Taking a Stand

How can you honestly look at yourselves in the mirror and think that this is acceptable? How far into the sand are all of your heads?

It was Valentine’s Day, and this was not a Valentine I intended to send.

Earlier that day we had, to much fanfare in our household, received my daughter’s new T-ball team rosters. She was pretty excited to see which of her friends would be on her team this year.

She had requested a couple of friends to play with … as we opened the email, we saw that she didn’t know anybody on the team.

It’s simply ludicrous that something like this occurs in 2019

We scanned the roster. And we did it again.

It wasn’t just that our daughter didn’t know anyone on her team; she didn’t know anyone last year, either. But after living here for two years now, and making friends, we thought she might be teamed up with at least one kid she knew.

After all, it’s T-ball. This isn’t Major League Baseball. No one is trying to create a super team to win a league where everyone bats and nobody keeps score.

We cannot believe how ridiculous it is that somehow the powers that be decided to create an all-girl T-ball team.

When my daughter heard us explain the roster makeup to her, she was discouraged. Partly because she didn’t know anyone on the team. But also because she didn’t want to play with all girls.

We sat down before signing her up and asked if she wanted to play T-ball, or softball. We described each, and noted that softball would probably be all girls.

It was an easy decision for her. This is a kid who wanted a unicorn birthday party, but also invited more boys to attend than girls. She doesn’t see gender – just people.

… because – unlike all of you – she already believes in equality and is determined to do anything that are already societal norms around what “only boys do.”

My daughter is not your typical six-year-old girl. She loves princesses. She loves baseball. She loves getting her hands dirty, but while wearing a dress. She blurs the lines between what is considered “traditional” girl things and what is not. She cannot be put into a box.

This is a girl who openly questions why there aren’t women playing Major League Baseball, and says she wants to be the first. To be fair, she also wants to be a paleontologist, a pizza waitress, the most famous ballerina in the world, a doctor, and an author.

Who am I to tell her she can’t do any of those things?

Better yet, who are others?

What message does this send to all of the girls playing T-ball – and even to all of the boys? What about the parents and supporters?

As fate would have it, I ran into our daughter’s T-ball coach from last year during that morning’s commute. She noted that she was coaching T-ball again and asked if my daughter was playing. I told her about the rosters.

That is ridiculous! she exclaimed, and she was hotter than a cast iron skillet. How can they do that? I’m already sending them an email and I’m going to include this. What message is that sending to all of these players? Ohh, that’s the ‘girl team.’

At a time when the country seems more divided than at any other time in my lifetime, how can something like this happen? Why add to it?

The optics of this, and the message that this sends to kids furthers the “that team is different” or “those kids are different.” Underlying this is how they’d be treated differently, cheered for differently, coached against differently, speculated by onlookers that all the girls wanted to play together.

The response to my email was tepid. I was told that rosters were auto-assigned and there was also an all-boys team. A family friend said his son’s team only had one girl on their team.

… where everyone will now note that “it’s the girl team,” to even further discriminate that boys and girls should be on different teams at all?

In my original email to the local Little League leaders, I included a link to the Little League mission statement, part of which reads:
Through proper guidance and exemplary leadership, the Little League program assists children in developing the qualities of citizenship, discipline, teamwork and physical well-being. By espousing the virtues of character, courage and loyalty, the Little League Baseball and Softball program is designed to develop superior citizens rather than superior athletes.

As a father of a daughter, I am certainly more aware of what else comes with raising girls. You want them to be more powerful than the last generation, to challenge more, to accomplish more, to further move the lines that have been drawn and re-drawn for centuries.

Lesser pay for equal work. Fewer female CEO’s, and women in leadership positions than men. Sexual harassment and the #metoo movement. The ones who challenge the status quo are considered out of line … or crazy.

I kept thinking that my fight for my daughter was too over-the-top, that I was being too protective. That, like any good parent who feels their child had been slighted or labeled unfairly, my emotions got the best of me. But the more I talked about it with others, and saw their stunned reactions, I knew I wasn’t being crazy.

And then … the latest Nike ad came out. Like running into the coach on the day this all happened, it was another sign.

I will continue to fight for my daughter, and if she wants to be the world’s best ballerina, I am going to help her do that. If she wants to play baseball, I am going to spend more time practicing in the yard with her. I will encourage her to chase her dreams.

I won’t try and segregate her and I won’t let others do it, either.

One comment

  1. Nice article Matt. Children’s sports has gotten out of control for decades. You’re absolutely right – kids just want to play with their friends. They don’t care about winning and it’s all about the money. When I grew up the kids picked teams and played because they loved the game. Quick story. The first year I volunteered to coach basketball the director told me that there was a draft. What? This is not the NBA! I told him that I didn’t want to be a part of this nonsense and to just place my son on the roster and give me the kids the other coaches don’t select. This was in 1996. That was 20+ years ago. So sad it has gotten worse today. Maybe we should just have the kids meet at the local park and let them choose their own teams! Keep On Daddying!

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