Boys in Girls' Sports? What Did You Expect?

This time traveler from the late Polite-ocene Era recalls when girls' locker rooms were sacrosanct female strongholds.  In that bygone era, any boy who even accidentally almost walked into a girls' locker room carried with him a lifelong self-shunning shame.  It wasn't done.  And it still haunts even at the distance of some six decades.

Yet nowadays, the deliberate invasion into girls' rooms and girls' sports is held by some as high achievement.  It's not only allowed, but protected behavior acquiesced to in an ever more perplexingly and passive posture. 

What brought this to our schools?  Looking upstream at the flow of hot history to discover a source for today's twisted downstream eddy, we see Sheriff Ed Tom Bell in his No Country for Old Men summer-weight Stetson at a café table, explaining to the El Paso sheriff how the unraveling of right and the rise of wrong began: "once you quit hearing 'sir' and 'ma'am,' the rest is soon to foller."  Foller to what?

I couldn't puzzle it out, so I called on Sheriff Bell to saddle up across that same café table to put questions to someone whose political savvy on current goings-on promised more insight than anything this long-retired high school principal could offer.

"So," says the sheriff to his progressive feminist tablemate, "you're against men competing against women in sports.  You take the position that males should compete only against males and females should compete only against females.  You frame this knowing that the aim of high school sports is not primarily to accumulate strong win-loss records.  The main point and chief justification for competitive high-school sports programs is that playing fields are another kind of classroom, and participation in sports teaches values of hard work, team play, goal-setting, respect for rules, sacrifice, and even daring to want to win — experiences girls had largely been denied before Title IX in 1972. 

"Then, when it came to a high school girl being a placekicker or quarterback on an otherwise all-boy football team, feminist luminaries and enlightened media roundly cheered these intrusions into all-boy sports teams as noteworthy achievements, as one more win in the battle against sexism. 

"And nowadays," says the sheriff, "the reality of boy-replacing girl athletes on boys' teams has come to impose conditions that pretty much make it impossible for cut-from-the-team boys to engage boyness by competing on all-boy teams and then carrying gained personal experiences with them into manhood.  Every girl who suits up for a spot on a football team pushes one boy off the roster and out of the opportunity to benefit from participating in competitive sports.  And just as a feminist politician gains kudos when boldly asserting that strong girls become strong women who become strong leaders, so should the same argument be made for strong boys to become strong men who become strong leaders.  Maybe more important, these strong men may well grow up to embrace the duty of being a strong husband, a strong father, and a strong man, something America needs.

"Where once some girls were denied the experiences and benefits of competitive sports until Title IX came along, now some boys are denied the experience and benefits of participating in competitive sports.  Are the numbers large?  Depends on who's counting.  If you're the mother or father of a teenage boy cut from the team, the number is 100%.

"When feminists used social pressure to open the door to radically change boys' high school sports, these same feminists also opened the door to future radical changes in women's college sports.  One hand soils the other.  The female player pushes a boy off a high school team, and a man who calls himself a woman pushes a college female off the winners' podium.  One's right, you say, and one's wrong, you say." 

The sheriff wraps it up with this: "You want girls in boys' sports, but you don't want males claiming to be females in women's sports.  How can you logically justify the one while rejecting the other?  How can you celebrate intrusion into high school boys' sports but want to shield collegiate women's sports from the same kind of intrusion?  How can you deny the tide of change that flows from the very thing you changed: the traditional separation of the sexes in competitive sports?"

We're told history doesn't repeat itself, but it often rhymes, even if that rhyme is sometimes deeply discordant and disturbing. 

The old man who penned this piece supports same-sex sports.  I'm a traditionalist because the ages have confirmed this and other productive practices — practices the dangerously reckless radicals are now destroying, without offering tested and proven replacements to serve in their stead.  Yet if radicals are going to challenge and change long established order, it follows that these very same radicals should expect to have their newly established order challenged and changed, without limit.  Else, theirs is a peculiarly protected political semiconductor though which change flows in one direction only.

Where will this blind-minded challenge to established order go next?  Hate to think of it, for as the El Paso sheriff warned, "It's the tide.  It's the dismal tide.  It's not the one thing."

Boys don't become men just by waking up and playing video games for 6,570 days.  Manhood comes from constant teaching and consistent coaching, or it comes not at all.  Where the issue for girls is fairness, the concern for boys is participation.  Girls say, "I am participating, and now I want to be treated fairly."  Boys say, "I want a fair chance to participate."

We see something is wrong with the way too many boys come to adulthood.  We raise boys to become responsible men one boy at a time, one man-shaping experience at a time.  Same-sex sports offer these experiences.  While today's celebration is rightfully, if narrowly, for girls' successes, today's lament is for boys lost in the backwater of the dismal tide.  We can leave them there, or...

Retired high school principal, Alaska; Oregon; and Montana, his home state.  Some of his cowboy hats are winter weight.  See "Wrong Rabbit" and "Power Grab."

Image: Marco Verch Professional Photographer via Flickr, CC BY 2.0 (cropped).

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