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.
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.
One 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.