Should Girls Play Football … Why Not?

Pardon my complete lack of tact here. But to the question of Should Girls Play Football the only answer I could come up with was somewhat sarcastic, ok really sarcastic.

As a lifetime athlete, coach, and Soldier, I have seen women in positions that they have never filled before, and they do it quite well. The U.S. Army now has 4 women that are Army Ranger qualified–another first. The NFL has its first female referee, girls a playing football quite successfully all across the country.

When I grew up, it was an emphatic NO. In fact, it wasn’t even considered, at least to my knowledge. When we played soccer on the playground I can only remember a few girls that played, and never football or even baseball for that matter.

But like I said above, this is the 21st century, and girls play football. At the youth level, pretty much any position can be filled by a girl; but at the higher levels–high school and college–you will primarily find young women playing skill positions and Kicker specifically, especially the college level.

To be clear, my purpose here is NOT to debate whether or not girls should play youth football–the fact is they do. My purpose is to simply lay out some considerations for Coaches, Parents, and Players alike, specifically address some “myths” about girls playing football.

Girls Aren’t Strong Enough, Aren’t Big Enough

This may actually be the strongest argument against girls playing football. Physiologically, it is simple fact that males have more muscle fiber than females, hence able to develop more muscle mass. But that’s the end of the argument.

At the youth level, boys and girls muscle mass development is about the same. And it is at this level that ALL players are learning proper technique. Properly taught/coached, technique applied, disparities disappear.

Girls simply fall into the same categories as boys: How fast can they run? How quick are they off the ball? How high can they jump? How elusive are they? How far can they throw? How accurately can they throw? Can they hold on to the ball?

Boys Will Grope Them

Not likely at this age. Later in life this could become an issue, I would say more so in high school or college. But I would say by that time, girls would have become more adept, more bold, and more effective at defending themselves. Also, this is where parents and coaches come in; they have to make sure that ALL players, not just girls, feel safe to bring these types of issues to light.

Sadly, this particular problem is not just limited to girls, the real issue is kids in general. I would add that girls that have the confidence and mental toughness to step on the field with boys, will have less of a problem in this area than their parents and coaches.

To ignore this as a possibility would be foolish, but to stand on it would be to ignore that the issue exists for boys and girls alike.

Can’t Compete

Poppycock! I like that word. Anyway, I’ve seen quite a few girls playing youth football and they do just fine. They have the same issues as boys: too shy, afraid to hit, afraid of being hit, get nervous, they can’t see out of their helmet, you name it; but these are all common problems, not girl problems.

I’ve seen girls that are weak players and girls that are outstanding players…same as boys. Check out the internet and you’ll find girls at all levels having outstanding football careers.

Honestly, the biggest issue with competing for girls is hair. Yes, hair. Everything on your person is fair game, you can be tackled by your hair, kind of like a jersey that isn’t tucked in.

But as far as girls not being as good at athletics, not being able to keep up, don’t have the same skill level, I say again Poppycock!

Girls Are More Easily Injured

Nope. There is no empirical evidence that girls get injured any more than boys do. Honestly, girls have the same issues in this area with determining what is pain and what is an injury. And as I’ve said before, this is where parents and coaches have to help them navigate through it.

Everybody that plays football gets bruises, everybody. But is a bruise an injury? Is a bruise a reason not to play? Is a cut a reason not to play? These questions are not limited to girls.

The age-old dilemma of whether something is just pain, is it an injury, is it something the child can or should play with, or should he/she come out of the game, exists equally for boys and girls. Dealing with kids, boys or girls, is always tough in this area.

Dads tell their kids “get up your fine”, Moms tell their kids “awww, come to Mommy”. Not necessarily so. And dealing with pain, be it for a girl or a boy, is taught by parents and coaches.

In Truth

Currently it is estimated that about 25,000 girls are playing youth football across the United States today, and that number is on the rise. More and more girls are entering the game every year.

The issues I’ve laid out above are going away thanks to the girls who have gone before them and laid waste to a lot of these thoughts, but it can still be hard, especially as a parent.

As boys learn to deal with a lot of the issues mentioned above, those issues disappear by and large. Many of the divides between boys and girls–later men and women–are being breached by girls that simply love the game.

In my former life/profession, women are becoming U.S. Army Rangers, I have no problem accepting that girls can play football.

But can the Coaches and Parents get past our old schools of thought regarding the separation of genders in sports.

Should Girls Play Football … Why Not?





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13 Comments on “Should Girls Play Football … Why Not?”

  1. Thank you for writing such an empowering article. I wanted to play football so bad when i was a little girl, but my parents would have none of it. I am happy to hear that so many young girls/women are getting the opportunity to play!

  2. Dads tell their kids “get up your fine”, Moms tell their kids “awww, come to Mommy”. LOL. That one comment made me laugh. Thank you for this honest review. I, too, grew up dealing with these stereotypes. I wasn’t introduced strongly to sports as a child. I wish I knew how to play softball and volleyball better (we grew up playing those). As a result, now as an adult, I shy away from those sports.

    Again, thank you for this.

  3. I grew up a tomboy and I loved playing football and basketball with the boys. That was a lot more fun than dolls, that is for sure. My brother wasn’t too keen on it, because I encroached on his friends LOL. I think it is great that girls play. But I also think that if they are going to play, that they be treated the same as the boys. Is this an issue?

    1. In my opinion, it will take awhile before it is not an issue. I have 2 daughters, I know I would have let them play if they wanted to, but it would have been one of the hardest things I’d ever done. But girls are breaking that barrier down as we type, and they are doing very well.

  4. Fantastic I really mean fantastic article. When I played youth football a girl ya right. Let me tell you it was the first season a girl played and her name I’ll never forget Leia Russik she put a lot of boys in the league on their rears and proved girls could compete in football. If a girl wants to play then let her play I agree at that age they’re just as developed as boys and if injured would be no different than a boy.
    Again fantastic article.

    1. I think the old “barriers” are coming down. But I think the real issue at this point is just interest by girls in general. But girls like Sam Gordon will definitely peak little girls interest, check her out on youtube, she’s phenomenal!

  5. Great article! My great-niece is the only girl playing on her team in our little town. She has just started 3rd grade, and absolutely loves the game of football.

    I grew up in a small town in Illinois and was the only girl to play Little League Baseball in the 1960s. It certainly helped that my dad was the one to get the League started. And, I did get a lot of grief and only learned recently that girls were actually banned from Little League until the mid 70s! Sure glad we didn’t get much TV ‘News’ back then.

    Being part of a team taught me to be a team player, how to lose, how to win, how to take criticism, how to fight through pain, and how to LOVE the game of Baseball. It’s terribly unfair to not allow girls to participate in team sports…

    1. It’s funny that the biggest issues people seem to have with girls playing football are completely irrelevant from a player or coach’s perspective. If a girl can’t block, or tackle, or run the ball because she’s too small or weak or whatever, she doesn’t get as much playing time; conversely, if she can, then she gets more–it’s pretty simple. A coach’s job is to put the best team on the field that he can, and at the youth level, to get every player as much experience as possible to help every player move up to the next level. Girls, boys, doesn’t really matter; they are all Football Players.

  6. I love this article! I don’t think there should be a question of who can play, If you want to play ,do it! Just be safe and have fun playing. When I was younger I loved playing sports, it really didn’t matter what it was as long as a ball was part of the game!

  7. Yes indeed they should be allowed. I have coached many girls over the years in hockey. A lot of my players came from the boys league, or continued to play in both boy and girls leagues. They competed just fine. In fact if you did know they were girls, they fit right in with the boys.

    I wanted to play football when I was younger, it was unheard of back then but my dad was willing to fight for me to be allowed to play. My mother on the other hand freaked. So I went and play hockey in a generation where the girls and womens leagues were full on contact. I survived that find.

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