Competing Like a Lady

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One time, many years ago, our family drove up to a summer basketball camp where Nate was participating. While there, we took a look around, and watched some of the action of a girls’ basketball camp, then still in progress. This was a Christian camp, and yet the girls were swaggering around on the court, slapping one another on the butt, and generally acting as unladylike as they could.

While having nothing against girls learning how to put a ball through a hoop, we have a great objection to girls learning anything from instruction that couldn’t care less about protecting and preserving their femininity.

Protecting femininity — when it comes to sports — has in the past been accomplished by keeping the girls as far away from the action as possible. This is putting femininity under a glass case in a museum. It is a porcelain doll femininity. It is a throwback to the era when horses would sweat, men would perspire, and women would glow.

But as soon as we learn how artificial and unnatural all that is, the tendency is to just throw girls into sports as though they were merely guys in a different weight class. Because aggressiveness is a key component in many sports, and because guys are naturally aggressive, it is not surprising that coaches of girls’ teams have directed them to imitate that one pre-existing model, expecting them to learn how to compete the same way the boys do.


You cannot simply line all the sports up, and then line up all the boys and girls who turned out, and then match them all up. The genius of certain sports favors women, and the genius of others favors the men. Some occupy the middle, with men and women both able to participate. But if they are both participating, they should be developing their own distinctives.

Sports that favor women would include things like figure skating or floor gymnastics. The men might be able to get more oommph into their triple axle, but it doesn’t matter. The women are still better. And besides male figure skaters have that nagging aura exuded by male ballet dancers. They might be as talented and as strong as all get out, but something is still, as the Spanish say, el wrongo.

Sports that favor the men lean to the overt tests of strength and speed. Some of them, like boxing or shot put, favor the men to the point of excluding any right-thinking women. In the middle, the sports should be allowed to develop in a way that fits the sexes — the difference between men’s lacrosse and women’s lacrosse comes to mind.

All the valuable things that boys learn — discipline, stamina, priorities — are things that girls learn from sports as well. It is important for them to learn, and they should have every opportunity. But this should be taken as a tool to help them grow into a confident and self-assured Christian lady. That means that lady-like characteristics should not be drilled out of them for the sake of a good win/loss record. Among those lady-like characteristics, incidentally, we have to remember to include modesty. The fact that we have forgotten ourselves, and the whole point of athletics for our daughters, can be seen in the assumption, even among Christians, that outlandish immodesty is okay, provided it is for the sake of beach volleyball, or less drag in the school swimming pool.

It might be easy to dismiss all this as based on nothing other than our cultural prejudices. But I don’t believe that is what is occurring at all. Run this thought experiment on yourself. Without mentioning any names, or pointing in any particular direction, say the phrase lesbian basketball coach to yourself. Does any particular profile come to mind? And do you want your daughter to look anything like that?

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