Friday, February 14, 2003

Soccer girls get the boot

By MIKE ULMER -- Toronto Sun

The boys used to heckle Katelyn Deputter and her London Supernova under-12 teammates whenever they stepped onto the soccer field. "Shouldn't you be doing your nails?" the boys would taunt. The talking would usually drop off after the Supernova's first couple of goals. Then things would get rough. "People say the boys would take it easy on us," Katelyn said. "But once they saw us play, I think they came out at us harder." Katelyn's season ended shortly after she scored her 60th goal of the season. A jarring tackle from a male opponent sent her off the pitch with a broken collarbone and a concussion. "Two players going hard for the ball," recalled her coach Geoff Painter. "A good hard tackle, but that is the game, after all." Not really. The tougher tackles come off the pitch. Presented with a glorious chance to use sport to promote healthy competition between boys and girls, the London and District Youth Soccer League has given the Supernova the boot. The girls team was kicked out of a boys bracket of the LDYSL, not so much because they were girls, but because they had the temerity to beat the boys. "We've had a girls team playing the last four years," Painter said. "But this is the first time we've had a winning record." WINNERS The girls went 15-3-4, finishing third in league. That, apparently, was the last straw for the rest of the league. Earlier this month, a 75% majority of club executives banned girls teams from playing boys teams, except in the lowest age brackets. League officials have said they did so because their governing body, the Ontario Soccer Association, shifted jurisdiction for this gender question to the local clubs. Steve Scott, the LDYSL president, told The Sun's sister paper, the London Free Press, the vote was forced by the Ontario Soccer Association's direction. "That's pretty clear to us, telling us that we have no choice but to air that at a meeting," Scott said. "We are not doing our job at the executive level if we don't take care of it." Fair enough. What's infinitely more difficult to fathom is why the girls were banned. The Supernovas were so good, they outscored opponents 33-0 en route to the Ontario Cup. Games against local girls their own age often ended in double-digit routs with their opponents unable to muster a shot on goal. "It wasn't good for our girls, it wasn't good for the other team's girls," said Katelyn's mother, Gail. "No one was happy with it." It's not as if the gender line is never crossed. If a girl is good enough, she is welcome on a boys team. The Supernovas could easily place their best players on boys sides but doing so would deny the girls the chance to play and develop together. "That would mean that in this region of the province there would effectively be no elite girls program," Painter said. "Yes, we could distribute all our girls but imagine that happening with a boys rep hockey team. Imagine telling those kids and their parents they all had to go back to house league." So, as they have done for years, the Supernovas took on the boys. The problem is, they won. "It's a societal thing," Gail Deputter said. "The boys couldn't handle, or their parents couldn't handle, getting beat by girls." Members of the LDYSL didn't return phone calls but the voting was summed up nicely in the Free Press by Aldo Caranci, who voted to drum the girls out on behalf of the London United Soccer Club. Allowing girls, he said, "wrecks the whole game for the boys. It's inbred that you're careful with girls. You don't want to hurt them. It's very intimidating for boys to challenge a girl." And so the double standard is set for the Supernova. Win, and you've shamed the boys into going easy on you. If they injure you, as a boy did to Katelyn Deputter, it's proof that you can't handle the rough going. Lose, reinforce the idea that boys are better than girls, and you will be left alone. "I think it's just really dumb," Katelyn said. "We can play on boys teams, but a team of girls can't play in a boys league. What's the difference?"


Post a Comment

<< Home