Third-year Sophie Harper grew up playing recreational baseball, with her father coaching her team. “There were a good amount of girls playing, until I turned eleven, and then I became the only girl on the team,” said Harper. “I didn’t mind because I was good and got along with the boys. I didn’t see anything wrong with me playing baseball with the boys.” When it was time to move up a division, Harper was placed in a lower level bracket. “I always kind of knew it was because I was a girl, but I never had any proof,” she said. Years later, Harper was informed there was a mother of a boy who requested Harper not be allowed to play. “The parents told the coach that they didn’t want a girl in the team because they didn’t want me to take their son’s position,” said Harper. She then started playing softball, as the baseball experience was ruined for her.
While local recreational centers are not always in favor of boys and girls playing on the same team, there has been progress in integrating girls into Little League Baseball. Mo’ne Davis played in the 2014 Little League Baseball World Series for the Mid-Atlantic team and broke a number of records. Davis was the first African-American girl ever to play in the Little League World Series, and performed extremely well, making her the first girl to earn a win and pitch a shutout in Little League World Series history. Davis was also the first Little League player to cover a Sports Illustrated issue.
While Davis is just one example of a girl’s capability to play baseball, the gender disparity among the sport is still extremely high. There has never been a female Major League Baseball player, only 18 girls have ever played in Little League Baseball, and there is still a struggle to accept girls in local recreational centers. However, making children’s sports co-ed would benefit all players.
Recreational sports for children are often separated by gender. However, these sports should be co-ed because when professional teams are separated, the women’s teams often get a lower budget, worse equipment, and receive less media coverage in professional sports. While in recreational sports children are responsible for bringing their own equipment and games are not televised, there are still negative effects from being seperated. Children begin to understand gender stereotypes around the ages of nine to eleven, which is when they would be involved in said sports. Having them play on the same team exposes them to other genders, which curbs the idea that girls are not athletic and which promotes healthy friendship among teammates.
Dividing sports by gender in high school – and college – level athletics often results in the women’s teams receiving less funding, as collegiate football teams typically receive the most funding yet only offer the sport to men. A journal article published in Political Research Quarterly states that “Women athletes, as well as men who are aware of broader patterns of gender inequality in society, are conscious of these unequal distributions within their own athletic departments.”
There is no need to separate children’s recreational sports based on gender. Children of that age are of equal development, and are capable of the same skill levels. Denying girls the ability to play the sports they wish could play causes a lack of interest in athletics altogether, which is a problem as women are already under represented in athletics.