Football is one of the most popular sports in the ASL middle school to play but for one gender it is much less popular. You would only have to observe the seventh and eighth-grade teams to realize the dramatic imbalance in participation between the two genders. This season, nine seventh-grade girls and 11 eighth-grade girls tried out for football, compared to the 22 seventh grade boys and 35 eighth grade boys who tried out for the same sport. In fact, the boys had so many players that an additional team was created for each grade, while the girls hardly had enough players to field one team per grade.
One factor that could contribute to this imbalance is the way in which football is promoted in our community. The idea that football is a men’s sport has existed for centuries; however even today the number of female role models in the sport is lacking, and football is not nearly as effectively promoted towards girls as it is towards boys. “I’m really surprised by how few of my friends play (football),” said seventh-grader Sara Kim, captain of the seventh-grade girl’s football team. “Most girls I talk to say they tried out for volleyball or field hockey instead.”
Football is so heavily encouraged towards boys from the recreational level to professional level, it is no wonder why so many choose to pursue the sport while girls feel inclined to take up other sports that they feel are encouraged of them, such as volleyball or field hockey.
“I think some girls just aren’t interested in (football), though,” Kim said.
Kim pointed out that many girls didn’t try out for football because they never had any experience in the sport before. Because of this, many girls also lack confidence. However, the best way to build confidence at anything is to practice and take risks immersing yourself in the activity. Playing a sport in middle school is an opportunity to develop skills in a sport and improve in ways that you couldn’t have before. However, stretching out of your comfort zone to this extent is difficult and as far as confidence and comfort levels go, having prior experience in football would definitely encourage more girls to try out.
The problem, however, is that there are very few football programs that are directed specifically towards girls. Where she used to live in Washington D.C., seventh-grader Rudi Chamria said that almost all of the girls she knew were on football teams, and the sport was very popular at her school. “When I moved here though, I noticed that there just aren’t many teams for girls,” Rudi added. Whether it is because football is still mainly encouraged as a men’s sport in England or there just aren’t enough girls interested in football, having sufficient opportunities in football for girls at younger ages is crucial, and it is a matter which needs to be addressed.
Establishing more developmental and competitive youth programs that are dedicated to girls, in particular, is a critical part of getting more girls to play football. In addition to improving girls’ confidence, establishing more female football programs would increase the sport’s popularity among girls and encourage others to try out the sport.
The imbalance of girls playing football compared to boys is not a pattern that is only apparent at ASL; it is an issue which needs to be addressed worldwide. Getting more girls playing football is so important not only for the development of the sport itself, which has a significantly male-dominated history but it is also an ideal opportunity to encourage young girls to immerse themselves in a team activity which strengthens their character and emboldens their self-confidence.