Girls bring game, boys are just jealous

By Jim DeBrosse

As a defensive midfielder, my 11-year-old daughter will lope around the soccer field, her shoulders stooped slightly in the way of her Grandma Schamel, until her eyes lock on an approaching ball. That's when her legs kick into high gear and, like a deer bounding for the cover of trees, there's no wasted motion anywhere on her thin frame. If she has a clean shot, she'll plant her left foot, bring the right leg around like a club and -- boom! -- the ball goes sailing with her daddy's heart riding on it.

My 15-year-old daughter, a goalie, is more like a terrier worrying a picket fence. She paces back and forth, watching warily, until the time comes to go for the ball and then she is fearless. So fearless she broke her collar bone last fall colliding with an oncoming player who dared enter her goalie box.

Yes, I'm the proud father of girl athletes. I was never much of an athlete myself, but I'm old enough to remember how frustrating it was in high school for my older sister Kathleen, who was athletic, to play "girls basketball" -- dribble three times then pass or shoot -- when what she really wanted to do was to race hell-bent for the basket.

Girls soccer? It was unheard of back then. Too rough, of course, for the female constitution. Please.

I know I'm weighing in late on the Don Imus affair, but what bothered me even more than the nasty racism of his comments was the disdain he showed for female athletes in general.

Some men, many of them older like Imus, are bothered (make that threatened) by women who can move faster, throw farther and jump higher than they ever could.

Other men dismiss women's sports as inconsequential and unworthy of attention. I confess I fell into this category (oink, oink) until I had daughters.

As a high school tennis player, I scoffed at women pros like Chris Evert, always banging away at the baseline and never, ever coming to the net. (Had I been on the same court as Evert, however, the pace on her baseline shots would have drilled a hole through my racket -- assuming I could touch them.)

Women's tennis wasn't worthy of the name, I'd grouse back then. And now I have Venus Williams to answer to. Have mercy.

Gender equity in sports, though dictatorial and impractical at times thanks to Title IX, has nonetheless been a quiet victory for women -- a chance to experience their bodies as tools to be honed, not objects to be displayed.

A chance, like boys, to experience the high of having muscle and reflex perform the way you have trained them to, of being "in the zone," blissfully unaware of everything except your own speed, strength and coordination.

To my girls, and all girls, I say, you've come a long way, babies.

And don't let the jealous wagging tongues of old men discourage you.

DATE: June 1, 2007                                        PUBLICATION: Dayton Daily News (OH)

Copyright, 2007, Cox Ohio Publishing. All rights reserved.

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