Are Girls Sports More Innocent, Communal?

Glenn Nelson, the founder of website HoopGurlz.com, claims that girls basketball is a fundamentally different game than boys basketball. They may be playing with the same rules, but something about girls basketball is different.

Despite having created a great forum for girls interested in sports to interact and discuss the game, Nelson displays some old school gender bias in an interview with NPR. After spending 17 years covering the NBA as a sportswriter for the Seattle Times, Nelson became bitter and jaded about the sport, so he quit to focus on the more "innocent" world of girls basketball. "I kind of fled away from that, looking for what I thought was the last innocent corner of the sports world - a bunch of girls playing basketball, ponytails bobbing," he says.

Although there's nothing wrong with claiming that high schoolers are more innocent than professional sports players, Nelson's assertion that girls basketball has certain feminine qualities to it is kind of obnoxious. He says that he uses his knowledge about the feminine traits of the game to make the website more successful. "Female is a lot more communal, so this sport is not just a sport. It's a happening—it's a community. I know how to play to that."

However, Nelson says he has seen a change in the last five years, with bigger, stronger, tougher players, which leads him to conclude that they are being influenced by boys basketball. NPR recalls an anecdote in which a player from Berkeley, CA, went down with a bad twisted ankle. Instead of crying (and they all but add, like a girl), the player waved away her coaches and walked off the court without help. Ron Beard, a club coach, "watched and smiled." He said, "Basically what she's doing is she's showing the gym that, 'I'm still tough.' It's a personal thing. That's boys' stuff."

The most frustrating thing about this NPR piece is that these are men involved in girls sports, men who are supportive of their game, but they still display the same old gender stereotypes. Girls can't be tough, girls are innocent, sweeter, more community-oriented. It seems like female athletes can't win. They are either sexualized to the point where their skills no longer matter, or they are viewed as the innocent, weaker sex. Even among those involved—maybe especially among those involved—girls sports are still seen as other, different from the regular game, separate, but not quite equal.

Web Site Gives Girls Basketball Stars Major Play [NPR]