What to do when girls are just too good?

There’s a really interesting piece, previewed online but set to appear in this weekend’s NYT Play Magazine, about Oregon basketball phenom Jaime Nared. An excerpt:

The story of the kid who’s “14 going on LeBron,” as Sports Illustrated described the California basketball phenom Demetrius Walker in 2005, is not a new one when the kid in question is a boy. Girl sports prodigies are stock characters, too, though the athletes have tended to be gymnasts, figure skaters or swimmers, kids who excel at what Côté calls “closed sports — sports in which you learn a very specific skill and competitors don’t try to prevent you from performing that skill.” Given the post-Title IX explosion in girls’ basketball and the emergence of the W.N.B.A., the girl who’s 12 going on Candace Parker is just around the corner — maybe she’s already here — and that’s a mixed blessing.

Nared played on the boys’ team in her hometown until she had a ridiculously good game and then gym owners uncovered an obscure rule in the bylaws about no mixed gender athletics. The last time she played with girls her own age, the score was 90 to 7. For now, she’s playing on an all-star team with girls much older than her, but even that has its controversy.
I’m hoping, by the way, that the article’s title “Scary, Isn’t She?” is poking fun of those who see an athletically gifted teen girl as “scary.” Otherwise, I’d like a word or two with the headline writer over at the Times.

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  • Lelah

    Saw her interviewed once– she seemed so sweet and shy! I felt so bad that the boys’ league got scared of her and dug up that law. As a former athlete, I think you need someone like that on any side to push you to make you better. Hopefully her new team is working out for her.

  • Lala

    I blame the same sad and sorry mentality of the adults that also stopped that little boy from pitching little league amongst his peers because he was too good. Some dumbness is just stunning. Let her play.

  • Kate

    I’ve been reading about this, and what I hope for the most is that all this controversy and all these rules won’t take the fun out of basketball for her. She has amazing talent, and it would be a shame for regulations to quell it.

  • dan&danica

    i really dont see the issue with making her play with older girls. They do that with boys too, as noted above, and while I don’t agree with it completely I can see the whats fair for the group vs whats fair for the individual argument here. As far as letting her play with the boys her age, I don’t really see that as fair to the boys as the boy who will be cut or benched doesnt have any recourse unless we also want to let him play down while she’s playing up and let him play in thw all girls league. Less of an issue with club teams than school teams but still an issue.
    Big athletic fish in little athletic ponds seems to have caused a lot of problems in the last few months, in basketball and baseball and im sure stories i havent read about, tough thing with people on many sides able to make good arguments. will be interesting to see how it plays out.

  • Logrus

    We’re certainly doing our best as a society to ensure that our children will be completely useless when faced with adversity. Forcing her to play with older girls won’t do her any harm, probably, but by removing a challenge to the boys she was previously playing with those in authority have done their part to cripple those boys.
    Learning to lose and learning from loss, those are skills that are being denied these boys. I guess parents don’t have any faith in their precious little snowflakes.

  • TD

    “Learning to lose and learning from loss, those are skills that are being denied these boys.”
    To lose some and win others is one thing, to lose them all because you didn’t practice is another. Both are character building experiences. To play against people who are so clearly out of your league that you’re losing 90 to 7 becomes boring quite quickly.

  • indyKat34

    The post mentions the post-Title IX explosion. Just thought I should educate some of you to the harm that title IX has done to male athletic programs, specifically the ridiculous bureaucratic action called the “1979 Policy Interpretation” that mandates that the number of athletes in college athletic programs reflect within a few percentage points the proportion of male and female students on campus.
    http://www.glennsacks.com/title_ix_helps.htm
    “According to the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA), for every new women’s athletics slot created between 1992 and 1997, 3.6 male athletes were dropped. During the same period, colleges added 5,800 female athletes–and cut 20,000 male athletes”
    “Black colleges and universities, where female students outnumber males 60%-40% and money is usually tight, have been particularly wounded by feminist lawsuits. And when Title IX forces schools to drop their football programs, as San Francisco State did in 1995, it is black athletes who are hurt disproportionately”
    “misguided feminist lawsuits and political lobbying have changed Title IX from a vehicle to open up opportunities for women to a scorched earth policy whereby the destruction of men’s athletics has become an acceptable substitute for strengthening women’s athletics.”
    Indeed, women’s athletics have gained a little, but men’s athletics have lost a lot.

  • alixana

    Okay, I realize I’m a newer visitor to this site, than most of you, but is it standard for people to come into every post here yelling, “THE MEN, THE MEN, YOU FEMINISTS HAVE HURT THE MEN!”?

  • JPlum

    Alixana, that was a rhetorical question, right? ;)
    I’d be more willing to listen to Kat34’s opinion if it didnt’ come from (to paraphrase Tyra) ‘noted mysogynist Glenn Sacks’

  • puckalish

    indyKat,
    i know you’re pretty closed-minded about all this stuff, but have you watched what’s happened to education funding under a Republican Congress and Executive? short answer: it’s dried up. that’s not the fault of feminists or of Title IX, that’s the fault of cutting taxes and wages ill-thought-out wars… if you want there to be more athletic programs for young men, support those politicians who actually support funding education and programs for children and youth, ie, us crazy lefties.
    oh, and in case no one mentioned it before, correlation =/= causation.
    oh, and alixana, yeah, it’s pretty ridiculous, but that’s the lay of the land… what blows my mind is that these so-called “MRA”s aren’t really taking action to support men (say, by anti-incarceration actions, support for drug treatment programs, pushing for education spending, working against popular gender ideals, etc.), just to oppose feminists… and, as a man, i’ve seen feminists do a lot more for my side of the gender divide than any of these “what about the menz” jabberjaws (lgbt issues are not exclusively “women”s domain, nor is education or childcare… feminists work for getting paternity leave for men… and on and on). that’s one small part of why i identify as a feminist.

  • indyKat34

    Sounds like you guys don’t like what Glenn has to say and especially the statistics from the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA).
    You can try to personally attack and belittle Glenn’s comments and point of view all you want to, but the statistics may be a harder pill for you to swallow.
    Remember, Glenn is fighting for the same things as the creator of this website, equality. Belittling and attacking him is belittling you self and fellow feminists.

  • alixana

    “Alixana, that was a rhetorical question, right? ;)”
    LOL, only sort of, the other feminist sites I’ve visited in the past (and the ones that led me here) were pretty small so I guess they didn’t attact detractors, but it just seems to me that if I ever went to an African American activist site and started moaning about how white people have lost out on things ever since affirmative action started, I’d be struck down by lightning and God would forsake me.
    And puckalish, I’ve always thought so too.
    To the original topic of the post, it strikes me as a little odd that at first she was moved from the girl’s team to the boy’s team instead of automatically moving her up to an older girl’s team, where they’d be more experienced and thus more challenging for her. Would 12-year-old boys really be significantly better than 12-year-old girls to warrant that move? And in that determination, are we just talking about biological things like upper body mass or was it just perceived that boys play better than girls?

  • JPlum

    Alixana, when she played with the girls her age, her team won 90-7, or something equally ridiculous. I don’t know why the boys are better than the girls the same age, but they are, at least in her league.
    OT, I must be super-powerful, if my simply calling Glenn a noted misogynist is such a devastating personal attack. It may also be opposite-day, since I thought he and other misogynists were proud of that fact? He’d probably be thrilled to have ascended to the status of ‘noted misogynist’ from mere misogynist.

  • Dykonoclast

    Jessica wrote about her in May.
    http://www.feministing.com/archives/009260.html

  • dondo

    Courtney said:

    I’m hoping, by the way, that the article’s title “Scary, Isn’t She?” is poking fun of those who see an athletically gifted teen girl as “scary.” Otherwise, I’d like a word or two with the headline writer over at the Times.

    I choose to believe that this is more a sports reference than gender reference. Before a game, when you watch the other team and you see someone amazing warming up, and know that you’re watching an athlete who is almost certainly going to make you look stupid, well, I think “fear” is an appropriate term. This is true regardless of the gender.
    That said, it is also the case that there are men who go absolutely insane when they’re outplayed by a woman. I play a lot of co-ed soccer, and some of my favorite memories have been watching the sheer lunatic rage some men have displayed when a particularly gifted female player schools them repeatedly — and usually, it just gives more advantage to her as they lose discipline. We’ve won games we shouldn’t have in the past because of this. (I have also had men refuse to play on my team because they aren’t willing to run that risk.)
    So it’s possible there is a gender bias here. But it seems more likely to me that the intended connotation was more towards “scary good” than “scary girl.”

  • indyKat34

    dondo, you said “some of my favorite memories have been watching the sheer lunatic rage some men have displayed when a particularly gifted female player schools them repeatedly”
    Sounds like you take pleasure in what you think is emasculating to men. That’s like a man saying that his favorite memories are watching woman cry and breakdown emotionally after being repeatedly schooled by other men.
    Not good, dondo. Sounds like you may have a hatred of men.

  • Brittany-Ann

    Ha, hardly indyKat. Breaking down men’s pre-conceived notions hardly means a hatred of them. If anything, it’s a hatred of the low expectations men set for us.

  • imnotemily

    jeez, indykat, can you please stop telling people what they feel? it’s really freaking annoying and patronizing.
    and also: men feeling emasculated because a woman of equal or better ability outplays them is their fault- it’s their insecurity and ego that makes them lose their shit. the only person who is emasculating these men are themselves.

  • indyKat34

    Taking pleasure in watching men lose and be defeated seems pretty hateful.
    If the roles were reversed and it was a man saying those things about a woman, I think some of you would be singing a different tune.

  • imnotemily

    you weren’t reading carefully, indykat. dondo wasnt enjoying beating the men, she was enjoying them not being able to comprehend being beaten in sports by a woman. their own sexism was their weakness.

  • indyKat34

    imnotemily, let me just make sure I have the facts straight. So it’s ok for a guy to enjoy a woman not being able to comprehend being beaten by a man, when their own sexism is their weekness.

  • imnotemily

    here is why it’s different: women aren’t ingrained with the idea that they are inherently better than men at sports. men, on the other hand, are. when this male mindset gets challenged, its nice for women who are constantly trying to prove that in fact, they can be just as good as men. therefore, your attempt to switch things around just doesn’t hold water. you’re completely ignoring sexism towards women as an important factor in this situation.

  • indyKat34

    Aaaaa, I see. Well while we on the topic, let me tell you what you are completely ignoring.
    “women aren’t ingrained with the idea that they are inherently better than men at sports. men, on the other hand, are” Well actually imnotemily, statistically, men usually do fair better at sports than women. Men because of biological differences (like more testosterone, more lean muscle mass etc.)tend to excel at physical sports more than women of the same wight age etc.. Being ingrained with that idea takes only a set of eyes and ears and perhaps a tv that gets sportcenter( men tend to set all the major records for baseball, basketball etc.) And I hate to break this to you, but that is generally why there are male and female divisions in sports (not sexism) and perhaps that might be why the guys in question on the soccer field were so upset. Not because there sexism has defeated them, but because they have been beaten by someone that statistically they should have beaten because it is someone who is BIOLOGICALLY physically weaker than them ( not because of sexist beliefs but because of realist beliefs). And probably reminds them that they need to A) get there act together and practice more or B) find another sport that they are better at(and not in lower percentile of athletes that are beaten by people physically smaller and weaker than them).
    The ex. is a varsity player being beaten by a freshman. I hate to say it, but sexism has nothing to do with it.
    “you’re completely ignoring sexism towards women as an important factor in this situation.” Your completely ignoring that sexism might not be a factor and assuming that it is.
    The problem with women who make comments like dondo’s is that they wait around with eager anticipation for that RARE special moment when finally they found a girl that can beat a guy in sports, and say with much pleasure “gotcha!!!” They need to get over it.

  • Rebecca

    …So, basically, Kat, they’re being undermined by their own sexist beliefs.
    One of my proudest moments from when I played coed youth soccer (for one year; I hated it) was being called a bitch by a guy on the other team whom I’d just taken the ball off really, really neatly.

  • Rebecca

    Sorry, hit “submit” accidentally–
    You give an example of a varsity player being surprised to be beaten by a freshman. This is reasonable surprise, as a varsity player has more training and experience. Since it is perfectly possible for a girl to train to a level equal to or above that of a boy, your best hope in using that example is to say “the boys don’t expect girls to train to that level,” which unfortunately for you is also sexist.

  • Alex101

    I might be missing something, but aren’t the people saying she should be allowed to compete with the boys basically arguing that a female athlete should only compete against women if she is not good enough to compete against men? What is that saying about female athletes?

  • A male

    If women are not “good enough” to play “with men,” as in professional golf, or are “too good” as in “women’s” sports with rules for “feminine” elements like gymnastics or figure skating, or just want their own space, what’s wrong with there being a separate division or classification for women? There are sports where men, for whatever reason, do have the advantage, and in effect, shut women out along with 99.999% of all MEN, if only “the best” are included?
    What would the alternative be, for a woman “not good enough”, as in professional golf? Not having the opportunity to play? There are divisions of sports for those “not good enough” to play in varsity or professional leagues (like 5’6″ and under basketball, or neighborhood league baseball, or amateur drag racing, or get this, in Hawaii, we have a league of baseball JUST for boys of Japanese ancestry, because the US doesn’t raise Nomos or Ichiros), so they can have the opportunity to enjoy sports as well.
    And as I said back in May, this girl should be allowed to play with people who will challenge her, if she is actually so out of her league (like that record setting female player who has finally found her place at university, still among the best in her league). Why not play with older girls or women? Why not play with boys or men? I don’t know how much fun it would be to simply dominate everyone in her own division. Even Phelps does not dominate his sport the way this girl apparently does.

  • A male

    Boo hoo. Men can’t play sports if more women are allowed to play. Maybe sports should only allow white people, as well, so as not to deprive them.

  • Alex101

    That wasn’t quite what I was saying at all. The sentiment seems to be “She’s too good to play with girls, so she should be able to play with the boys”. It’s strongly implying that the female league of the sport if the “B” league while the male teams make up the “A” league.
    I have nothing against separate classifications for sports. Quite the opposite, I think weight classes for boxing/wrestling/weights, male/female and the examples you cite among others are positive ways to get more people involved in sports. But when someone in a particular division is really good – putting them in the next division kinda defeats the point.
    It also begs the question – why not allow people who are not quite ‘good enough’ in their division to shift. Why not let the lesser male rowers compete in female rowing events if you would allow the better female rowers to compete in the male events if they were ‘too good’ for the female league?
    Incidentally – many events in female and male gymnastics are rather different. Roman Rings vs Balance beam for example.

  • A male

    “The sentiment seems to be “She’s too good to play with girls, so she should be able to play with the boys”. It’s strongly implying that the female league of the sport if the “B” league while the male teams make up the “A” league.”
    In effect, that is true of many sports. And the reason men of “lesser” ability should not be allowed to play in leagues meant for females (in those endeavors where men do have some advantage), is it would be unfair to most of the women (as it already is for near 100% of men who do not already excel at sports). How exciting would “women’s” professional boxing or MMA be, if men were allowed in? How exciting would “women’s” golf be, if as in the PGA, women were COMPLETELY shut out? How exiting would “women’s” F-1 racing be, with only three women left in it? How exciting would “women’s” marathons be, with men finishing ten minutes ahead?
    If six and seven footers were allowed to play in the under 5’6″ basketball league, what are the short or lesser skilled players supposed to do? If high school and intermediate school sports teams recruited the best white and black players nationwide to come to Hawaii (where whites and blacks are the minorities) and play for them, the way the University of Hawaii does, or the world’s best like the MLB or NBA do, what the hell are local Asian and Pacific Islander kids who want to represent their schools supposed to do? Is it any wonder so few Asians from the US play in the NBA, NFL or MLB? They never had a chance. In baseball at least, Asians whose skills have been nurtured (in their home countries) can represent at the world level, or even be sought out by the major leagues.
    “Incidentally – many events in female and male gymnastics are rather different. Roman Rings vs Balance beam for example.”
    Exactly. Men would be severely disadvantaged by participating in “women’s” gymnastic events. At least, because they don’t have half to three quarters of a lifetime of training in it.

  • Alex101

    “And the reason men of “lesser” ability should not be allowed to play in leagues meant for females (in those endeavors where men do have some advantage), is it would be unfair to most of the women”
    So what you are saying is that there should be a league only for females, and a league for males and females, but not a league for males. I.e. there should be a female league and a human league?
    I think either go all out and just run mixed teams or otherwise separate completely. Otherwise all you’re doing is very bluntly saying that we should view the female teams as a “B Team”. For the record – in schools I played on several mixed teams, and we mostly rocked. After school I participated in a number of sports where at many events no distinction was placed on male or female competitors with both in the same race and competing against each other. It works. I have also competed in events where the sexes compete against their own gender – that works too, and there is no implicit statement that one is better than the other. Like there is no implicit statement that lightweight boxing is inferior to heavyweight – it’s just different.
    To me the thing I feel is really missed in this whole issue is how asinine parents and coaches are about kids sports. I know kids who moved house and were bumped from their sports team for being a block past the limits, parents and coaches need to chill out a bit as they’re turning into a poison against youth sports.
    “Exactly. Men would be severely disadvantaged by participating in “women’s” gymnastic events. At least, because they don’t have half to three quarters of a lifetime of training in it.”
    And women would kinda suck at the mens events.
    Exactly how old do you think many male gymnasts are when they take it up? I ask because the few I know took it up at around 5 years old…

  • A male

    “So what you are saying is that there should be a league only for females, and a league for males and females, but not a league for males. I.e. there should be a female league and a human league?”
    In effect, yes.
    “Otherwise all you’re doing is very bluntly saying that we should view the female teams as a “B Team”.”
    In those areas where males have an advantage, for whatever reason, that’s what it works out to. Maybe there is a physical advantage. Maybe women were simply not allowed to excel alongside men, though they do have the ability. Maybe it’s technology and training methods (view how today’s women marathoners and sprinters would beat the best times of men in decades past). I don’t know why LPGA golfers don’t perform like PGA golfers (size and strength are not the only thing behind long drives or decreased strokes, as smaller men have shown), but so far, a women’s division is necessary, because otherwise, even the women’s number one is not allowed to play in men’s events if she is required to make the cut. In other competitive sports, like shooting or archery, women and men can perform at the same level.
    “Exactly how old do you think many male gymnasts are when they take it up? I ask because the few I know took it up at around 5 years old…”
    Exactly. Male gymnasts would be disadvantaged in “female” events, because they don’t have the half to 3/4 of a lifetime of training behind them. Even world class teens and young 20s competitors as at the Olympics can’t suddenly be expected to train in “mixed” events in the interests of gender equality. Women would do poorly in “men’s” events, and men would do poorly at “women’s” events.

  • emmyj

    I thought it was interesting (and annoying) that the writer felt the need to include that her parents were divorced to explain the fact that her mom had a different last name than her and her dad. Correct me if I’m wrong, but her parents being divorced had little to do with the point of the article.