GirlPower in the Pool
A couple of weeks ago I watched a group of middle school girls collect on the pool deck for their final water polo game of the season. When I was in high school there was no such thing girls water polo. I had played – albeit briefly – on the boys team.
From the scorers table, I surveyed the scene and marveled at how much the sport has grown – by leaps and bounds in ….eh, twenty years?!
A few minutes later, as I was still trying to brush off how much time had passed since high school, the coaches discovered that the girls would be playing a strong team of boys. In fact, the same boys team who was, at that very moment, competing very evenly with our boys A team.
The coaches looked at each other and said, “We can’t let this happen. They are going to hate it, and they are going to get slaughtered.”
My number one goal in teaching middle school PE is to teach girls especially, but also the boys who are not obviously athletes, that they are stronger than they realize. I didn’t want them to get slaughtered – wouldn’t that send the opposite message? I wanted them to have a competitive game. Losing was okay, but I very much prefered for it to be a good fight in the meantime.
I totally endorsed the idea of combining the girls with our boys A team. You know, so the girls wouldn’t have to play the boys on their own. Ironic, that this came mere moments after remembering how FUN it was to compete WITH the boys in high school.
Ah, social and cultural bias is so subtle sometimes?
With all the adults in agreement, the head coach went to talk to the girls.
And the girls did something that shocked me (although, now that I think about the personalities of the girls who lead the team, I should not have been shocked) and made me intensely proud:
They said no. They wanted to play the boys on their own.
From the whistle that ignited the first quarter it was a lopsided game. The girls dominated the boys team for the first quarter. After that, it was more evenly competitive.
The girls played more aggressively than I have ever seen them play. And they played together. Because they had to. They couldn’t rely on the strongest, most experienced player to make everything happen.
They made good passes, they talked to each other. Many of them simply swam faster than they boys. At half-time the girls were still winning by several goals. In the end, the game was a tie, only because the final winning goal by the girls was actually not a goal on account of the shooter not realizing she had earned a free pass.
I have never seen those girls so jazzed and excited about water polo, including after the games where they were winning by so much that the scoring table turned off the scoreboard.
“What did you think of the game,” I asked them.
Their faces glowed. “It was SO FUN!”