As a mother of two girls, I see how unique each of them is. With all their differences, one thing I’ve come to realize is how playing on sports teams with other genders is beneficial.
Through the years, my girls have been in karate, rhythmic gymnastics, hockey, baseball, soccer, and swimming. Some of these sports offered female-only teams, while others had the children active together. Of course, sometimes our location restricted opportunities for all-girls sports since we live in a rural area. Thankfully, this all-inclusive dynamic was a positive experience for my children.
Surprisingly, each of my daughters came to me at one point to express their desire to play on a mixed-gender team. Each occurrence happened after my girls participated on an all-girls team. At first, I was hesitant, but it made me explore why they wanted to return to sports that include all genders.
After talking to my girls and observing team sports from both sides as a mother and coach, here’s what I’ve realized.
- Mixed-gender teams promote healthy socialization
- All-gender sports encourage a positive self-image
- Children learn gender equality with their peers
Parents may notice that sports teams for young children are more likely to include all genders. I remember my youngest daughter playing soccer at four and five years old. Her team was full of friends from her preschool and kindergarten classes.
Once she grew older and played on an all-female team, she missed the other friends she had from previous years. Limiting her choice of teammates narrowed her social circles significantly. This dynamic restricted her exposure to kids in her age range, and to different personalities and cultures.
During these critical first years, children benefit from interacting with others, regardless of gender. This dynamic promotes healthy socialization they’ll carry into adulthood. My girls learned how to interact with their peers and maintain friendships with kids of all genders rather than sticking with small female-only social groups.
For some kids, the stress of looking like their friends can be overwhelming. When my girls played on all-female teams, I noticed more focus on how tall they were, how much they weighed, or how they dressed. Once we switched to mixed-gender teams, the focus became less apparent because of everyone’s uniqueness.
Statistics show that girls are less likely to participate in sports as they grow. For many girls, self-awareness increases as they reach their teen years. I’ve watched how enrolling my daughters in mixed-gender sports has helped them build a positive self-image.
One of my girls brought up a vital point to me after her hockey practice one evening. She said although she complains about attending practice sometimes, she always feels better once she goes. My daughter recognizes how much better she feels physically and emotionally when playing with her friends of all genders. She’s proud of how she plays on a mixed-gender team and feels confident in her ability to play with all kids her age.
Unfortunately, when my daughters played on female-only teams, they experienced distinct friendship groups that segregated teammates based on observed popularity. This dynamic was less prominent for them when participating in sports with kids of all genders. They felt less influence to conform to peer pressure and didn’t observe the strong cliques they saw in all-female sports.
Gender equality has been an issue worldwide for decades. One advantage I’ve seen with my girls in mixed-gender sports is the camaraderie between teammates. My girls built strong connections with their peers, regardless of gender. They saw others as equals, promoting gender equality within their age group.
It’s also beneficial for all teammates to see my girls as equals while playing and outside the sports arena. Building gender equality comes from all aspects of life, including children’s recreational sports. This foundation helps create a better environment for all children to grow up with. In my oldest daughter’s case, playing on an all-inclusive team fueled her competitive nature and helped her become a better teammate.
Choosing an all-gender team for your girl can help establish a positive baseline as they grow, like mine did. It could be worth a conversation with your daughter about trying out a mixed-gender team this year.