Ladies: Stop Putting Yourself in Goal

ladies-of-polo

If there is one thing that I see consistently in bike polo (besides PBR cans, ill-fitting shirts and a healthy disregard for authority figures), it’s the 2 guy, one gal team wherein the gal is kept in goal.

I saw it at the Eastside Thaw, I saw it at Masters, and I see it during pickup here in Lancaster, at times ( though Sabrina is pretty much an iron curtain in goal, really). At the end of the day, female players are often relegated to defending the goal while male players run the ball across the court.

And I want you, guys, to knock it off. And I want you, gals, to stop letting that shit happen.

ESPIs Seven 2012 (98)Now, there are some ladies who this simply won’t happen to because they are some of the strongest bike polo players out there, or they don’t feel inclined to listen to guys who suggest it, but I feel like putting the girl in goal is an expected, accepted way to play. What happens, however, is we create players who aren’t willing or able to step out from that position and play the rest of the court–and that’s probably the worst thing you can do to another player.

I’ve written about the subject of women in bike polo before, as you know, and as such you’re aware that part of the reason I find bike polo so much fun is that we’re co-ed. However, I think it’s just as important to recognize that women are treated differently in our sport by guys–fundamentally in the manner I’m discussing here. For whatever reason, we’re more likely to have a new guy player come out of goal and try his hand at shooting the ball than we are a female player. We’re more likely to put a female player in the goal at a tourney than we are a guy player. It’s silly, and I am making a call for everyone to stop doing it.

2013-10-06 15.33.25One of our newest players, Emilie, is–wait for it–a woman. The first thing I told her as we were driving to pickup was to not let anyone put her in goal unless she wanted to try it out for a game. Whenever I saw her in that position, I’d ask her if she wanted to switch out or take the ball–anything but remain the goalie. I didn’t want to foster the idea in her head that she was expected to take the goal as a rule, and so far she’s proven to be a machine at locking down plays and disrupting shots on goal (we’ve started calling her the Emforcer, if that helps illustrate how well she’s doing now).

What it comes down to is expectation vs. reality. We can have the expectation that a female player would be more comfortable staying out of the thick of a polo pileup, but in reality a female player is only different from a male player in that she has some different body parts. Reality is that very few people always want to be in goal, so instead of assuming it, or demanding it, or accepting it, help grow the sport by pulling your female players out from goal, or by telling your male players that you’re not going to be playing that position in this game.

There is no reason that women should be passive in bike polo, and there is certainly no reason we as a sport should accept assigning gender roles to how people should consider the skill set of other people.

I’d effing love to get some ladies perspectives on this: experience, disagreements, whatever. Lemme know what you’ve come across.

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17 comments

  1. Mike says:

    Matt,
    I’m sure that you are aware that this is not the only sport that has this kind of… discrimination. I play on a beer league softball team that is co-ed and requires at least two female players on the field. Throughout the league, with very few exceptions (and I would argue those are from position experienced players), they are regulated to playing catcher, right field, or second base. The logic, from my point of view, is that those positions (less so 2nd base) are safer to fill with players that lack skill and/or strength that is needed in other spots.

    The argument is, however, how does one gain playing experience if not allowed to play in those positions. It is a catch-22.

    The more pressing issue comes in when as a coach/captain/team leader, I have to choose between the risk of losing the game and being gender neutral. In the end, the decision (and the consequences are mine to carry), but I do have a duty to the team to make the best decisions for success.

    What do I do?

  2. Sam says:

    Mike, you will likely lose some games in the short term. That’s kinda how it should be. If you have players with less skill for whatever reason (like being limited to positions that don’t allow much participation), you’re gonna lose some games due to their lack of skill UNTIL their skill improves. Your goal is to have a solid, well rounded team in the long run, right?

  3. Emily says:

    This is what happened to me. I spent about a year in goal, and am now struggling to make up the gap between my defensive and offensive skills. Newer players seem to be facing this less and less as play style has changed to depend more on effective goalie cycling.

  4. Annie Gunks says:

    Thank you for writing this. Polo ladies are awesome because you have women who are willing to throw down hard with the dudes, but for some reason there are still some of us who uphold that proven stat (through legit research) that women are less willing to participate unless invited (in so many things). We just don’t inject ourselves into the action. I’m guilty of this. I’ll admit it. Also, I’m way more stoked to get encouragement for blocking a killer shot on goal than I am to get scoffed at when I mess up catching a pass/making a shot on goal. I’m working on my non goalie skills though and itching to play more polo to keep getting better (someone please give Cville a court).
    So yea, there are two sides, everyone needs to encourage ladies to get out more and ladies need to put themselves out more. Positive actions on both sides, like you said.

  5. Emforcer says:

    My love for polo has blossemed rapidly thanks to the gentlemen and one fierce dame I play with. “Crusher” broke it down for me at my first game. Rule number one, Don’t be a dick. If you play dirty expect to get it back and don’t let anyone stick you in goalie unless you want to. Nobody puts baby in the cor.. I mean goalie.
    I have had the oppurtunity to work on my skills in every position. I enjoy a rounded experience every time I play. And I am thankful that when I felt inadequate my team helpfully nudged me out of my comfort zone to become a better polo player. Thank you.

  6. Erica Compton says:

    I don’t need men telling me as a female player how to play polo. I played goal for over a year on a team with two boys who were much stronger than me offensively. But playing this role enabled me to play against and with people who taught me everything I know about slaying offensively now.

  7. Megan says:

    Nice article, but your title might not want to be an order to the ladies as though we are the only culprit in our marginalization.

    • Crusher says:

      Agreed. However I am using the title to draw in readers (like how Mashable might say “your dog is cheating on your cat,” though the actual article is about how dogs assume pack order with other pets or somesuch. Seems to have worked.

      Though, between you and I, I rewrote the title a few times for fear of offending/disenfranchising someone, which apparently I still failed at.

  8. Rob says:

    Can we (bike polo) all agree to stop saying ladies all the time?

  9. […] Polo recently published an articled called “Ladies: Stop Putting Yourself in Goal,” which for the most part I think is really awesome. In fact, I have been mulling over writing an […]

  10. Charlotte says:

    In general I super agree with everything you said. In fact, I just wrote a response on my blog that basically says ‘yes. read this.’

    My two comments are 1. I think it’s important to recognize that there are more than just two gendered folks that play polo, and to make sure that we’re inclusive to people who don’t fit into women/men gender categories. 2. I also think it’s important to be explicit that the burden of shifting this culture shouldn’t entirely be placed on women (as the title would suggest, and as someone else commented, and you responded, and blah blah blah) – just sayin.

    • Crusher says:

      Agreed and agreed. My lack of noting other gender defined folks is simply a matter of laziness and not disregard.

      And yes, the title, as you saw, blah blah.

      Thanks for reading and writing about this on your blog. I’m going to go read it now.

  11. […] out Lancaster’s article and let all of information soak into your mind grapes. Ladies: Stop Putting Yourself in Goal by Matt […]

  12. revphil says:

    nice work! Its been on my mind for a long, long time. (like older than scoop shots)

    it makes me want to see a tournament (2 guys 1 gal) where she is not allowed to play back

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