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It’s All for the Kids

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

MICHAEL A. MESSNER
Copyright Date: 2009
Edition: 1
Pages: 288
https://www.jstor.org/stable/10.1525/j.ctt7zw37f
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  • Book Info
    It’s All for the Kids
    Book Description:

    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.

    eISBN: 978-0-520-94345-2
    Subjects: Sociology

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. Illustrations
    (pp. ix-x)
  4. Preface
    (pp. xi-xvi)
  5. Acknowledgments
    (pp. xvii-xx)
  6. ONE “It’s All for the Kids”: GENDER, FAMILIES, AND YOUTH SPORTS
    (pp. 1-23)

    Back in 1995, when we arrived at our six-year-old son Miles’s first soccer practice, I was delighted to learn that his coach was a woman. Coach Karen, a mother in her mid-thirties, had grown up playing lots of sports. She was tall, confident, and athletic, and the kids responded well to her leadership. “Great, a woman coach!” I observed cheerily. “It’s a new and different world than the one that I grew up in.” But over the next twelve years, as I traversed with Miles, and eventually with his younger brother Sasha, a few more seasons of AYSO (American Youth...

  7. TWO “Looking for a Team Mom”: SEPARATING THE MEN FROM THE MOMS
    (pp. 24-49)

    When we asked a longtime Little League Softball manager, Albert Riley, why he thinks most of the head coaches are men while nearly all of the team parents are women, he said with a shrug, “They give opportunities to everybody to manage or coach and it just so happens that no women volunteer, you know?” Soccer coach Shelley Parsons saw a certain inevitability to this adult division of labor: “The women always volunteer to be the team moms, the women have always volunteered to make the banners, and the dads have always volunteered to be the refs and the assistant...

  8. THREE “We Don’t Like Chick Coaches”: WOMEN AT THE HELM
    (pp. 50-93)

    Barbara Jones, a self-described “full-time mom” currently coaching a boys’ under-8 soccer team and serving as a South Pasadena AYSO board member, initially laughed when we asked her why she thinks there aren’t more women coaches in the league. “Ha! Yeah, we don’t like chick coaches in South Pasadena!” But immediately following her tongue-in-cheek quip, her voice turned more serious, and she listed several possible explanations:

    I think, socialization-wise, probably there are more men who grew up with sports. There are less women. I think women are also busier, you know, I think in a lot of relationships it’s hard...

  9. FOUR “You Don’t Have to be a Drill Sergeant”: MEN AT THE HELM
    (pp. 94-136)

    Women coaches tend to contrast their own struggles with a view of men coaches as almost uniformly “confident,” even when the men lack coaching and/or athletic playing experience. While there is some truth to this perception, my observations and interviews reveal a wider range of experiences among the men coaches. We will see in this chapter that some men coaches, in fact, struggle to muster the self-confidence needed to become a coach. And as the composite field note and interview segment with Will Solomon that opens this chapter suggests, some men, like many of the women coaches, have to grapple...

  10. FIVE “They’re Different—and They’re Born Different”: ENGENDERING THE KIDS
    (pp. 137-171)

    Underlying the “everyone plays” philosophy at the heart of AYSO and Little League Baseball/Softball is the assumption that there are benefits for kids—healthy exercise, social development, building self-confidence, and having fun—that every kid has a right to. Every single coach we interviewed said that there was value in sports participation for kids. Doug Berger was happy that his daughter had played many years of soccer: “As my daughter gets older, I appreciate more and more the physical health it’s given her. I mean, she’s in great shape—she does cross country, she does track—you know, she does...

  11. SIX “It’s a Safe and Fun Place for Kids”: YOUTH SPORTS, FAMILIES, AND THE GOOD COMMUNITY
    (pp. 172-206)

    Community rituals like the annual AYSO opening ceremony speak more to continuity than to change. I was excited when the coach told me she thought things were changing rapidly, that “there are alotmore women coaches this year,” and indeed, I later found that the percentage of women coaches in this AYSO region had continued its three-year upward rise, nudging up to 19 percent in 2007 (see chapter 1, figure 1). If this gradual increase in the number of women coaches in AYSO (though not in LLB/S) can be thought of as “two steps forward,” my conversation on the...

  12. APPENDIX ONE Demographic Description of Interview Subjects
    (pp. 207-211)
  13. APPENDIX TWO Racial/Ethnic Composition of South Pasadena LLB/AYSO Coaches and of the City of South Pasadena, by Percent
    (pp. 212-212)
  14. APPENDIX THREE Proportion of AYSO and LLB/S Women Head Coaches in Communities Surrounding South Pasadena
    (pp. 213-215)
  15. APPENDIX FOUR In the Field
    (pp. 216-220)
  16. Notes
    (pp. 221-238)
  17. References
    (pp. 239-252)
  18. Index
    (pp. 253-260)
  19. Back Matter
    (pp. 261-261)