Friday, February 14, 2003

Soccer girls get the boot

By MIKE ULMER -- Toronto Sun

The boys used to heckle Katelyn Deputter and her London Supernova under-12 teammates whenever they stepped onto the soccer field. "Shouldn't you be doing your nails?" the boys would taunt. The talking would usually drop off after the Supernova's first couple of goals. Then things would get rough. "People say the boys would take it easy on us," Katelyn said. "But once they saw us play, I think they came out at us harder." Katelyn's season ended shortly after she scored her 60th goal of the season. A jarring tackle from a male opponent sent her off the pitch with a broken collarbone and a concussion. "Two players going hard for the ball," recalled her coach Geoff Painter. "A good hard tackle, but that is the game, after all." Not really. The tougher tackles come off the pitch. Presented with a glorious chance to use sport to promote healthy competition between boys and girls, the London and District Youth Soccer League has given the Supernova the boot. The girls team was kicked out of a boys bracket of the LDYSL, not so much because they were girls, but because they had the temerity to beat the boys. "We've had a girls team playing the last four years," Painter said. "But this is the first time we've had a winning record." WINNERS The girls went 15-3-4, finishing third in league. That, apparently, was the last straw for the rest of the league. Earlier this month, a 75% majority of club executives banned girls teams from playing boys teams, except in the lowest age brackets. League officials have said they did so because their governing body, the Ontario Soccer Association, shifted jurisdiction for this gender question to the local clubs. Steve Scott, the LDYSL president, told The Sun's sister paper, the London Free Press, the vote was forced by the Ontario Soccer Association's direction. "That's pretty clear to us, telling us that we have no choice but to air that at a meeting," Scott said. "We are not doing our job at the executive level if we don't take care of it." Fair enough. What's infinitely more difficult to fathom is why the girls were banned. The Supernovas were so good, they outscored opponents 33-0 en route to the Ontario Cup. Games against local girls their own age often ended in double-digit routs with their opponents unable to muster a shot on goal. "It wasn't good for our girls, it wasn't good for the other team's girls," said Katelyn's mother, Gail. "No one was happy with it." It's not as if the gender line is never crossed. If a girl is good enough, she is welcome on a boys team. The Supernovas could easily place their best players on boys sides but doing so would deny the girls the chance to play and develop together. "That would mean that in this region of the province there would effectively be no elite girls program," Painter said. "Yes, we could distribute all our girls but imagine that happening with a boys rep hockey team. Imagine telling those kids and their parents they all had to go back to house league." So, as they have done for years, the Supernovas took on the boys. The problem is, they won. "It's a societal thing," Gail Deputter said. "The boys couldn't handle, or their parents couldn't handle, getting beat by girls." Members of the LDYSL didn't return phone calls but the voting was summed up nicely in the Free Press by Aldo Caranci, who voted to drum the girls out on behalf of the London United Soccer Club. Allowing girls, he said, "wrecks the whole game for the boys. It's inbred that you're careful with girls. You don't want to hurt them. It's very intimidating for boys to challenge a girl." And so the double standard is set for the Supernova. Win, and you've shamed the boys into going easy on you. If they injure you, as a boy did to Katelyn Deputter, it's proof that you can't handle the rough going. Lose, reinforce the idea that boys are better than girls, and you will be left alone. "I think it's just really dumb," Katelyn said. "We can play on boys teams, but a team of girls can't play in a boys league. What's the difference?"

Tuesday, February 04, 2003

Sexist super snub boots Supernova from league

By MORRIS DALLA COSTA -- London Free Press If you can't beat them, get rid of them.

And that's exactly what the London and District Youth Soccer League did. In a decision that was as regressive as it was stupid, the league voted to prevent a girls' team from playing in an under-13 boys' division. The London Supernova girls' team played last season in the boys' under-12 division. The team finished third in the 12-team league. But when the Ontario Soccer Association changed its policy and allowed individual leagues to vote on whether girls' teams will be allowed to play with the boys, the teams saw their opportunity to put a girls' team back in its place and voted to not allow the Supernova to play in the under-13 boys' division. The vote of 40 teams saw 75 per cent in favour of dumping Supernova. Three cheers for male superiority. If you can't beat them on the field, we'll hammer them in the boardroom. It seems there's more than one thing males envy. No one can provide a good reason why this has happened. The only reason is that one team is made up of girls. See what happens when political correctness runs amok? This never happened when men were running the joint. There's one thing that has become as obvious as a punch in the eye in this debate. There was little or no concern shown for the girls' team. Few cared how the decision would affect their team or their feelings. The concern focused on the poor boys who are forced to undergo the humiliation of playing a girls' team, on how the boys' game is affected or how difficult it must be to get beaten by a girls' team. We're told the boys are uncomfortable in dealing with the situation. No doubt the adults who run the teams are uncomfortable. The boys can't handle those so let's punish the girls. Makes sense to me. Aldo Caranci, who voted on behalf of the London United Soccer Club, said allowing girls to play against boys "wrecks the whole game for boys . . . you don't want to hurt (the girls.)" This is a new day and age where many women and girls are just as competitive, as ornery and as tough as the boys. They don't need protecting. But if you don't want to play against girls, prove they don't belong. Run them into the ground. Kick their butt. Show them how superior the boys are. Supernova coach Geoff Painter is a smart soccer guy. He certainly won't see any advantage in having his team thrashed on a game-by-game basis. He knows as boys and girls get older, there are changes that occur that in most cases preclude girls from playing against boys. But not until they are older. Watch just about any sport in London and up until the age of 14 or so, you'll find girls competing against boys successfully. It's obvious from Supernova's high finish in the division that competitive balance couldn't be used as an excuse to turf the girls. So the league chose to decide this issue off the field and the membership grasped that straw as the only sure way to get rid of the girls' team. That noise you hear is the predictable nattering of the good old boys. Let the boys play in the girls' division. Absolutely. But even given the chance, most boys' teams won't play in a girls' division because in the long run, it won't help in developing a strong program. That's what this is all about. It's not about taking over and invading a male's turf. There are few teams such as Supernova who can respond to the challenge of playing against the boys. For them, it's all about finding ways of improving their soccer program. After years of being in the soccer wilderness, it has been the girls' and women's programs that have put London on the soccer map. Those programs are now as good as any in Ontario and Canada. That's because they think outside the box. They accept new challenges many of which involve stepping in uncharted territory and they are willing to respond to those challenges. A lesson others could certainly learn from.