Gender Stereotyping & Gender Binary in Sports

It’s been an exciting start to the school year. We recently completed our Disc Unit, which includes games like Hot Box, Ultimate, Kan Jam and Frisbee Bocce. Students spent time developing their disc handling skills and their ability to transition quickly from offense to defense and vice versa. They also embraced good sportsmanship during Ultimate by honoring the “spirit of the game” and calling their own fouls.

6th Grade Frisbee Palooza

Our current unit is Flag Football , an invasion game that is offered as an after-school, coed sport in the fall. At the beginning of the unit, my classes watched this short video produced by Nike, called The Girls of Gwinnett: Flag Football, and engaged in conversations about the influence of gender stereotyping in sports and what can be done to combat gender stereotyping. Students recognized that many sports and physical activities are more socially acceptable for girls, like ballet, gymnastics and cheer leading and that some are more socially acceptable for boys, like football, rugby and skateboarding.

Students also discussed how sport’s teams are typically created for boys and/or for girls, and that our current structure isn’t inclusive for people who identify as non-binary. Many interesting ideas emerged about how to make organized sports more inclusive, including letting people who identify as non-binary choose which team they want to participate on and/or making teams based solely on skill, not gender. Recently, Holden Foreman, the Stanford Daily’s executive editor, wrote an article titled, “Gender in Sports: “Nobody’s really tried it any other way.” Even at Stanford, college athletes compete with a gender binary.” that illustrates the challenges collegiate athletes face who identify as non-binary.

I’m hoping next year students are inspired to play for our school’s flag football team after we complete this unit, as Gateway didn’t field a team this year due to lack of interest. From learning how to handle failure and take risks, to growing one’s self-confidence and mental fortitude, participation on a sport’s team can be a pivotal experience in a young person’s life. As my student’s acknowledged, every child, of every gender identity, deserves a place on a team, and until we serve all children who want to play, our work is not done. Perhaps Gateway, and the sport league we participate in, can make our league more inclusive by making our flag football teams all-gender instead of co-ed?

And finally, thank you to all who were able to participate this year in Bring Your Parents to P.E.! Your presence is what makes this a special event, and the students love engaging in play with all of you. For those of you who couldn’t make it, we missed you and hope you can join us next year.

7th Grade Bring Your Parents to P.E.!

In health and wellness,

Kirsten