As the mother of a girl, nothing makes me sadder than that look people get in their eyes when someone brings up female sports. It's a sort of glazed look. You know the one I'm talking about. I can see it pretty clearly in my memory. I just can't see anyone using it about Holly Marschke.
She's 14. And yes, she's a she.
Holly Marschke is both the smallest player on her high school basketball team and the only girl, and yet she's also one of the team's stars.
So why did she come thisclose to not playing? Why else.
She's a girl.
Holly used to play on a girls team for the New York School for the Deaf. Then the team folded due to lack of participation. Holly could have switched to cheerleading, which is what several teammates did.
But her mom told the New York Times this past week that her daughter wanted no truck with cheerleading. It was b-ball or nothing. That's how she ended up as the only girl on the boys team. And the whole tale of how this little 14-year-old girl who has been deaf since birth has kicked butt since is just plain incredible.
She's lucky. I live in a small town where a girl on a boys team happens just once every few years. Never do those girls start.
And the token girl on a boys team is always a big story.
Kudos to all these little girls who break down barriers. But here's the problem: the story shouldn't be about them. At least, that shouldn't be the only story.
How about the story of why they end up on the boys teams in the first place? How about a look at why Title IX isn't always enough?
Sure, Holly's school could say they tried offering a girls' team but they couldn't sustain it. Legally, they fulfilled their obligations. But take one look at the Times article, and it's hard to imagine this girl doing anything but basketball. As her mom says, she's a kid who sleeps with her ball.
But in my experience, the threat of boys teams being cut, boys teams folding, spurs people to act. There are petitions and angry parents at board meetings. A girls team goes under, and it's all "eh, you could try cheerleading." The few girls who buck the system are then treated as anomalies.
Here's an idea: we stop treating these girls as "one off" miracles and start treating them like they are: athletes who just want to play a game. Maybe if girls saw playing on a guys team as "normal," when a girls team folds, they won't feel like they're supposed to settle for second best. They'll just go for it.
Would you let your daughter play on a boys team?
Image via Andrew Malone/Flickr