Why Boys Shouldn’t Play Football with Girls

I saw this video yesterday that’s going viral on the internet right now. It’s a highlight reel of a 9-year old girl playing football with a bunch of boys. She looks pretty spectacular in the video as she blows past all the defenders and rumbles down the field for some long running plays. My little girls were nearby while I was watching the video, and I confess that I did not want them to see it. What she was doing was impressive, but it is not an aspirational model for little girls.

In the video above, you can see the commentators from ESPN grappling with whether or not it is appropriate for a little girl to play football with boys. Most of the men say no. One of them learned the lesson the hard way after his 15-year old daughter was seriously injured playing on her high school football team. Another one sounds like he has completely succumbed to the feminist spirit of the age and says he would encourage his little girls to play. But the rest of the guys agreed that it’s a bad idea. They aren’t arguing from a Christian perspective, but something in their gut tells them it’s wrong, and they are right.

I’m concerned about parents who would let their little girl play football with boys. But I’m even more concerned about parents who would allow their sons to participate. What have we become as a society when parents would cheer their sons to in any way strike or manhandle a girl? This is not good.

As a Christian, I find this kind of behavior to be particularly troublesome. This goes against everything I’m trying to teach my son about the way he is to treat girls. I aim to teach him that his responsibility is not merely a passive one—not hitting girls. His responsibility is an active one. It falls to him to be the protector of the girls in his life. Right now that relates chiefly to his three sisters, but it also extends to all little girls. I teach him that while he’s a boy so that he will be that way when he is a man.

To put my son on the football field and then to tell him to tackle a little girl would go against everything that I am trying to teach him. He would have to ignore his conscience, which I am actively trying to shape so that he will be a self-sacrificial protector of girls. Do we really want train a generation of boys through their playtime activities that it’s okay to pulverize little girls? It will be the unraveling of everything that is decent and good if we do.

23 Responses to Why Boys Shouldn’t Play Football with Girls

  1. Matthew Millsap November 9, 2012 at 3:00 pm #

    Denny,

    Is there a fundamental difference between avoiding the potential for young boys to harm young girls on a football field and avoiding the potential for young boys to cause permanent brain damage to other young boys on a football field?

    http://espn.go.com/espn/otl/story/_/id/7601017/study-impact-kids-football-head-hits-severe-college-games

  2. Paul Sanchez November 9, 2012 at 3:01 pm #

    Sadly, this is simply an out-working of the cultural movement toward a “genderless” perspective in sociey. Some parents now raising infants are rethinking whether or how they should communicate gender to their children. Perhaps they should be neuter, they wonder. That’s worrysome indeed. As Christians, we know that gender is not arbitrary, but God ordained and good. What a confused day we have upon us.

  3. Jason Seville November 9, 2012 at 3:03 pm #

    I’m with you, but just for fun…

    Couldn’t you simply teach your son to separate in his mind the things that happen on an athletic field from what he’s allowed to do in normal, everyday life?

    You said, “What have we become as a society when parents would cheer their sons to in any way strike or manhandle a girl?” Phrasing it that way is a bit curious. You could just as easily say, “What have we become as a society when parents would cheer their sons to in any way strike or manhandle a BOY?” Right? Because we wouldn’t teach our boys to manhandle other boys in normal, everyday circumstances. But we teach them to play football, MMA, wrestling, etc. while also making sure that those skills are reserved for the field of play, not for “manhandling” people on the street.

    Again, I think I agree with your general point (I won’t be putting my two daughters in football), but if your argument is based on the real-life implications of what we teach our kids to do athletically, then something seems amiss since we’re already teaching them a certain level of compartmentalization.

  4. Jason Seville November 9, 2012 at 3:05 pm #

    Also, would you let your boys play on the same team with this girl? No better way to teach them to protect women than to stick your boy at left tackle or fullback for this little girl! 🙂

  5. michaelhburer November 9, 2012 at 3:23 pm #

    Denny: Do you have any opinions on why we don’t see the reverse situation, namely, single boys playing on all-girls teams?

    Michael Burer

  6. Candice Watters November 9, 2012 at 4:10 pm #

    Right on, Denny. Thanks for posting. This trend is troubling, though unsurprising given the U.S. embrace of women in combat.

    • Mary Burbrink November 9, 2012 at 4:30 pm #

      Women in combat is a bad idea. Women fulfilling supporting roles in Afghanistan is not bad idea.

  7. Whitney November 9, 2012 at 5:17 pm #

    On the other hand, what do you suggest the little girl does when all of her brothers are out throwing the ball around in the backyard? As the youngest of boys, I always played with them in the backyard no matter what the sport, but they never treated me like a boy. They were always more gentle and had different rules for me than with each other. I wouldn’t have traded that for the world, or the corresponding ability in my later years to play everything competitively and to my best ability. (Not to mention a sorority flag football championship some 10+ years later. 🙂
    I don’t think football is the evil here. It’s just another opportunity for a boy or brother to be unloving and unkind if he was already taught to be so in the first place. Yes, I would question if the boys were tackling the girls. But I doubt that often takes place in loving families.

    • Denny Burk November 9, 2012 at 6:23 pm #

      Agreed, Whitney. I have in mind tackle football that makes no distinctions between boys and girls.

  8. Eric November 9, 2012 at 5:30 pm #

    I used to coach a 13 and under girls volleyball team, we would play weekend tournaments. Every once in a while a boys team would be entered into the tournament with very little success

    Until a boy hits puberty, there is not much difference athletically. Boys are typically more aggressive wich shows up in contact sports, but not always as the video shows.

    I raised girls and liked having them play co ed soccer and virtually any other sport with boys until the boys got to strong. My oldest daughter can beat about any boy in a game of HORSE to this day. The teamwork lessons learned are invaluable , even for those dainty girls

    • J.M. LaRue November 9, 2012 at 6:33 pm #

      I don’t think the issue is one of athletic ability. No one is arguing that as the reason why they shouldn’t be on the field together. Watching the video, we can recognize this little girl’s athletic ability is equal/greater than the boys around her.

  9. Akash JOnathan November 9, 2012 at 7:10 pm #

    If any girl gets hurt because of playing with boys, the boy who would have caused her hurt should not be punished.

    But in today’s society it is okay to allow a girl to play with boys but when boys treat her the same way, everyone goes ballistic.

    THIS IS UNFAIR TO THE BOYS!!!!

    if these girls want to play such sports they should be expected to be treated the same.

    Frankly it also destroy’s the game because boys now have to play by unwritten rules, this just destroys the game.

  10. Tom Parker November 9, 2012 at 9:28 pm #

    Deny:

    You said:”but it is not an aspirational model for little girls.”

    Really a little girl being very successful in a predominantly male dominated sport and she is not a model for girls.

    Who says anything at all here about her having reached puberty, etc. She is a little playing a sport supervised by coaches, etc.

    I think you are much too narrow in your unwillingness to even celebrate a great achievement of a little girl.

    It’s just a shame, Denny.

  11. Brian Manns November 9, 2012 at 11:35 pm #

    I am only 26 and growing up I had to compete against girls in contact sports and it was extremely uncomfortable. I was not a believer at the time so I did not operate from a Cristian worldview but I was taught from Christian parents that you do not hit girls. Therefore where an opposing little league football team had a girl at running back I found myself not wanting to tackle her hard. I tried to gently wrap her up and bring her down without hurting her because that is what I was taught is right. Similarly I trained in martial arts when I was young and was often paired up to spar with females. This also caused inner turmoil because of the gender values instilled on me by my parents.

  12. Mark Morikawa November 10, 2012 at 12:07 am #

    Isnt it interesting that in this context, the difference between men and women are so obvious yet in the context of relationships, people become blind to the differences between genders.

  13. Whitney November 10, 2012 at 12:14 am #

    Ohh I see. I think from just reading the blog title, I read the article from a slant of “girls shouldn’t play football with boys,” period. Which isn’t what you meant. My bad on the wrong interpretation!

  14. jimmiedon November 10, 2012 at 12:16 am #

    Your discussion does call for thought, but what about the realities of war, of encountering a female soldier on the other side or of relating to a member of our own military on whose life his own might depend?

    • Akash Charles November 10, 2012 at 1:59 am #

      Its the other side!, no matter what you have to kill them or they will kill you.

      Just because you stop and be kind, that does not mean the femalesoldier/sportsperson is going to be nice to you, it is more likely that she will take advantage of your actions!!

  15. Stephen Beck November 10, 2012 at 12:11 pm #

    So you’re saying it’s basically unethical for Alabama to even be on the same field as their weaker, more gentle opponents? 😉

    • Stephen Beck November 10, 2012 at 6:05 pm #

      eating my words a little bit today…

      • Denny Burk November 10, 2012 at 6:23 pm #

        Why’s that?

        • Stephen Beck November 12, 2012 at 11:40 am #

          My first comment was a sarcastic reply that Alabama football is “manly” compared to the weaker “girly” rest of NCAA. Not so much after they Texas A&M stopped them!

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