Do not underestimate female athletes

Apr 15 • Becky Hilker • 1634

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I have been playing sports since I was 3 and hockey was my first love. Being Canadian and from a family who loved no other sport but hockey, I was basically born with a stick in my hands and skates on my feet.

There were no girl leagues when and where I was growing up so I played with the boys. At 5 it didn’t matter if you were a boy or a girl because really, we are all the same size. But, everyone grows up and the boys grew a little faster than I did.

I was around 8 years old when I started playing with girls because the boys teams were beginning to learn and play with body contact – something my small, 8-year-old self would not do so well in.

It was a tough transition to playing with girls because when the boys were being taught and told how to hit at the same age, we were being told we couldn’t hit and we had to play a different style. I was not too fond of this switch for that reason alone.

How come the boys could play with contact but the girls had to hold back? Is it not the same sport? It would be the same gender hitting one another, but girls are apparently too fragile to take a hit, even from another girl.

We have, however, found ways to make it work and still play aggressively in all sports that do not allow contact.

A girls lacrosse uniform is a tank top in a skirt – it is basically screaming sexism, but that is another issue entirely. Just because the playerwears a skirt doesn’t mean she won’t play physical or just as tough as any boys lacrosse player.

We just don’t have all the equipment to protect us from a cross-check or a slash to the arm. It’s just an accepted pain that comes with the love of the game. The amount of fingers I have had broken and cuts I have acquired over the years is something I am proud of.

Look at the arms of the women on our team; their arms are bruised and beaten but not a single one will be ashamed of it. It draws in the curious eye, but a simple “I play lacrosse,” and a laugh ends the questioning.

We have overcome the sexist idea that a women’s sport needs to be gentle and non-aggressive by showing them just how physical we can be. I wear my bruises as a badge of honor almost, because I know there is a woman on the other team who has one just like me.

Boys are taught at a young age how to properly hit to avoid injury. If girls were offered the same chance it would be one less sexist slap in the face the sports world could give.

 

BECKY HILKER

hilker001@knights.gannon.edu

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