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Being Hard On Boys

I am not a soccer mom. The reason being that I think I am actually put to better use doing things rather than sitting around while my kids practice and living the life of a limousine driver. So, I am kind of taking all of this in from an outside perspective. My girls are playing soccer this year, on the same team, with the YMCA. My kids played on a team once when they were very little and they had no interest in it at all, it is not until now that they have convinced us to let them try again. I have been to two practices. The first one scared me silly because of the gross amount of people that were there. I did not expect it at all. Yesterday, I went to their second practice and noticed something very disturbing.

I ended up sitting closer to a boys’ team that was practicing on the same field. My son had run off to play on the playground, so I decided to stay in the place where he thought I was, rather than moving closer to my girls’ practice. The week before I had gotten to see them interact with their coaches and I really liked them. The coaches were kind, and encouraging, and supportive. My girls were working, and practicing, but they were also having a really good time and getting exercise in the fresh air…in my opinion this is the main purpose of any sport. The boys that I was observing yesterday were actually a little younger than my girls. I would say that they were second and third graders. They were having a vastly different experience from my girls.

The boys that I observed were not having fun. The reason for this was because they were being pushed extremely hard, and in my opinion berated by their coaches. Why in the hell do we think that to get successful results out of boys that we have to bully them into performing well? What is with the double standard? I am perfectly happy to let my girls play with their coaches treating them respectfully, but there is no way in the world that I would allow my son to continue playing on a team where the coaches believe they need to treat children, children who are smaller than my own, as if they are in boot camp. No result of any sporting event means anything. They equal to zip, zilch, and zero. Nobody is depending on a child’s soccer win so that they can eat this week. The children are supposed to be getting exercise and having fun.

Boys and men do not have fewer feelings than women. They do not hurt less and they are not less affected by negative reinforcements. And yet, even today we continue to treat them differently than girls. We are still teaching boys that it is a weakness to show emotion. We call them sissies, and pussies, and girls. I did not hear the coaches yesterday calling the boys names, but I did hear them reacting with exasperation to less than ideal results. I heard them stripping down the confidence of the players rather than building it up, and unfortunately, I did not see a single parent step up and tell the coaches that it was unacceptable behavior. Boys and men are not immune to this sort of crap, and it happens over and over again to them throughout their lives. There are very few adult men out there today who don’t suffer residually from the effects of being bullied into acting like a man. It makes me absolutely livid! We seem to be getting wiser about treating all of our children equally, but it is obvious that in some arenas we are still missing the mark by a big margin. We need to fix it and we need to fix it before we damage more young men, because damaged young men are more likely to turn into mentally unstable adults. What on earth are we doing?


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