ring false?

Avoid Stereotyped Speech

“You throw like a girl!” How many times have you heard that one? It’s the middle of baseball practice and one of the boys gently tosses the ball. It totally misses its target. Suddenly someone (it could be another child, a parent, or even a coach) makes this gendered statement. It’s so common, that you might not even think twice about it. But, what does it even mean anyway? Are girls so weak that they can barely throw a ball? Little League superstar Mo’ne Davis would probably have something to say about that.

Along with watching what you say, stay on the lookout for other people’s gendered speech. If you overhear a child spouting off stereotypes, don’t immediately jump in and yell. Stop the child and ask them what they mean and why they said it. In some cases, the child might be repeating something they heard (and have no idea what it truly means). Discuss why it’s not okay to speak this way, why this type of talk is insulting and how both girls and boys can play sports – all sports.

Be a Role Model

Who says that only dads can coach baseball or that mom’s role is to hand out the after-game snacks? Acting as a role model is an easy way to show your child, or your team, what you mean when you say, “We don’t believe in gender stereotypes.”

Asking a few of the moms to coach or help coach (or volunteering yourself) shows the players that women can be just as knowledgeable and ‘into’ sports as men are. This type of traditional (in other words, stereotyped) role reversal helps girls to see that they can do anything a boy can do, while at the same time showing boys that females can be strong sports figures.

Look to the Pros

Professional sports figures have an almost superhero-like status, especially when it comes to how kids view them. Use this to teach your child (or your team) that gender stereotypes shouldn’t exist. Do some biographical work and take a look at some of the most powerful, famous and influential women in sports history. This includes super-star sisters Venus and Serena Williams, Monica Abbott, Rhonda Rousey, Jackie Joyner-Kersee, Maria Sharapova, Mia Hamm, Billie Jean King and many, many others.

Yes, learning about these awesome athletes gives your little girl a boost when it comes to being confident in a woman’s ability. But, it’s equally as important that boys learn about these fabulous female figures too. They need to know that men aren’t the only ones who dominate in the athletic arena.

Try a Boys-and-Girls League

Some sports leagues/classes don’t differentiate between boys’ and girls’ teams. If you have the opportunity to try one of these out, take it. This shows both young boys and girls that they can play the same sports, in the same way, at the same time. It breaks the gender stereotypes and forces kids to realize that they’re all equal when it comes to game play.

So, the next time your son says, “That boy runs like a girl” or your daughter says, “Eww football! That’s for boys,” turn their ideas around. Let them know that men and women (or boys and girls) can all be athletes – no matter what the game is!

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Girls and Sports: Mallory Pugh

Girls and sports go together like peanut butter and jelly. Really! Even though sports such as football, baseball and even soccer seem like they’re dominated by men, take a look around at all of the awesome women winners out there. From tennis greats such as the Williams’ sisters to the embers of the U.S. Olympic women’s soccer team, girls totally represent when it comes to sports. One of these fabulous women is Mallory Pugh. She might not be much older than you, but she is already a sports star on the rise. At only 18-years-old, Pugh was the youngest player ever in the U.S. Women’s National Team player pool. And, that’s not all.

Bright Beginnings

Even though Mallory Pugh is a well-known soccer sensation now, she once was a little girl who tagged along to her older sister’s club practices. It was there, at these practices, that her mad soccer skills started shining bright. Of course, that doesn’t mean Pugh hadn’t played before. She started at the young age of four, and then followed in her sister’s footsteps. It didn’t take long for Mallory to become a standout though. In 2010 and 2011, she helped her team (Real Colorado) win state titles. In 2013 and 2014, Pugh helped Real Colorado win runner-up at the national championships. She was also named MVP of her regional tournament.

During Pugh’s junior year in high school, the soccer player scored a whopping 24 goals and had 12 assists in 18 games, helping her (high school) team get to the state semifinals.

Olympic Goal

She might just be a girl from a town outside of Denver, Colorado, but when Pugh hit the Olympic soccer field in the 2016 games, she made a stir. That’s to say the least. The then-18-year-old player was the second youngest woman to compete in an Olympic soccer game since 1904. Not only did she make news for this, but she also became the youngest player to score a goal during an Olympic game – and that is ever!

Player of the Year

As a high school junior, Pugh won Gatorade’s National Girls Soccer Player of the Year Award. But, that’s not the only award this young player has won. In 2014, she also won the National Soccer Coaches Association of America’s Youth National Player of the Year for club soccer.

Sports and Education

Don’t think that Pugh put off school entirely just because she has an amazing soccer ability. Yes, she had to take time off from her education to train and compete at an Olympic level. But, the sports standout also graduated from high school and made plans to attend college. Her post-high school educational career includes attending UCLA (starting in January of 2017), where she will also play for their soccer team.

What can you learn from Mallory Pugh? That with hard work, focus and practice, you can do anything you set your mind on! To score an Olympic goal at the age of 18 shows that anything is possible. If you come up against obstacles, or someone tells you that you just won’t succeed, think about Pugh. Remember that there was a time when she was just a little girl trying to follow her sister’s lead. Now she’s a leader – showing the world that women are exceptional athletes too!

Photo Credit:  Makaiyla Willis (CC by 2.0)