All’s fair in game and sport?

Lisa Williston, Staff Writer

May 8, 2016

Rules in coed leagues could be hindering competition and undermining women’s athleticism.

Sports have been known to bring people together, and though coed sports can certainly unify men and women on a field, it may be dividing them using guidelines that rank the sexes’ athleticism on separate scales.

Coed sports often have rules giving advantages to women and restricting men in order to make the competition fair, but for the ladies that dominate, this could undermine their athletic ability.

For example, in most Orange County coed soccer leagues, women’s points count for double and men cannot touch the ball more than three times before they either pass or shoot. Generally in these leagues, men also cannot kick the ball past the goal line; they have to dribble it to the goal.

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Ashley Gonzales
Long Beach State's Ashley Gonzales, pushes the ball pass a UC Riverside defender on Thursday during the Big West Tournament at Titan Stadium in Fullerton, Calif. LBSU scored a goal against UCR in overtime to put the team in the title matchup which will be held on Sunday.

Michael Ares | Daily 49er file photo 2015

“[It] makes me feel relieved,” said coed soccer participant JeniRose Morales about the rules.

Although Morales feels that she can compete on the same level as the boys, she says that the restrictions on men are used for women’s safety on the field. And she speaks from experience. After being hit in the head by a soccer ball kicked by a man on an opposing team, Morales suffered damage to one of her corneas.

Robert Souders, who plays forward and goalie on a coed indoor soccer team in the city of Orange, believes the rules are in place to keep women interested in playing.

“It’s almost an incentive to keep them in the game,” Souders said. “If they feel they’re not doing well and they score, because their points count for double, it gives them that endurance to keep playing.”

Souders said his friend plays in a coed soccer league without those rules, but it has very few female players. Souders thinks it is because the games aren’t as fun for the women. He feels that because the men aren’t required to involve the women by passing the ball after three touches, they are left ignored and unable to participate.

Laura Fauvor has played on coed basketball, hockey and baseball teams and does not think women should be given advantages.

“There are plenty of men who are bad at sports who wouldn’t get that advantage either,” Fauvor said.

Joining a public, coed team does not require any try-outs. A player just needs to pay the fee to join a team or gather a group together to pay a collective price for the whole team. This makes for a variety of skill levels.

Souders said that given a scenario where a man was not good at a sport and smaller in size, compared to him, he would have no problem shoving him around, but said it would be different if that person were a girl.

“If you do play hard on a girl, in my experience, they usually go straight to the ground,” Souders said. “And then everyone looks at you funny.”

Coed sports should be based on skill level so that either side does not get any specific advantages or disadvantages, said Jeffrey Ambas, a former Marina high school wrestler.

Ambas has had to wrestle women and said that their abilities were just as good as his, if not better.

“I feel like [coed rules] hinder the playing field because the people who are restricted in playing don’t get better and the ones who are getting the help aren’t helping themselves because they are not playing with realistic goals,” Ambas said.

Jamie Perez, a former coed basketball player, said that these rules reinforce the stigma that all men are more athletic than women.

“Coed teams are beneficial to both women and men players because they get to push themselves and learn new ways of playing the game,” Perez said.

In softball, if a woman pitching walks a man, he is allotted two bases instead of one. This assumes the woman on the mound walked him because she was afraid that the man would hit a homerun, said Bree Petrilla, a former Costa Mesa coed softball player.

“This rule pretty much assumes all men are great hitters, which is kind of ridiculous,” Petrilla said.

Petrilla now plays in a traditionally all-men’s league in Irvine because she feels that she plays just as well as, if not better, than the men. However, she understands why some of those rules are in place for coed leagues.

“Although I consider myself an athletic woman and would like to believe that women can be just as good as men in sports, the reality is that the majority of men are taller, stronger and faster than women,” Petrilla said.

According to Petrilla, the rules are set up in order for women to have a chance to play because there are a lot of “jerks” on the field that assume females are not good players.

Petrilla played on a coed volleyball team at Cal State Long Beach when she was in college about four years ago and said that her experience was not that fun, considering she had to play with a men’s height net.

She said that particular coed league did not have any special rules for women and men, which caused the males to take over games and not allow the females to hit the ball.

The fact that she was unable to compete with the men was frustrating for Petrilla and so she quit the league.

“That is not to say I can’t kick certain guys’ butts on the tennis court or on the softball field, but in general, men have a biological advantage over women,” Petrilla said. “These rules allow women the chance to be involved even if their skills are not as good as men.”

And even though Morales also believes the coed rules even out the playing field, she still thinks women are the tougher sex.

“Now do a piece on giving birth and women take that hands down.”