Wednesday, October 14, 2009

On Co-ed Sports

As children, girls and boys often compete against each other or as teammates on the field, court, or diamond or in the pool. But as children become tweens and physiological gender differences become more significant schools and community sports programs split the sexes: Boys play on teams with other boys; girls play on teams with other girls. Boys play baseball; girls play softball. Boys and girls no longer face each other on the tennis court or race side-by-side in the pool.

There are occasions when men and women, even as older adolescents or adults, compete as equals or teammates. Several girls have earned spots as placekickers on high school football teams; Janet Guthrie, Sarah Fisher, and Danica Patrick have had successful careers in auto racing; and all four Grand Slam tennis tournaments have a mixed doubles competition. But calling football, auto racing, or even tennis a co-ed sport would be a stretch. Women are a rarity in football and racing, and mixed doubles is a novelty in a sport where men and women play in separate professional tours.

But apparently rock climbing is a truly co-ed, "gender-blind" sport. From Double X:

Sports generally reward bulk, speed, strength, and, often, height—all traits in which men tend to have the physical advantage. But climbers can’t rely on brute strength alone. The typically feminine assets of balance, flexibility, and a sprinkle of grace are essential to navigating the vagaries of ancient rock and plastic gym holds. (To effortlessly “dance up the wall” is a high compliment.) Excessive bulk, be it muscle or fat, while not a showstopper, is a definite disadvantage in a sport that rewards a high strength-to-weight ratio. Height can help or hinder, depending on the contours of the rock.


I invented a sport. It's called Hexagon and involves three teams playing with two balls on a hexagonal playing field. (To my knowledge, only one game of Hexagon was ever played, and I was not a part of it.) For what it's worth (and it's not worth much), my intent has been for Hexagon to be a truly co-ed sport, a sport in which equal numbers of men and women would be on the field at all times—a Title IX advocate's dream.


Anonymous Kevin Alton said...

I can't think of a single reason that the rules of play for Hexagon aren't included here.

6:13 AM  

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