Why Co-Ed Teams In Youth Sports Can Work

2014-04-29T15:59:05+00:00 April 29th, 2014|Coaching, Sports Management|

There are a lot of debates to be hand in youth sports. The biggest ones usually happen around participation trophies and keeping score (should we or should we not), but another one that gets people fired up is the idea of having co-ed youth sports team. Usually the question is–should girls be allowed to play on the boys’ team?”Well according to Debate.org, 59% of respondents agreed that girls and boys should be able to play on the same sports teams.

Here are three reasons why co-ed youth sports teams can work:

At a young age, athletic skill matters more than gender.

Amongst the nay-sayers of the Debate.org converstaion, many cited the physical differences between young girls and boys as the main reason sports teams should not be co-ed. But according to child psychologist Laura E. Berk, during the “middle childhood” years (between ages 6 and 11) it’s better to separate children by age and not by gender.  At Rowan Elementary School in the Seneca Valley School District, all first- through fourth-grade gym classes are co-ed. According to teacher Mike Manipole, the approach works well.”More than gender, the thing that really seems to separate kids is their activity level. You can always tell the girl who has older siblings or comes from a family that enjoys sports, but you can also tell the boys who spend more time playing video games than playing outside.”describe the image

According to Laura Pappano, coauthor of “Playing With the Boys: Why Separate Is Not Equal.” gender segregation in youth sports too often dismisses female teams as inferior to male teams. Assigning team membership in a sports league based on skill level, as opposed to gender or even age, allows each team to be more competitive and recognizes the individual athletic skills of the players, regardless of their gender.

As one respondent in the Debate.org conversation said, “to deny a persons participation based on anything but “can you catch the ball”, “make the pass”, “run the distance”, “stop the defensive line”, should always be left up to the person trying out for the sport.” If a player has the skill their gender should not matter.

Girls start to grow faster at a younger age, keeping the level of competition equal.

Girls typically get their growth spurt as much as two years sooner than boys, and that keeps them competitive (in terms of size if not skill) through most of elementary school. Obviously once kids get to junior high the size discrepancy between boys and girls becomes more of an issue but until they are about 12 it’s not as big of a deal.

In sports where size is less of an advantage girls can easily compete with their male counterparts even as they get older. And even after puberty plenty of girls are tall enough and strong enough to keep up with their male counterparts. In 2013 a 12-year-old Ohio girl named Makhaela Jenkins fought her school’s district in court over her right to play on a boys-only football team. She ultimately won and was allowed to play. According to the National Federation of State High School Associations, there were more than 1,500 girls playing on boys football teams that year, and the trend was growing with a 17% uptick since 2009.

Boys and girls can learn from each other.

Studies show that women tend to be better team players, while boys focus more on individual success. Let’s be honest–you need both skills in order to “go far” in your athletic career. By having boys and girls playing together at a young age boys might learn how to be better team players while girls learn how to take more leadership on themselves.

There is no denying that as female and male athletes grow the physical differences become a key factor in how successful a player can be. A 135 pound girl who wants to play high school football could easily be up against a 250 pound opponent…and that size difference matters. But in soccer a 135 pound girl  might not be at as much of a disadvantage. But when they are younger and those size differences aren’t as marked why can’t youth sports teams be co-ed?