Snow Brenner, the first girl to play in a North Carolina 3A high-school championship game, in 1995Photo: Ap/ Bob Jordan (AP Images)

No high schools in America offer a girls tackle football team. If a girl wants to play football, she has to go out for the boys’ team. There’s no guarantee that she’ll make the team, but Title IX guarantees that every sport offered only to boys at the high school level has to allow girls a fair shot at tryouts.

There aren’t many girls who are up to the task. Laura Goetz, a sophomore in Salt Lake City, Utah, plays on the boys team at her school. “I’m not going to lie. I am scared to be quarterback for the guys,” she says. “There’s a bunch of pressure on me. If you mess up, the players will get mad at you. I don’t want that to happen to me because it’s already hard enough.”


Still, she plays. She goes to practice with the boys and will play under the bright lights on Friday nights this fall. She’s not alone.

According to data gathered on all fifty states (and D.C.) by the National Federation of State High Schools Association, more girls are playing on boys football teams than ever before. For the 2018-2019 school year 2,404 girls played 11-man tackle football on boys teams at the high school level. That’s more than has ever been recorded in the NFHSA’s history:

A little over one million high school students played 11-man football in the 2018-2019 level, so girls only made up 0.2% of participants. Girls played at 1,918 different schools, which means that they also usually played as the only girl on the field.

Just because girls are choosing to play on boys tackle football teams at the high school level, though, doesn’t mean they wouldn’t want to play on their own team. Shawn Goetz, whose daughter Laura plays on the high school boys team, says that she plays with the boys because its the only way to play at school.


“That’s why you look at a boys team and there’s one girl. They have no option. She has her good days and her bad days,” Shawn Goetz says. “On the girls-only team there are only good days. You don’t go to practice and get called all these names by the boys on the team.”

You can read about the only girls recreational tackle football league in America here:


When girls think of a sport they’d like to join, a few things may come to mind. Soccer, martial arts, softball, tennis, basketball, and the like. But one sport notably off the list of many girls’ dream sports? Football. Sure, they might toss around a football with dad in the yard sometimes, but many girls wouldn’t even consider joining a football team, while others simply assume that it’s not an option despite liking the game. But why is this? In this blog, we’ll talk about how girls and women do participate in football and what factors are in place that prevent or discourage girls from joining in the first place.

Lack of availability/visibility

Pop Warner, a youth football organization, estimates that only 1% of its youth players are female. Many girls don’t opt for football simply because female teams aren’t an option in their area, and the teams they do see consist solely of boys or men. There are a few youth-level football leagues that girls play in but even less when you look at high school teams and even fewer still when you get to the college level. And it’s much harder to start a team than it is to join one already in place. There also exists a lack of visibility when it comes to female football players and teams. Many may hear of a girl or woman who joins an otherwise-male team, but those stories are often sensationalized as a one-off occurrence. And many don’t know of the existence of all-girls or all-women sports teams, as they aren’t given much attention.

A male-dominated sport

Tying in with the lack of visibility of female football teams is the idea that football is a male only sport. Many young girls grow up only experiencing boys and men playing the sport, and so it just becomes a “male sport” in their mind. Even if they had the option and desire to join an otherwise-male team at their school, for example, they may hesitate to do so due to peer pressure or even family pressure that the rough-and-tumble sport of football is a “boys’ game.”

Things are changing

Both of these factors are becoming less of an issue as more girls’ and women’s football leagues and teams open up, and female football players receive more press. Women in football is nothing new; the first woman to play on a professional (and all-male) football team, Patricia Palinkas, did so nearly 50 years ago, in 1970. But females in football are only more recently becoming more common and visible. Some may remember the 2012 story of the 9-year-old girl, Sam Gordon, who played football on an all boys team. Her skill and love for the game set the groundwork for many other female lovers of the sport to join in as well. In 2015, the NFL got its first permanent female coach, Kathryn Smith, for the Buffalo Bills. As of 2018, statistics showed that only 10.9% of people who report playing tackle football are female. However, although participation in the sport in general is seeing a dip, it’s experiencing a rise when you look at the female demographic, especially in high school football. Recent years have seen an uptick in female football leagues such as the Utah Girls Tackle Football League, Indiana Girls Tackle Football League, Women’s Football Association, Independent Women’s Football League, Women’s Spring Football League, and more. And at the same time as stories about girls in football may make it seem like an oddity, they do serve a positive purpose as well, of course. Many girls see these stories and feel encouraged. Something they may have accepted as the norm (that football is “for the boys”) is challenged, and that opens the door to many to consider joining the sport. Here at Tacklesmart, we have boys and girls of all ages coming through for our Tackle training. Sign up for classes here today!

More girls in Michigan playing tackle football to ‘show the world what females can do’

Detroit Southeastern High School football player Azia Isaac and teammates listen to instructions during practice Thursday. Daniel Mears, Detroit News Detroit Southeastern High School football player Azia Isaac during practice in Detroit. Daniel Mears, Detroit News Detroit Southeastern High School football player Azia Isaac is seen during practice Thursday. Daniel Mears, Detroit News Detroit Southeastern High School football player Azia Isaac during practice. Daniel Mears, Detroit News Detroit Southeastern High School football player Azia Isaac during practice in Detroit, Michigan. Daniel Mears, Detroit News Detroit Southeastern High School football player Azia Isaac, with coach Courtney Dinkins, during practice. Daniel Mears, Detroit News Detroit Southeastern High School football player Azia Isaac, during a special teams drill. Daniel Mears, Detroit News Detroit Southeastern High School football player Azia Isaac, with coach Courtney Dinkins, during practice in Detroit, Michigan on October 3, 2019.. Daniel Mears, Detroit News Berkley High School football safety Marcella DePaul, center, listens to head coach Sean Shields address the team at the end of practice. Jose Juarez, Special to Detroit News Ecorse high school offensive guard Janay Lakey tries to push her way past a teammate during practice, August 13, 2019. David Guralnick, The Detroit News Wide receiver slot back Tiera Sticks (19) tries to calm her son, King Hill, III, by giving him some Cheetos. Todd McInturf, The Detroit News Berkley High School football safety Marcella DePaul waits for instructions from head coach Sean Shields during practice. Jose Juarez, Special to Detroit News Berkley High School football safety Marcella DePaul, left, gets instructions on where to stand from head coach Sean Shields during practice Jose Juarez, Special to Detroit News Berkley High School student Marcella DePaul plays safety on the team’s varsity football team. Jose Juarez, Special to Detroit News Berkley High School football safety Marcella DePaul catches a football during practice. Jose Juarez, Special to Detroit News Berkley High School student Marcella DePaul, who plays safety on the team’s varsity football team, stretches with her teammates during a recent practice. Jose Juarez, Special to Detroit News Berkley High School football safety Marcella DePaul, middle, waits to be called to play defense during practice. Photo taken on Thursday, Sept. 19, 2019 in Berkley, Mich. (Jose Juarez/Special to Detroit News) Jose Juarez, Special to Detroit News Berkley High School football safety Marcella DePaul catches a football during practice. Jose Juarez, Special to Detroit News Berkley High School football safety Marcella DePaul, left, works on punt return blocking during practice. Jose Juarez, Special to Detroit News Berkley High School student Marcella DePaul plays safety on the team’s varsity football team. Jose Juarez, Special to Detroit News Detroit Southeastern High School football player Azia Isaac participates in a special teams drill during practice Thursday. Daniel Mears, The Detroit News Detroit Southeastern High School football player Azia Isaac is seen during practice Thursday. Daniel Mears, The Detroit News 16 year old senior Azia Isaac plays football for Detroit Southeastern High School in Detroit The Detroit News

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Dust floats off the practice football field at Berkley High School and works its way into the lungs of Marcella DePaul, who is too busy racing around the worn-out grass to worry about her asthma.

Marcella instead is focused on one thing: getting faster as a player on the Berkley High varsity football team.

A 5-foot-6 former softball player, Marcella had preferred to play catch with a football at middle school recess. That was until last spring when the 15-year-old girl asked to play football on the boy’s varsity team.

Marcella, who had no prior organized football experience, says she saw a post on Instagram from a girl at another high school proclaiming she was going to play football on her school’s team.

“I said that would be so fun,” said Marcella, now a junior. “I will regret it if I don’t do this. So I asked when tryouts were.”

Marcella’s place at the Michigan high school teams comes at a time when no women play in the NFL and few are on college teams. Yet nationally, more girls are playing tackle on 11-player football teams in high schools.

According to Chris Boone of the National Federation of State High School Association, 2,404 girls played 11-person tackle football on high school boys’ teams last year. The number the season before was 2,237.

“There are more girls playing baseball and football,” Boone said.

No high schools in America offer girls tackle football, sports experts said. Girls who want to play football have to go out for the boy’s teams.

Title IX requires males and females be provided equitable opportunities to participate in sports. It does not require institutions to offer identical sports but an equal opportunity to play.

Michigan ranks eighth in the nation in the number of girls playing tackle football, with California, Texas and New Jersey having the most. In Michigan, girls are playing tackle football at high schools in Ecorse, Detroit and other districts.

Geoff Kimmerly, a spokesman for the Michigan High School Athletic Association, said last season, 112 girls played on an 11-member tackle team among 750 member high schools across the state.

The number was 121 girls the year before, and most have been kickers, he said.

“There are just a number of girls who really enjoy the part, and they feel they have an opportunity to be a part of it,” Kimmerly said.

High school football, despite a decrease in participation of students of 4.3% last year, remains the most played sport in Michigan with 35,412 participants, according to MHSAA stats.

In Utah, the nonprofit Utah Girls Tackle Football League formed the first all-girls tackle football league in the United States in 2015. The league has a 5th/6th-grade division with eight-player teams and a 7th/8th-grade division and a high school division with 11-player teams.

Michigan, meanwhile, is home to four women’s tackle football teams, including the Detroit Dark Angels, which all play in the Women’s Football Alliance, the largest women’s tackle football league in the United States.

‘Nothing is really ‘hard’ about it’


Azia Isaac, a 16-year-old senior, enjoys playing football for Detroit Southeastern High School. The Detroit News

Janay Lakey, 17, plays offensive guard and center for Ecorse’s high school football team. Her coach, Jovan Olafioye, said Lakey approached him after playing on the Southwest Detroit Little League team for years.

Lakey, a junior who wears No. 76 on the field, said she fell in love with the sport after playing it with her male cousins for years.

“So I been playing since seventh grade, and I’m now a junior,” Lakey said. “But I asked to join the high school to show the world what females can do.”

Lakey, who has played in two games this season and is expected to play in four more, said she hits other players during the game and gets hit by other players.

At 5-foot 8, Lakey trained over the summer with the team and is working on different steps for the offensive line.

“Nothing is really ‘hard’ about it,” Lakey said. “I’m getting used to everything, and they (the guys on the team) treat me like a little sister. But when it comes to really putting in work, they guide me and make sure I’m straight all the time.”

Azia Isaac, 16, is in her second year playing football for Detroit’s Southeastern High School.

A starter for the team, Issac plays running back this season and is in her second year with the team, which went 8-4 last season and won two state playoff games to win the district championship.

“I get targeted (by opposing teams), but to me, that’s beneficial to our team because they’re too focused on me, and not what’s going on in the game. So it leads to us having bigger plays.”

Isaac says she plays without fear “because if you’re defeated mentally, you’re going to be defeated physically.”

“You can’t beat yourself up when everyone is already expecting you to fail,” she said. “Take that failure that they’re trying to throw at you, and use it as motivation.”

Head football coach Courtney Dinkins said Issac comes to workouts every day and is tough.

“I asked her if she had football experience, and she said, ‘No, I just want to play,'” Dinkins recalled of the conversation. “I don’t know if more girls are playing because of the lack of boys or if it’s because girls believe they can do what boys can do.

“Either way, it’s fair game.”

Marcella an ‘inspiration’

After a short conversation with Berkley football coach Sean Shields, Marcella dove into training in the late spring, spending mornings and evenings weight training, practicing outside for hours in the heat and attending camp days.

On her own time, Marcella, who has played in four of the team’s five games either as a free safety or wide receiver, printed the team’s playbook and studied it. She watched games on YouTube and downloaded an app called Hudl to watch film.

“I am focusing on my running,” Marcella said. “… It’s a lot of effort and time, and I like being challenged.”

Marcella, a reserve player on the 35-member team, had one tackle in her first game and engages in hitting drills during practices. Wearing No. 42, Marcella said the guys on the team treat her like one them.

Hunter Kiesling, team captain, is in his 12th year of football. Kiesling, 17, a senior, said in the past, the high school team had a girl kicker, but Marcella is the first for the current team and she works hard.

Over the summer, Marcella lifted with the team Mondays through Thursdays and attended team camp and skills camp. She also does weight training and 7-on-7 passing leagues.

“She’s been one of my few that hasn’t complained about a single thing,” Shields said.

Shields said it is unusual for a student to play varsity football who did not previously play football on an organized team.

“Us being Division II, we are seeing kids who are going on to play Big Ten football,” Shields said. “We were worried at first about her health and safety. More and more, she has shown she can hold her own out there.”

Marcella, whose long ponytails stick out of her white helmet, is working on basics skills at the moment. Shield said she is not the fastest player, but when it comes to safety learning coverage and calling out defense, Marcella is a powerhouse.

“She has been phenomenal. Anytime we do a new installment, she is trying to pick up the game,” Shields said.

Marcella has her own locker, but once everyone is dressed, she joins the boys in their locker room, and they all begin their pre-game prep.

“They are listening to music, trying to get into the right headspace,” Shields said. “Coaches do pregames speeches. It’s like a family in there.”

Shields says having a girl on the team hasn’t changed anything.

“At first, the guys were all wondering. It was different,” Shields said of Marcella joining the team. “It was strange to all of them. Ever since she has shown she is willing to work, she has outworked a lot of the other boys.”

DePaul’s mother, Lisa, said at first she told Marcella no about playing tackle football.

“It’s not because she was a girl,” DePaul said. “If I had a son, I would say the same thing. I am concerned about safety and getting injured.

“It surprised me she wanted to play. She has a good arm and can catch is not afraid of the ball.”

Marcella was used to competitive sports on her travel softball league and had a regular weight training schedule, DePaul said, so she agreed.

DePaul watches from the stands at Hurley Field in Berkley where the Bears play their Friday night home games.

“It’s nerve-racking, and I’m proud of her for following what she wants to do,” DePaul said.


But several studies have found that in sports with comparable rules between girls and boys, the rates of concussion are actually higher in women. Not only that, a 2012 statement from the American Medical Society for Sports Medicine highlighted research showing that female athletes sustain more concussions than their male counterparts, report more severe symptoms and have a longer duration of recovery than men.

“When it comes to female athletes’ participation — regardless of age — we’re lacking in truly understanding their experience around head injury,” said Donna Duffy, co-director of the Female Brain Project, a research team at the University of North Carolina Greensboro studying head injuries in female athletes. “We’re on the cusp of this; there’s a growing body of literature suggesting that biological sex hormones may be impacted or disrupted when a head injury is sustained.”

But while Dr. Duffy cautions more research is needed, she agrees with other researchers that prepubescent kids should avoid playing tackle football.

Parents whose daughters want to play football may feel they have a difficult decision to make. Several programs suggest flag football as a healthier option for both boys and girls, because they learn the strategy of the game and develop agility skills without risking the injuries of tackling.

Last month, the Concussion Legacy Foundation, composed of doctors and former N.F.L. players, recommended that no children play tackle football before age 14. They’ve created the Flag Football Under 14 program to encourage kids who want to play football to start with flag football until they’re older, and Chris Nowinski, the foundation’s co-founder and chief executive, says those guidelines apply to both boys and girls.

The N.F.L. has also been promoting its flag football program, which partners with U.S.A. Football to allow kids who play flag football to sport the uniform and logo of an N.F.L. team. The N.F.L. Flag program is open to both girls and boys, and according to Mr. Mumtaz, participation increased 45 percent in the past five years to more than 409,000 in 2017.

Girls varsity flag football has been sanctioned as a high school sport in five states. Jen Welter, the first female coach in the N.F.L., founded Grrridiron Girls, a flag football camp program designed to allow girls of all experience levels to participate. Her most recent camp in Boston had 90 participants.

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Women were playing football in the 1930s — then came the backlash

“A fortnight ago in Los Angeles, those romantics who still believe in nursery rhymes and the dignity of womanhood got a rude shock,” LIFE Magazine brayed in a November 1939 issue. The shock in question came from a new Southern Californian league of what papers around the country had taken to calling “girl gridders”: women playing tackle football, apparently without sugar, spice and everything nice. In the case of the Stars, the Amazons and the Rinky Dinks (really), they were playing in front of thousands.

Take halfback Shirley Payne of the Stars, who had made her name outrunning Mickey Rooney (yes, that Mickey Rooney) during a 1938 halftime exhibition game against his team, the MGM Wildcats; that co-ed matchup was billed as groundbreaking. Or the Amazons’ Lois Roberts, who punted 50 yards barefoot.

“Strangely enough, they played good football,” wrote a man (probably) in the same spread, still concluding that “it would be better for girls to stick to swimming, tennis and softball.”

From a 1939 spread in LIFE magazine on women playing football in Southern California Photo by Peter Stackpole/Life Magazine/The LIFE Picture Collection via Getty Images

Members of that league, which also became the topic of a widely distributed newsreel, were just the most visible members of a rapidly growing class of female football players.

Alabama’s Luverne Wise got an honorable mention for the all-state team for her performance at kicker and quarterback; her senior year, she said her dream was to “get a job coaching a girls’ football team.” Esther Burnham, a 14-year-old, played center for her Connecticut high school team — when a local paper asked why, she explained she did it “for excitement.” Seventeen-year-old Texan Juanita McCrury was kicking extra points for her high school. Sacramento’s junior college organized a women’s team. 1938 John Barrymore vehicle Hold That Coed even featured a “girl gridder” played by comedian Joan Davis. Her punchline? “Let me take the ball — no Southern gentleman would think of tackling a lady!”

A pair of defenders tackle the ballcarrier during a game of women’s football circa 1940. Photo by Ivan Dmitri/Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images

Judging by the breathless coverage around these examples (examples that almost certainly represent only a fraction of the total number of girls and women playing), girls’ enthusiasm for football was still clearly deemed unusual. But it was also having enough of an impact that institutions around the country were taking measures to keep girls off the gridiron — or at least from playing the same game the boys were.

Spalding tried to divert the interest of potential women football players (and open up a new revenue stream) by distributing a pamphlet of rules for “American Football For Women” in late 1939, “a safe game for all classes of women to play because there is no tackling or blocking or any other feature permitted that would be injurious to them.”

It was essentially two-hand touch, the kind had already been adapted for “powderpuff” games around the country (like one 1940 matchup at the University of South Carolina for which each participating co-ed’s phone number was listed in the program). If you made intentional contact, there was a 25 yard penalty; there were no kick-offs, and you weren’t allowed to catch punts. Each drive automatically started on the 40 yard line — a bigger handicap than was included in the touch rules Spalding released simultaneously as a safer alternative for young boys. Be sure to buy those “official women’s football breast protectors,” though!

Players gather on the sidelines for a game of women’s football circa 1940. Photo by Ivan Dmitri/Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images

Despite the fact this version of football was about as innocuous as a game of badminton, the editors of Youth Leaders Digest — an industry publication that counted executives from parks departments, Boys and Girls Clubs, the YMCA, Boy Scouts and more among its contributing editors — were concerned. (Perhaps they hadn’t read the rules themselves.) “Do you think ‘a kick in the stomach’ or a ‘blow on the breasts’ or maybe a short journey into the unconscious carries with it any type of character building our high school or college girls need?” they asked, quoting the LIFE feature.

It seemed like a rhetorical question, but apparently the editorial garnered an immediate and unusual response — mostly in staunch agreement with its disbelief that any girl or woman would ever even imagine playing football.

“Girls’ football is here — whether as a passing fad or permanent exploitation, no one yet knows,” wrote University of Michigan professor Elmer D. Mitchell in the Journal of Health and Physical Education. “But even if girls’ football is a passing fad, this editorial will have served some usefulness if it can hurry the idea along to a quick end … stop women’s football in every way you can! Do not give it a chance to grow!” His reasoning: if football is hard for men, it will be impossible for women; women don’t actually want to play; oh — and they’re ugly when they do.

From the director of health education for the YWCA: “We urge each one of you to protest in your communities the spread of such an insidious thing as this.” From the supervisor of physical education in New Jersey public schools: “‘Ridiculous’ is the word for it.” A New York doctor compared the LIFE spread to the fall of the Roman Empire. OSU coach Francis Schmidt: “No one in his right mind would propose such a thing.” The superintendent of the Los Angeles parks and recreation department — so, in the same city where women playing football were attracting massive publicity and thousands of fans — announced they would no longer permit the use of their facilities for girls’ football: “It is quite obvious that football (regardless of rules) is wholly unsuited to the physiological and anatomical limitations of girls.”

The head of the Bethlehem, Pennsylvania, parks and recreation department might have come the closest to getting the point, while also missing it completely: “I think the typical American girl today is a girl who is quite feminine, who has charm and poise and is really a woman. A mannish tomboy type of girl should not be set up as an example of American womanhood; and I do think that if our girls started playing football, there would probably be created a new type of women for our girls to emulate.”

Naturally, Spalding responded with what might have been the equivalent of “… did you click the link?”

“Under no circumstances would A.G. Spalding & Bros lower themselves in allowing … rules that even verged on the type of football that has had so much publicity,” replied a Spalding staffer. “We most heartily agree with your attitude in connection with a football game where women would have the clothes torn off of them , or would be subjected to various forms of injury; even the viewing of such a game would be unsightly.”

But it was too late: Spalding’s rules, as combined with the images presented in the LIFE spread, provoked vehement rejection of the mere idea of women playing football, and subsequent bans for girls in football across the country — many by statewide school athletic associations. Pennsylvania and Texas were among the first to legislate girls’ participation; as girls kept trying to play — despite the renewed resistance they faced as a result of gaining the tiniest foothold in the sport — new mandates kept being put in place to stop them.

From a 1939 LIFE magazine spread about women playing football in Southern California Photo by Peter Stackpole/Life Magazine/The LIFE Picture Collection via Getty Images

A Massachusetts girl named Myrtle Chick kept showing up to her high school football team’s practice, only to get turned away despite universal acknowledgement that she was one of the school’s best athletes, according to a 1941 Boston Globe feature. “The girls among Myrtle’s senior classmates are her staunchest supporters,” wrote the Globe. “‘She’ll show them if they’ll only give her a chance,’ say the young women.”

There had been women football players prior to those who rose to minor acclaim in the late 1930s, and there would be more after them. But the institutional rejection of women’s participation in football at this particular juncture illustrates an important point: women have only ever gotten banned from sports after first playing them. The idea that women are incapable of equal participation is only ever made explicit after they have … equally participated.

Even more stark is the fundamental contradiction of conventional narratives around women’s participation in sports, particularly the idea that as women play, they “open doors” for those who might come next — that all it takes is one brave soul to go “first,” and then the systemic sexism is cured. The relatively insignificant amount of success and visibility the women football players of the 1930s had earned actually provoked a stifling reaction and explicit mandates banning them from the sport — just about the furthest thing from a clear path for the next generation.

Obviously, not a great deal has changed for women in football since: players are still covered as local novelties in the exact same ways, and all-women teams are mostly ignored. Despite that, many women still channel the audacious spirit of early players like Chick. She told the Globe that since they wouldn’t let her play, she was going to try to form a girls’ team — and if she succeeded, had no qualms about “trying to book a game against those stuck-up boys.”

Should girls play football?

Not if you wanna live to see puberty. I should ask if your talking about American football or soccer. If it’s American football, do women have the right to play ? absolutely. But should they play American football ? I wouldn’t advise it.

Look, there’s no way to say this without sounding sexist so im just gonna say it. Girls do not belong on a football field unless they’re in the band or wearing a pleated cheerleading skirt. As much as I consider women equals I have to draw the line at contact sports.

Let me qualify that remark by saying, girls are not physically built for football. Men are far more physical and tougher athletically than girls. I know it’s a hard pill to swallow, but in the interest of safety and well being, it is beyond my wildest imagination why a female would sugjecy herself to that kind of physical punishment.

My other arguments goes to the guys side of the coin. When a woman is competing against men in a physical sport, the guy is at an automatic disadvantage.

He is going to be afraid to hit his hardest for fear of injuring the girl or even worse. Plus it’s lose/lose for the guy. If the guy wins, it’s no big deal. If the girl wins, the humiliation is far worse than you can imagine. It’s like getting beat up by your little sister.

Men are far more superior to women in contact sports. It’s not even close and the woman is subject to enormous physical pain if she wants to try and prove herself.

My answer to your question is a resounding…..Uh uh !!!.

I am not against women in sports or title 9 but I would like to see it stop at non contact sports like tennis, golf, swimming, diving, any equestrian event, billiards, etc.

The reason I tossed in billiards is I love to watch the “black widow” Jeanette Lee. She can whoop any guy I know.

Girls, don’t take offense to my prior comments. I’m just thinking of your health as condescending as the may sound.

But “when you see that play succeed, it’s the best feeling ever,” she adds.

Women and girls have been playing football for a long time (there was even a brief national craze around one league in the 1930s). Today, USA Football estimates that 25,000 girls play on the youth level. That number rapidly declines by high school. While football is the most popular high school sport and there are just over 1 million students who play on their school’s team, only about 2,000 are girls. That number has been steadily climbing, though, since the 2008-2009 season when it was less than a 1,000. There are even enough women who play tackle football to sustain multiple small semi-pro leagues throughout the country, including the Independent Women’s Football League, the United States Women’s Football League, and the Women’s Football Alliance.

Sometimes girls have to sue to get on teams, but most often they walk on like everyone else. Stories about girl football players trickle into the mainstream and national media every so often. In 2011, ESPN published a long piece that chronicled a host of girls who played a wide range of positions, from the most common position for girls — kicker — to other positions such as cornerback, linebacker, and tackle. There are quarterbacks from Missouri and Illinois, the middle linebacker and fullback from Delaware and another in Georgia, and kickers in Alabama and Texas.

Another one of these players is Emilia Allard, a 16-year-old junior at Ballard High School in Seattle. This is her second year playing wide receiver and she’s the only girl on the team. “I really wanted to do since middle school but I didn’t,” Emilia told Teen Vogue, “because I didn’t want to be the only girl.” Her mom forced her to go to tryouts last year, which she was scared to do. “I hid in the girls’ locker room for a solid 10 minutes,” she says, before going out onto the field. Once on the team, Emilia never had trouble fitting in because, she says, “the head coach…was so nice and welcoming. I think having him welcome me set the tone for the team.”

She doesn’t want to sugarcoat the experience of what it’s like to be the only girl on the team, though. “It can be emotionally hard at times,” Emilia says. “After you win a big game, and you back to the locker room to change, you have to be by yourself all the time because you’re the only girl.”

In the end though, her love of the game and her team outweighs all else: “It’s the best sport I’ve ever played. It’s hard but it’s worth it.”

Love football, and want to join a team? USA Football has a league finder tool here, where you can reach out to coaches to see about joining a team. You can also join a flag football team in your area — it’ll help you get a feel for the game without the pads and the tackling. (If you are looking for a local league, try the YMCA or your local parks and recreation department.)

Related: Quiz: Which Winter Sport Should You Try?

Check this out:

The Latest High School Football Star… Is A Girl!


If Friday Night Lights taught us anything, it’s that football in Texas is a really big deal. So how cool is it that in the Lone Star state, the biggest football star everyone’s walking about right now is a girl? That’s right, 17-year-old Riley Fox is killing it as the first girl to play varsity football for R.L. Paschal High School in Fort Worth and the first girl football player in the distrtict in 15 years.

And not only is she playing with the boys, but she’s actually beating them. (Check out these 20 Iconic Sports Moments Featuring Female Athletes.)

Despite gender and location stereotypes, her Texan coach, Matt Miracle, said he just had to have her on his team after he saw her consistently kick field goals from more than 40 yards out, adding that she’s one of the best kickers he’s ever seen. The fact that she’s a girl doesn’t phase him at all.

And it doesn’t seem to phase Fox either. “Since I was little, I always liked playing football,” she told CBS. “I was always a tomboy, so I would always want to go play with the boys. And I wouldn’t want to play with the girls.”

Fox isn’t the only girl living the dream. (What You Should Know About Jen Welter, the NFL’s Newest Coach.) Even though we don’t hear much about them, the National Federation of State High School Associations reports that there are more than 1,600 girls playing on high school football teams in the U.S.-that includes quarterbacks, linebackers, and ends too. Fox is joining a still small but damn impressive group, including these star athletes:

  • Mary KAte Smith, who, in 2014, made headlines for starting on the varsity football team during their homecoming game and then later being crowned homecoming queen. And if anyone told her she plays like a girl she had a ready retort: “I take that as a compliment!”
  • Erin DiMeglio, who played quarterback for her varsity team and made a miracle pass in her first game in 2012 that not only allowed her team to win but also made history as she was the first female QB in south Florida’s high school football history.
  • Lisa Spangler, who earned a spot as a starter linebacker on her Washington high school team in 2011. “I never expected to have a girl be my middle linebacker, but my job is to get the best 11 on the field, and she’s one of my best,” her coach, Eric Ollikainen, said.

And for people concerned about safety, consider this: While football ranks as one of the most dangerous high school sports, with 1.96 injuries per 100,000 players, cheerleading has an even worse injury record with 2.68 injuries per 100,000 competitors. Yep, you’re safer playing on the gridiron than cheering next to it. (Not that we’re saying cheerleading is bad; in fact, it is a serious sport and we wish the athletes who do it got more recognition for their talent.)

In the end, anything that gets more girls playing sports at any level is a good thing in our playbooks and we hope to see more girls kicking butt on the field!

  • By Charlotte Hilton Andersen

I have a little experiment that I want you to try out. The next time you have a great conversation with a woman you just met and feel that she’s definitely attracted to you, ask her if she remembers what the first thing you said to her was. Not to knock your ego or your brilliant opener here, but the chances are that 90% of the time, she won’t have a damn clue. Don’t worry, this isn’t because your opener wasn’t good enough or you weren’t memorable enough. It’s because women pay far more attention to body language and non-verbal communication than men ever do.

You see, during the first few seconds of your approach, a woman could care less about the actual words you say to her – unless it’s something incredibly weird or creepy, that is. The reason for this is because her mind will be too busy processing your body language and the non-verbal cues that you are giving out. And throughout your interaction she will always – even if it’s on a subconscious level – be observing and dissecting these non-verbal cues.

Now this might sound a bit worrying to some men, but here’s the cool thing; even while a woman is observing your body language, she will be giving out non-verbal cues of her own that are intended to let you know if she’s attracted to you or not. It’s almost like having little sign-posts to help guide you towards seduction junction. The trick is in learning to reading these signs. So in today’s article I want to dissect and help you understand the basics of female body language.

Her eyes

There are so many things that a woman’s eyes can tell you throughout the entire courtship process.

For example, if you are standing across a room from a woman that you’re interested in and your eyes meet, notice if she holds eye-contact for more than a few seconds. If she looks away immediately the chances are she’s either shy or not really interested. But if she holds steady eye-contact for more than two or three seconds, you can definitely take that as an invitation to approach. And if she locks eyes with you more than once, she’s practically screaming for you to get over there and talk to her.

Even when talking to a woman, her eyes will tell you a lot about how she feels the interaction is going. For instance if she holds strong eye contact while you talk and while she talks to you, this is a definite sign that she finds you attractive. If she goes as far as to occasionally glance at your lips while you talk, you can bet that she’s really, really into you.

Sometimes you’ll even notice a woman’s pupils dilate while she’s listening to you talk. You see, our pupils dilate in low light conditions and when we’re experiencing feelings of intense attraction and desire. So if you notice this in a woman you’re flirting with, you’re doing a good job and should probably escalate things physically as soon as you can.

On the flipside, if a woman’s eyes keep darting about while you talk to her or if she avoids eye-contact altogether, you’re probably not doing a good job of keeping her interested.

Her lips

The next time you’re flirting with a woman, pay close attention to what’s she’s doing with her lips. When a woman is attracted to a guy, she will usually smile and laugh much more frequently, regardless of whether the guy is actually funny or not. So if a girl always smiles when you look at her or if she slips in a little giggle whenever you start talking to her, this is a definite sign that she’s attracted to you.

Sometimes you’ll also notice a woman subtly bite or lick her lower lips while talking to you. Or she’ll sometimes make a show of putting on her lipstick in front of you. You see, a woman’s mouth is like a sexual gateway and these little things that she does are all designed to draw your attention towards her mouth. So if you notice a woman doing any of these things, she’s definitely sexually attracted to you and wants you to make a move on her.

Her hair

What a woman does with her hair is also another very important non-verbal communication that you need to learn to pay attention to. You see, from an evolutionary standpoint, a nice, shiny head of hair is a sign of good health, that we men are evolutionarily programmed to find attractive. So when a woman feels attracted to a man she will often start playing with her hair, twisting it around her finger or combing her hand through it, and more often than not she won’t even know she’s doing it.

A woman might even occasionally toss her hair back or hook it behind her ear to reveal her neck. This is a slightly more overt move and is a definite signal that she’s sexually attracted to you.

Her hands

Quite often when a woman finds a man attractive she will start fidgeting around with her hands. She might start playing with her drink or start fiddling around with her jewelry. This kind of fidgeting signals a good kind of nervousness that she’s feeling and is a very powerful indicator of attraction that you should watch out for.

Another thing that you should pay attention to is if and how a woman touches you. Quite often when a woman feels attracted to a man she will “accidently” let her hands brush against his or even sometimes innocently touch him on the wrist or forearm. This is actually one of the more obvious non-verbal cues and signs of attraction that you need to learn to watch out for.

Her legs

Women who are not interested in flirting with you will usually keep their legs crossed tightly together. It’ll almost feel as if she’s rejecting any sexual solicitations from you and protecting her privacy. Of course, there are exceptions to this, but usually if a girl is into you she will often cross and uncross her legs repeatedly in front of you. This again is a sign that she wants you to notice her physical attractiveness and that she’s very much into you.

Another thing that you’ll notice when a woman is attracted to you is that she’ll usually sit in a way that both her feet are pointed towards you. Scientists that study human behavior and non-verbal communication believe that even this is a subconscious reaction that occurs when we find another person attractive. However, if a woman that you’re flirting with sits so that both her feet are pointed away from you, you might need to recalibrate your advances.

Her posture

Often when a woman is in close proximity to a man that she finds attractive, she’ll stand tall with a slight arc to her back. Women do this subconsciously, and sometimes consciously, to enhance the size of her breasts. Again, something that we men are evolutionarily programmed to find attractive.

On the hand, if a girl slouches around you and covers herself up this is a sign that she doesn’t want you to look and that she’s definitely not interested.

Her physical distance

Whenever you are flirting with a woman if you notice that she seems to be getting closer and closer to you in terms of physical proximity, take that as a definite sign of attraction and comfort. More often than not this is an invitation to intensify your flirting. In such an instance open up your posture a bit and give her the chance to “find herself” getting closer and closer to you.

However, if a woman seems to be gradually distancing herself from you or if she leans back whenever you lean in to talk to her, take that as a definite sign that she is not liking what you’re doing.

Her actions

Have you ever noticed how when you’re hanging out with a group of close friends that you sometimes start mirroring their bodily actions? Psychologists actually have a term for this called “postural echo.” This is a subconscious reaction that indicates comfort and rapport and, in the case of a woman you are flirting with, attraction. Lean in and notice if she leans as well. Pick up your drink and watch to see if she picks hers up too. If she does, this is a strong sign that she’s attracted to you.

At the end of the day, one meager article isn’t nearly enough to cover all the subtleties of female body language and non-verbal communication. But I hope that this serves you as a guideline that you can use to start recognizing these non-verbal cues and develop your intuition to a point where you pick up on them on a subconscious level.

Women can seem mysterious… especially to men. And to be honest, this is not so surprising.

There are a lot of understandable reasons for it. For one, the differences between the effects that estrogen and testosterone have on the human body are varied and diverse. Though men and women are both humans, they are also so different from each other that we often think of them as two distinct and separate groups all on their own.

Many men find the prospect of pursuing companionship with attractive women a pleasurable pastime. But at the same time, they are also often confused about exactly how to go about this process without messing it up!

How do you know if a woman is interested? How do you interpret her subtle social signals? How can you be yourself without letting nervousness and anxiety into your head?

We all know that acting confident is super-important to the dating/mating game. But at the same time, it can be difficult to act confident if you are not 100% sure what you are doing.

The most obvious solution to this problem is to just adopt the mantra ‘practice makes perfect.’ The more you try to spend time with attractive women, the more you will learn. The more effort you put into learning about attraction, the better off you will be in your life as a result.

But still… with that being said… there are some things that you can add to your portfolio to keep in mind right now that could do a lot to help you.

Learning to notice subtle, yet universal signals can be a great way to help improve your chances of success… and today, we are going to talk about a big one.

Why do women play with their hair?

What does it mean? Is it a good sign, or a bad one?

The Basics: Subtle Signals and What Women Are Thinking

It is important to understand that hair-touching can have a couple of different meanings. Women are often more subtle than men. When a man wants to be noticed by a lady, he may be more likely to walk up to her and try talking to her.

But ladies are often not quite so direct when they are trying to get a man’s attention.

If a woman wishes for a man to notice her, she may give him small glances and smiles. She may accidentally drop something near him, and apologize with a wink and a smile as she picks it up. She might walk by and ‘accidentally’ bump into him… and then be on her way.

It is often the case that women are more subtle because, subconsciously, they want the man to do the pursuing. But men often misinterpret these subtle signals, especially if they aren’t as accustomed to reading them.

Sometimes, men even miss them altogether, either because he didn’t see them, or because they were so low-key that the man, in noticing them, didn’t see them as important.

Men also don’t want to embarrass themselves or read between the lines when there is nothing to read… so if in doubt, they may avoid pursuing the matter, thinking instead that they are actually overthinking it.

But here is the truth. If a man wants to be successful in spending time with attractive women, he needs to know that…

  1. He will have to get better at picking up non-verbal cues
  2. He will have to be brave enough to break the ice when he spots them

So now, let’s talk about what a woman playing with her hair actually means.

Why Do Women Play With Their Hair? Here Is What Science Says

In a study called Nonverbal courtship patterns in women: Context and consequences, Monica M. Moore points out that there is ‘a class of nonverbal facial expressions and gestures, exhibited by human females, that are commonly labeled as “flirting behaviors.”’

To prepare for this study, Moore observed over 200 randomly selected adult female subjects, and constructed a catalog of ‘nonverbal solicitation behaviors.’

Among these behaviors was the ‘Hair flip.’ To be more specific, a woman would ‘raise up one hand and push it through her hair’ to signify that she was potentially interested in a partner.

There were 52 non-verbal behaviors catalogued in the study. But here, we see that playing with the hair is actually a scientifically-validated solicitation signal used by women.

So that makes it easy, right? If a woman plays with her hair, she is basically putting out the signal that she wants to get laid… right!?!

Well, slow down there, buckaroo… because there are a still a lot of variables to sort through. Yes, this is a well-documented signal that a woman is at least somewhat sexually interested in someone else… but that does not mean that there are no other factors to consider.

Let’s dig a big deeper into it.

The Variables

The first thing to understand is that, while hair-play can be a signal of attraction, it can also be a sign of stress or anxiety. This could mean that a lady is anxious because she is in the presence of someone she finds very attractive… or, it could have nothing at all to do with attraction.

For example: if a woman is playing with her hair, making eye contact with you, and smiling… it is probably a sign that she wants the conversation to continue.

But if she is playing with her hair while looking down, scanning the room (avoiding eye contact), and frowning, it may be a signal that she is getting bored or losing interest. Worst case scenario is that she is just playing with her hair out of sheer boredom and frustration, and is secretly hoping you will leave.

This is why context is incredibly important. Social acuity is actually really important in situations where you are spending time around attractive females, for exactly this reason. If you misread cues, you could end up making the wrong assumptions.

But even if she is playing with her hair because of anxiety, that doesn’t necessarily mean that it isn’t a good time to introduce yourself. She may be anxious because she wants to impress someone (possibly even you).

Introducing yourself and breaking the ice could even help to calm her anxiety… thereby making you look even more attractive to her.

What Does Evolution Say About Women Playing With Their Hair?

When we ask the question why do women play with their hair, is it possible that the answer is partly evolutionary?

As it turns it, it just may be!

Vanessa Van Edwards, author of the book Captivate: The Science of Succeeding with People, talked about this exact phenomenon in a YouTube interview, which you can find here. She actually breaks this behavior down quite a bit, explaining why women might play with their hair if they are attracted to someone.

As it turns out, the evolutionary reasons behind it are actually pretty interesting!

When it comes to playing with the hair, the action may actually be more about the neck and the side of the face than the locks of hair themselves.

It is also true that women may do this without even realizing that they are doing it, as it is quite instinctual and not always on purpose.

For one, the female face is much more distinctively feminine when viewed from the side. This is due to the influence of estrogen. It gives the face and neck a softer, more rounded appearance. This is also why women will tend to turn their head and display their neck/side profile when flirting.

So playing with their hair may actually have more to do with drawing attention to the side of the face and neck, which is a more ‘irresistible’ part of the woman’s body.

But science has also shown that hair-flips release pheromones as well. Plus, this rather ancient social cue, while inherently innocent, is also a sexual signal… like an unspoken sign that the conversation is going well, and that the female would like it to continue.

But there is also more to this that actually does have to do with the hair as well. As you probably know, women strive to maintain hair that is sleek, shiny, and healthy… and that is not an accident or a marketing trick.

The truth is that shiny, healthy, long hair is a sign of good health… and ultimately, fertility. So it is little wonder that women have been endowed with this innate, almost ‘latent’ habit to toss or play with their hair when they are talking to someone they are attracted to. It is, quite directly, a way of showing off the health of their hair.

It’s almost, in an evolutionary sense, like saying ‘hey, look at this… my hair is healthy. I could give you a lot of healthy children!’

Of course, it is not altogether just that simple. As stated previously, women may be playing with their hair for a number of reasons. But if a hair flip, or gentle hair play, is accompanied by other positive signals… she could be sending you some strong attraction messages.

At any rate, here are some tips for how to deal with a situation where an attractive woman is playing with her hair.

Step 1… Assess the Situation

What kind of setting are you in? Who is around? Who knows who? Are there any large social groups in this setting? Are you an outsider, or are you well-connected?

Is this a pretty fun and laid-back atmosphere? Is there sexual tension in this setting? If there is a lot of sexual energy, laughing, and joking going on… odds are good that attraction and sex are already on her mind, at least to a point.

Getting a feel for the situation is a great idea whenever you walk into a new setting. Order a drink, relax at the bar, and pay attention to what everyone is doing. Give yourself some time to get acclimated to the environment.

But at the same time, avoid looking like you are ‘scanning for tail.’ Don’t peer around the room like a wolf on the hunt! Be chill, confident, and cool. Try to engage someone in conversation, even if it is the bartender.

Try to look like you are your ‘own man.’ Not a man desperate to get laid or get a number!

Step 2… Pay Attention to How She Is Acting?

You spot a girl that you are potentially interested in. She’s beautiful, and she’s dressed like she was planning on impressing someone.

You may know her. If you do, that is actually to your advantage. But even if you’ve never met her before, that’s fine. She may very well be out and about to meet new people as well!

You would love to talk to her… but instead, you bide your time for a moment. You study her to see if she is giving off any signals.

This is a smart plan. If you walk up too soon, you might make the situation too abrupt. But at the same time, you don’t want to wait too long, either. A woman appreciates directness in a man. She is also attracted to a man who knows what he wants and takes charge.

This is a delicate balance, so try to absorb all of her potential signals and learn as much as possible.

Has she noticed you? The only way you can really know this for sure is if she has made eye contact with you.

Is she glancing at anyone repeatedly? If so, she may be attracted to that person, and wishing for a chance to break the ice.

Tip: Never approach a woman from behind! They actually don’t like it. Scientifically speaking, this causes women to release cortisol, the stress hormone, in their brain. Approach her from a direction where she can see you coming. This will put her more at ease, and will not immediately put her into defense-mode!

Step 3… Playing With Her Hair

Alright. So you’ve entered the social gathering and you see her. So far, everything looks good. Now, all you have to do is figure out if she may potentially be interested in you.

Here are some signals to look out for.

  • Is she playing with her hair?
  • Is she moving her body to the music?
  • Does she look around the room occasionally without making eye contact with anyone (scanning the room)?
  • Is she doing a lot of laughing/giggling?

These are all signals that she is interested in speaking to someone.

Has she made eye contact with you and smiled? If so, she has already noticed you!

It may be time to find a way to break the ice.

Tip: When a woman looks you in the eye, it can be tempting to look away to avoid awkwardness. But this is actually not an attractive move! Doing this tells her that you are not confident. Instead, hold her gaze and give her a light, genuine smile before looking away. Confidently acknowledge her, and then go back to what you were doing.

Once You Walk Up to Her

So, what happens when you do walk up to her?

First of all, let’s talk about the fear of rejection for a moment. A lot of men never approach the woman they are the most attracted to for fear of being rejected. But we only live once! If you never step up to the plate, you will never hit a homerun!

If you want to succeed, you have to put yourself out there. So even if you don’t feel totally confident, walk up to her and introduce yourself. Be kind, smile, shake her hand, and ask her how her night is going.

Don’t worry… she will let you know very quickly if she doesn’t want you around. You will be able to sense it.

But on the other hand, she may welcome the attention!

#juncker at the Christmas party “let me touch your hair” with @anniemags1 playing the women’s voices #janeygodleyvoiceover

— Janey Godley (@JaneyGodley) December 14, 2018

Here are some signals to look out for.

  • Is she smiling at you?
  • Is she nodding while you are talking?
  • Is she leaning-in toward you and trying to find more reasons to get closer to you?
  • Is she making and maintaining eye contact for more than 2 to 3 seconds at a time?
  • Is she turning her head to expose the side of her neck to you?
  • Is she laughing or giggling a lot during the conversation?
  • Is she raising her eyebrows at you?
  • And finally… is she playing with her hair?

These are all very good signs… because any one of them could be a display of interest. They could very well mean that she is attracted to you, and secretly hoping that more will happen.

Don’t Overthink It, Either

Some men really overthink nonverbal cues as well. In their desire to understand how women think, they will sometimes look at information surrounding small details like this and put a lot more stock into them than they probably should.

The truth is that men can never be mind-readers. We can look at information like this and use it to try to understand how women think and act a little bit better, but we must also understand that being proactive, vulnerable, and honest will do far more for us than a thorough understanding of female non-verbal cues.

For example… if you see a woman playing with her hair and instantly think that you know exactly what she is thinking, you may actually be doing both her and yourself a great disservice. You can guess, speculate, and understand that she is feeling some kind of way about something, but the truth is that you cannot know 100% for sure.

And in the end, the only way to really know what she is thinking is to walk up to her and ask her.

So if you notice her giving off non-verbal cues, like playing with her hair, pay attention to them and use what knowledge you have to back-engineer what she might be thinking… but only do this to a certain point. Remember that context is everything, and that you will never be 100% certain what is actually going on in her mind.

And remember… you miss 100% of the shots you never take. So do your best to get a decent handle on the situation, but never forget that there is no substitute for just doing your best and giving it a try.

Just walk up to her and talk. There is really no better way to understand where you stand with her!

How to Spot the Most Obvious Non-Verbal Cues

If you are a man and are wondering how to do your best to tell if a woman may be interested in you, then here are some of the most obvious cues to look for.

If a woman is interested in you and is trying to make it obvious, she will usually look around and flip her hair, glancing at you and smiling pretty much whenever she gets the chance to. If you notice these signals, and the glancing/smiling seems to be aimed at you, there is a good chance that she wants you to talk to her.

If you talk to her and the conversation reinforces her attraction to you, she will likely look for excuses to touch you. She will also usually act very interested in what you are saying, will lean in, and will act like she is excited about the conversation. She will also continue to make eye contact.

You may want to make your move/ask her out if you are getting strong signs like this!

Of course, you cannot 100% know what a woman is thinking just by watching her non-verbal cues. But you don’t want to miss obvious signals, either.

The more adept you can be at doing both, the better your odds will be of making the most of every situation.

Why do women play with their hair?

Well, if she is smiling at you and acting in a welcoming manner… let’s just say that there is a good chance that it means she is interested!

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Joshua Sigafus is an experienced writer trying to make the world a better place. You can reach out to him on Facebook.

Photo: Thanasis Zovoilis/Getty Images

There’s a trend afoot in American parenting that may not have reached every corner of the country, but which is quite visible in progressive communities: gender-neutral parenting. Some progressive parents are worried that if they give their little girls dolls or their little boys fire trucks, they will be inculcating in these children regressive gender norms. Better, argue the proponents of this parenting style, to offer kids gender-neutral toys — and sometimes clothes that are neither pink nor blue — so children can blossom into their true selves, freer from the dictates of gender roles.

It’s an idea with a certain appeal to it for those worried about gender inequity, but as Debra Soh argued in a provocative Los Angeles Times column last week, there’s one snag: “he scientific reality is that it’s futile to treat children as blank slates with no predetermined characteristics,” she writes. “Biology matters.” She goes on to explain that a large pile of research findings suggest that early toy preferences “are innate, not socially constructed or shaped by parental feedback.” That’s why “ost girls will gravitate toward socially interesting toys, like dolls, that help social and verbal abilities develop. Most boys will gravitate toward toys that are mechanically interesting, like cars and trucks, fostering visuo-spatial skills.”

There’s a lot of confusion on this front, and much of it stems from popular misunderstanding of neuroscience research. As Soh points out, last year a Proceedings of the National Academies of Science paper suggesting that male and female brains are functionally identical spread far and wide, held up as evidence that sexed differences in behavior are entirely, or almost entirely, learned. But when a group of researchers went back and re-analyzed the data underpinning that paper, they found that in fact, “brain features correctly predicted subjects’ sex about 69–77% of the time.” This means that while there is overlap between male and female brains, there are also predictable differences — differences that could help explain why even very little boys and little girls tend to act in reliably different ways.

Many progressive folks resist such talk, misinterpreting it as a normative claim — that males should act this way, while females should act that way — or a claim that we’re all just pawns of biological determinism, so there’s nothing much we can do about gender inequity and so on. But it’s neither: It’s just an acknowledgment that biological influences are real and can’t be scrubbed out of the human-behavior equation, especially when it comes to very young kids.

There’s other evidence supporting the idea of behavioral differences driven by innate biological factors, anyway. That evidence “comes from studying girls who were exposed to high levels of testosterone prenatally, in the case of a genetic condition called congenital adrenal hyperplasia, or CAH,” Soh explains. “Girls with CAH tend to be gender nonconforming, and will prefer toys that are typical to boys, even when their parents offer more praise for playing with female-typical ones. This speaks to the vital role of hormones in developing gender preferences and sex differences in behavior, more broadly.” Research not only suggests these differences exist, in other words, but has begun understanding the mechanisms which produce them.

Soh’s piece is interesting to read in the broader context of society’s conversation about parenting. It feels like many parents, regardless of their personal beliefs on gender roles or feminism or whatever, worry that their kids’ play habits indicate something troubling. Either about the kid, or about them as parents. For liberal parents, it’s the gender-role stuff. For more conservative-minded parents, it’s longstanding worries about sissies and tomboys — a doctor on Fox News’ medical team, for example, called a woman “nuts” in 2012 for giving her boys dolls and her girls action figures. The toy panic also intertwines, in interesting ways, with the broader conversation about gender-dysphoric and trans kids — it’s quite common to hear the parents explain that one of the reasons they know their kid has a gender identity different from the one corresponding to their natal sex is their choice of toys.

Maybe parents should just relax a little. Sure, give your child a range of different types of toys to play with, so as to get a glimpse at their early preferences. But as long as your kid seems to enjoy playing, and as long as you are letting them know that whatever toys they play with, you love them, you aren’t going to screw them up just by letting them mess around with the toys they like. You probably have less say in the matter than you think you do, anyway.


LA Times

Girls Playing in Boys Teams

The issue of girls and boys wanting to play in each other’s teams may arise occasionally. This isn’t a concern when children are young, but it can become more complex as players approach adolescence and differences in physiology and ability begin to emerge.

Information to help you understand the issue

  • Generally girls and boys prefer to play in same sex teams.
  • Some girls want to compete with boys (and vice versa), especially if there is not an equivalent same sex team available.
  • Girls and boys do play in mixed teams, particularly when sports are modified or a team could not otherwise be fielded.
  • Age and gender are not always good indicators of ability e.g., there are strong, agile girls and weak, poorly coordinated boys and vice versa.
  • Each situation is different and there are no easy answers.

Australian women’s cricket captain Jodie Fields and BMX world champion Caroline Buchanan are among many elite female athletes who had to “mix it up with the boys” in their formative years because there was no girls’ competition in their respective sports.

Would they still have reached elite levels if clubs had turned them away?

The debate doesn’t just hinge on whether the next crop of female “stars” has access to appropriate competition. Many sports advocates believe that even at a grassroots level, mixed training and competition can foster mutual respect; improve both boys’ and girls’ social skills; enhance resilience; and provide experiences that will help them in their broader lives.

When they are of primary school age it is not uncommon for girls to play in boys’ teams. Yet when girls enter their secondary years, questions are often asked about their physiological make up compared with male participants.

When weighing up the situation, there can be no “one size fits all” solution. Age and gender are not always the best indicators of ability. Each case needs to be considered on its merits.

In deliberating whether a girl should play in a boys’ team, parents, administrators and coaches all need to assess a number of factors.

Parents need to weigh up not only their child’s physiological capabilities, but her motivation for playing, skill level, competitiveness, and whether there is support from within the club. They also need to know how to support their child’s confidence and resilience in the face of any direct or indirect criticism.

Coaches need to foster and encourage the skills that girls need to play and ensure they get as many opportunities as boys. This includes managing safety issues for all participants and making fair decisions on selection.

Administrators need to be open-minded. A good point to start from is to explore ways to support a girl’s participation before making any decision. Administrators must also understand that preventing a girl playing in a boys’ team may be discriminatory. However there is no definitive answer with courts making different rulings over the years.

Although the law allows for sports to have separate teams, if you prevent a girl playing in a boy’s team (and vice versa) it may be unlawful discrimination. The area is not clear cut and has been tested in court with different results.

To explore some of the issues associated with having girls playing with boys, read and listen to the interactive scenario. The scenario also includes links to interviews with an Australian and New Zealand Sports Law Association lawyer discussing clubs’ duty of care and what clubs should consider when deciding whether to allow a girl to play on a boys’ team.

51 reasons it’s time to stop treating women and girls in football like sideshows

Brooke Musgrove, senior; Florence, Mississippi

Musgrove just finished three seasons as the kicker at McLaurin High School.

“I’ll be quite honest with you I had not coached a girl in football before,” her coach, Sid Wheatley, told WJTV. “So it was a different experience. But the thing that I noticed right off the bat is that she was doing everything the guys were — we’re talking about flipping tires, bench press, squatting, everything like that — so she immediately gained my respect with the work she put in.”

Jah’veya Davis, sophomore; Grand Forks, North Dakota

Davis plays on the offensive and defensive lines for the JV team at Red River High School. “My older brother played football, and I used to be a cheerleader,” she told the Grand Forks Herald. “But I always thought it would be cool to play. It looked fun. And I wanted to see what it was like to wear a uniform.’’

Over her two seasons playing, Davis has already seen some changes in how she’s been treated by her peers. “Last year, at first it was like, ‘Oh, no, it’s a girl,’ like they needed to back off,’’ she said. “I didn’t want that. Now I think it’s harder hitting. And I like it when I’m just another lineman out there. I like to hit. They’ll hit me; I’ve been hit pretty hard sometimes.’’

Marcella DePaul, junior; Berkley, Michigan

Janay Lakey, junior; Ecorse, Michigan

Azia Isaac, senior; Detroit, Michigan

Depaul is a free safety and receiver, Lakey is on the offensive line and Isaac is a running back — all play for different schools, and were featured in a Detroit News article about the growing number of girls playing football in Michigan.

“As a girl, I get targeted,” Isaac said. “But to me, that’s beneficial to our team — because they’re too focused on me and not what’s going on in the game, so it leads to us having bigger plays. They say inappropriate stuff sometimes.”

Bela Beltran, senior; Corpus Christi, Texas

Beltran is also in band and on the soccer team, but that didn’t keep her from becoming part of the Veterans Memorial High kicking corps.

Aurora Fuhs, junior; Ames, Iowa

Fuhs, a receiver for the Ames High Little Cyclones, has a more unlikely football conversion story: she started in marching band, and just really enjoyed watching the games.

“I was like, ‘Dang, I want to be on the field and play — I want to get a touchdown,’” she told the Ames Tribune. “I want to play for the team, not cheer on the team.”

Sometimes opposing teams, or even her classmates give her guff. “I’m like, ‘Yeah, I do (play football). If you have something to say, say it,’” she said. “But it doesn’t really bother me because they’re just people in the stands watching, and I’m on the field playing.”

Girl high school football

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