Gender Gap Blues

soccerVolunteering as an assistant soccer coach for a young women’s soccer team involving both my daughters has allowed me some insight into the perspective of how gender works in my community. Avoiding banal macro gender differences, regional variance well evidence my community where old Virginia, new West Virginia, DC bedroom community, and small liberal arts college town come together in the funky community of Shepherdstown AYSO. Essentially though the town is considered freaky by the rest of the county which is still pretty rural and more likely to watch Duck Dynasty than How I Met Your Mother, White Collar, or Breaking Bad.

At practice this week our coach became what I would call irascible and my daughters called male-PMS in that he kept stopping scrimmage and discussing how the players were doing the wrong thing and should be doing this instead. They didn’t take it well. It helps to understand these young women between 13 and 16 have won all but one of their games by wide margins. By chance or self selection they are also mostly the honor students and the talented of their various schools. In other words they know each other and try to choose as they can how they spend their time together. They are extremely socially aware and have long known what needs to be done to succeed and have done so.

They didn’t take the criticism lightly. They kind of got that deer in the headlights look and glanced at each other when coach couldn’t see for confirmation that others had noticed it as well. As a new assistant coach I am more like an observer than anything else. What I saw is these young women were overcorrected. Mild though it was it was unnecessary. It was like they were tuned to someone whispering and were experiencing someone talking rather loudly and repeating themselves.

Often after practice on the way home I can tell how it went by the degree of crankiness of the conversation in the car. It seems to be some combination of how well they feel they performed, how useful they think the practice activities were, and the degree of intensity of activity during the practice. In this case there was much discussion of anger, annoyance, and push back to rejection. Driving to the next practice I was told to say nothing under threat of the worst sort of torture.

It was completely different. Rather than drills and specific kinds of scrimmages coach chose to just play the game. After a few minutes, another team, a young mens team coach asked to join in a play game as it was their last practice for fall. Much enthusiasm. The odds were slightly in our favor by number of people but their team had a few really big guys. As you might imagine our team was excited to play for two large reasons, they were young men, and hyperaware of their gender they were excited to show they were capable soccer players. We did win 3 to 1. You can imagine the glee. They were competent.

The two teams played very differently. The young women were excellent at maneuvering the ball and passing while the young men were good at bursts of speed and strong kicks. The young women used good form and technique while the young men used sheer power and more dramatic moves. The  men tended to clump up while the women stayed more spaced apart. Surprising to me was close ball control. I would have thought the men cold keep the ball away more easily but the women had a way of getting their foot in there to kick it away. The men had more break away speed while the women were better close to goal. Most enjoyable for me to watch was how well the women could kick the ball while it was in the air while the men tended to let it hit the ground. It was impressive how hard a smaller woman could kick the ball using good technique as well as how quickness and kinesthetic awareness really did help.

Afterwards, there was still some time and they played Thunder (goal kick and keep drill) for a few minutes until those who were out (if you miss a keep you’re out till the end) just walked away to the other end of the field where the men were grouped. They heard they had pizza and left. The other assistant coach wanted to call them back and I pleaded their case of mutiny as being reasonable. I could see him chafe as this meant a kind of loss of control. I completely understood and sympathized with the women. I wish I had been there to experience their dynamics. They returned shortly and it was all done.

There has been a lot of gender oriented discussion this week.

Jim Newman, bright and well

About Jim Newman

Jim Newman is a philosopher. When I was young I wondered what was the ultimate truth. How should I behave? What makes it all work? I was intensely curious to know what it all means. It was enlightening to realize there is no ultimate truth, but nevertheless sufficient and necessary turth, and that meaning was a meta analysis of living one’s life. In this sense my work has been living large. Living and experiencing life has made me learn many things. Building boats, motors, houses, electronics. Raising animals. Teaching. Writing. Photography. Drawing. Knitting. Sewing. Cooking. Music. Painting. Hiking. Aboriginal living skills. All material aspects of reality that seem irrelevant until you realize they allow you to experience more. My epiphany came when I read Christopher Hitchen’s “Letters to a Young Contrarian” and I felt vindicated in my many meals of sacred cow.
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