A few weeks ago, the tween came to me and asked if she could join the wrestling team. They were having callouts with preseason conditioning, and she happens to be between sports. While my gut instinct was “Wrestling? No,” I couldn’t really think of a compelling reason why not.
Volleyball and softball had just ended; basketball doesn’t start until January. She has some free time, the exercise would be good for her, and she’s making straight As, so it wouldn’t be detrimental to her school work.
So I had to check myself and not share that initial reaction. I’ve spent years telling my girls they could be anything they want to be, do anything they’re willing to work hard at. I can’t follow that up with “except wrestling,” even if I’m not a fan. And so, my 10-year-old girl is on the middle school wrestling team with mostly 11-to 13-year-old boys.
And it cracks me up daily.
It isn’t about girls vs boys. It isn’t about a preconceived notion of what girls should be doing. It was about this girl. This “Princesses do not wear pants, Mom!” little girl who spent 6 straight years in dresses. This sporty tween who comes home sweaty and tired and stinky to shower, then don her pink sweatpants and sequined boots.
The idea that a girl just shouldn’t wrestle with boys never even crossed my mind. And then, this happened. Okay, I guess it did cross my mind briefly because before I said yes, I had emailed the coach to ask if it was coed, boys-only, or if there would be a girls’ team.
He said they have a girl on the team every 5-6 years, but it is coed, and they would love to see her try it out. His tone was completely welcoming, and I thought nothing more about it until we were attacked on twitter for “forcing our girl onto a boys’ sport.” And that’s when I did some research.
Because, of course I did. Last year, “8,235 girls were involved in wrestling in 1,441 high schools.” At the middle school level, I am sure those numbers go up, but I couldn’t find any information. I do know that there are now 4 girls on our middle school team. So it’s clearly not a “boys’ sport.”
It isn’t a boys-only sport. Sure, it’s mostly boys, but being male-dominated doesn’t mean my girl doesn’t belong. It’s just not really worth the fight. I’m never going to change some Internet stranger’s mind, but I won’t allow anyone to bully my kid into giving up something she loves.
If she wants to wrestle, she can wrestle. I’m not going to stand in her way — or allow anyone else to either, but I have to be careful about it. I don’t really want her to even have to deal with this part. She doesn’t care about starting a feminist movement. She isn’t there to prove she can make it in their world.
She just wants to try all the sports.
Sadly, there are a few schools in this area that won’t allow their boys to wrestle with girls, but she’s even okay with that. I told her she may have to miss a few meets, for lack of penis, and she just shrugged it off.
“Yeah, I know. There are also boys who go easy on me because I’m a girl, and they don’t want to hurt me. That’s when I slam them to the mat!”
And that is why my little girl is now a wrestler.