Co-ed team co-ed in name only

An article in the Toronto Star details the struggles of 12 year old Kayla Watkin to play hockey. The only girl on a co-ed team, Watkins was asked to agree to restrictions on her ice time or agree to improve her skills. Instead, she did the only thing she thought she could: She quit.

Notable is the fact that the team, the Toronto Ice Dogs PeeWee “A” club, is the lowest level of competitive play, intended to be inclusive of all levels and abilities. Except for girls, I guess…

That isn’t fair.

Girl who wants to play hockey

7 thoughts on “Co-ed team co-ed in name only

  1. It sounds like the bad behavior here was from a parent who was overly competitive, and was more worried about the team winning than seems reasonable in the situation. My impression is that this is an increasing problem in the US, and I’m sorry to see that it might be in Canada, too. (On the other hand, my wife, who grew up in the [late] Soviet Union and then in Russia, always professes surprise that there are “recreational” sports teams for kids at all, as apparently there were only competitive, “up or out” sports programs there at all, so they seem perfectly normal to her, even if she still does think the parents’ behavior is often insane in the US [and, it seems, Canada.])

  2. Sad. And what do the other player’s learn about teamwork from this? Single out those who (seem) weaker, not to help them, but restrict them or push them aside. There should have been no question of her ‘agreeing’ to improve her skills–it should have been in process with all who could lending a hand.

    Also, “restrictions on her ice team” should probably be “restrictions on her ice time.”

  3. Hmmm…

    …I accept that at age 12, winning shouldn’t be the only criteria for sporting teams. Having said that, sport is about winning. And teams win, if they’re players are good. And if she wasn’t good, then she was going to get less ice time. Unless she improved her skills.

    Instead of improving her skills, she quit. Not, exactly, promising for the prospect of future challenges in life.

    And does it matter that she was a girl? Here in England, I had a similar experience playing football (“soccer”). I wasn’t that good, and I was getting dropped from the team. It felt very harsh, especially at age 12. But sport is competitive. I’m not entirely sure gender made a difference in this case – though it may certainly have been the case that (e.g.) male coaches *perceived* her play as worse because she was female, even if in fact it was (say) equal to that of some of her male team-mates.

  4. I get that sports are competitive. And I can see circumstances where asking a player to improve or play less would be justified. But a few things set off alarm bells here for me. First, some of the concerns raised weren’t about her ability but rather about locker rooms and such. Second, it’s supposed to be a co-ed team and she’s the only female player. Third, the coach didn’t raise the concerns about her ability to play. He was encouraging her to play. And finally, this team is the absolute lowest level of competitive play for kids. Presumably none of them are particularly skilled. It’s an entry level league. It’s just wrong to be pressuring children at that level of play. Hockey is a huge part of Canadian culture and access for girls and women is an issue of justice. I think philosophers in general tend to give sports and athletic competition short shrift in our conceptions of the good life and of justice. That’s a serious mistake.

  5. “it’s supposed to be a co-ed team and she’s the only female player.”

    That’s undesirable (usually) I’d guess, but I wonder if it’s unusual. I have no information about such teams in Canada. But when I was a little kid playing sports in the US (in grade school- between the ages of 8 and 12 mostly) most of the sports were officially co-ed, but it was unusual for teams to have more than one or, at most, two girls. This was true for baseball (including T-ball), soccer, and basketball. (It’s possible that things were different in other parts of the US.) My rough impression from talking to my siblings about their kids is that it’s now more common to have distinct “girls” teams at much younger ages, at least for some sports. This seems to improve participation.

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