Keep'er Fit

Gary Wallace

Don’t be a man, be a child

My latest read is a book called InSideOut Coaching – How Sports Can Transform Lives. There is an interesting chapter in it called Boys to Men and Girls to Women.

It tackles the current trends and stereotypes related to males and females playing sport and in society. The phrase ‘Man up’ or ‘Suck it up’ is a phrase I have used in the past while I’ve coached and even with my own son, but in refection was it the right message to be sending out?

Teaching young kids, especially males, that sport is a test of the masculinity and social structure is something, that without knowing, many coaches will do. The bigger stronger kids are sometimes perceived as the best and the coach applauds them for this while deflecting the not as developed children down the ranks.

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Even players who show athletic talent and skill are given higher preference. What is this teaching our young kids as they develop into manhood? The bigger stronger and more skilful you are then more success you will have?

Why not teach or provide a clear and compelling definition of what it really means to be a man who exhibits empathy, handwork, commitment, trustworthiness, friendships, respect and joy.

Are these not the qualities we should be praising our young kids for no matter what their athletic ability?

Unfortunately, this is a culture where masculinity is measured on size, strength, or a skill.

Men who have grown up attempting to define their masculinity through their athletic ability are set up for tremendous failure and frustration in life. They can’t just power through or brush people aside to keep moving forward and be successful in life.

As coaches, parents or teachers we should make more of an effort to commend those who show examples of commitment by never missing a training session, helping a team out or trying something they find difficult. Even better, if we show the kids through our own day-to-day habits these qualities.

When it comes to girls playing sport again there are stereotypes and labelling that we should be aware of.

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Sometimes it is the opposite to boys where masculinity is perceived as a negative thing. These girls get labelled as tom-boys or even homosexual. Rather than embrace their natural athletic ability and teach them how to channel it to break down stereotypes, enjoy playing sport and still be the women they want to be.

Female sport has also gone the other way by cashing in on female athletes’ physical looks rather than their physical ability.

Sport can play a huge role in building friendships, support, teamwork and self-belief.

Females can be sold the fairytale myth of – be good looking and kind, you’ll marry prince charming and live happily ever after.

But what if this doesn’t happen, does that mean that you have failed? Would we rather not teach our young females that life is full of ups and downs, and it’s up to you, how you recover from it with the help of others. Not that prince charming is going to come along and fix everything for you.

This is where I believe sport and coaches can play and role in both male and females overall development.

If you can be more of a reflective coach/teacher, question your methods and ask yourself is there ways I could do this better, it will help change you and the people you are working with for the better.

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