It's All for the Kids: Gender, Families, and Youth Sports

It's All for the Kids: Gender, Families, and Youth Sports

It's All for the Kids: Gender, Families, and Youth Sports

It's All for the Kids: Gender, Families, and Youth Sports

Synopsis

Today, in a world quite different from the one that existed just thirty years ago, both girls and boys play soccer, baseball, softball, and other youth sports. Yet has the dramatic surge in participation by girls contributed to greater gender equality? In this engaging study, leading sociologist Michael A. Messner probes the richly complex gender dynamics of youth sports. Weaving together vivid first-person interviews with his own experiences as a volunteer for his sons' teams, Messner finds that despite the movement of girls into sports, gender boundaries and hierarchies still dominate, especially among the adults who run youth sports. His book widens into a provocative exploration of why youth sports matter--how they play a profound role in shaping gender, class, family, and community.

Excerpt

When I tell people that I’m writing a book on adults’ involvement in youth sports, they frequently raise their eyebrows, chuckle, and mutter something about how “crazy” parents are getting these days. Then they rub their hands together and wait expectantly to hear my horror stories: a bat-wielding dad who attacks his son’s baseball coach; a coach’s arterybursting tirade at a soccer referee; a dad publicly humiliating his child, who has failed to lay down a sacrifice bunt. But the thing is, during my seven years of observing youth sports, I never saw any physical violence from adults, and I very rarely witnessed a parent or a coach verbally “losing it.” Instead, most of what I witnessed was adults behaving in respectful and civil ways toward each other, and in supportive and constructive ways with the kids. The moments when a coach “lost it” after a bad play, or after an umpire’s call, stood out as memorable because they were so unusual.

The image of adults-behaving-badly at youth sports events is now a common part of our cultural lexicon. According to sociologists Stan . . .

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