‘She Kicks Like a Girl’

Ronald Hanaki
Sports Editor

On Mar. 24, Dr. Paula Parker, chair of the Sport Management Department, gave a presentation
entitled “She Kicks Like a Girl: A Conversation About Women and Sport” inside the Beers Lecture Hall.

Prior to showing a short movie, Dr. Parker asked the audience, “What does it mean to kick like a girl?”

Then Parker showed a film called “Kick Like a Girl” by Jenny Mackenzie. Mackenzie is a former social worker turned documentary filmmaker.

Mackenzie also coached her youngest daughter Lizzie’s soccer team, the Mighty Cheetahs.

Her daughter’s soccer team never lost to another girls’ team. The Cheetahs were such a dominant
team that it was decided that they should be able to compete with the boys’ teams.

The basic premise behind the request was that the girls from Mackenzie’s soccer team were not learning anything by consistently dominating other girls’ teams.

The Mighty Cheetahs needed a challenge. They had to play the boys’ soccer teams.

Naturally, the parents of the young girls were concerned about the possibility of injuries as boys may play rougher, but Mackenzie’s request for the girls’ team to play the boys’ teams was approved.

Mackenzie’s film chronicles her daughter’s team’s experiences playing the boys’ teams.

One girl on the team said, “We’re like a family. We’re like sisters.”

There is a girl on the team who is diabetic. She said, “We feel like superheroes, and we can conquer anything.”

“I want to raise money for a cure for diabetes and asthma.”

“I was four years old when I was diagnosed. Diabetes does not affect my soccer play at all. I can do anything I want with or without diabetes,” said the girl.

Dan Freigang, who is a sports psychologist for the U.S. National Team, is featured in the film.

“Boys are encouraged to take risks from a very young age, and girls traditionally have been protected more. Girls want to be able to cooperate – communicate, and they value the emotional component,” said Freigang.

“Now boys like that as well, but some of the cultural things come true that gets squashed out of the boys and gets reinforced in the girls,” said Freigang.

The Mighty Cheetahs played nine games against the boys’ teams and finished the season 5-2-2.

“I like that we played the boys. It taught me to pass a lot and play our positions and trust your teammates,” one girl said.

“Sometimes we beat the girls, and sometimes we lost. After a while, you get used to it [losing to girls],” said one boy.

Mackenzie’s daughter Lizzie said, “It was more fun playing challenging opponents. We didn’t win every game, but we had really good competition. It was definitely one of our best seasons ever.”

Another girl said, “I learned a lot playing boys, and I think the boys learned a lot, too.”

One of the mothers said, “There’s no doubt that these boys walk away feeling a completely different way about girls. That translates to the classroom, and it’s going to translate to the work experience, and they’re going to honor women in all different environments that they experience them in.”

Freigang said, “The rule of sport allows children to develop identity. Who am I? What kind
of person am I? How should I treat other people?”

Freigang said, “What a child will remember is the friendships that they make. How they cope with learning a new skill and how they come back from a tough loss are the life skills that almost all achievers remember.”

“For the players, the part that doesn’t fade away is the relationship component,” added Freigang.

“If my friend says ‘you kick like a girl,’ I’ll say yeah. Thank you,” said one boy before the film ends.

After the movie was over, Parker lead a discussion about women and sport.

“Parents are the Catch-22. We need them to support and coach [girls], but they also need to remember that the purpose should be to educate,” said Parker.

“For girls seven, eight and nine years old, it should be about life skills. You can lose, and you are still going to survive,” said Parker.

“The film came out in 2008, and you have to remember that Title IX [enabling women to participate in collegiate sports] passed in 1972,” said Parker.

“Title IX was great at opening doors, but the ways to enforce Title IX are not the best. Title IX does not have to do with administration,” said Parker.

“We have to make sure that when coaches are being evaluated by players, sex or gender doesn’t come into play,” said Parker.

Nevertheless, Parker remained optimistic.

“I think there are enough opportunities for boys and girls to get involved in sports. But get involved for the right reasons,” stated Parker.

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