Like many of you, I’ve been fascinated this past week by the rise of Little Leaguer Mo’ne Davis, the 13-year-old female pitcher for the Taney Dragons of Philadelphia. At 5-foot-4 inches, the eighth-grader became the first girl to ever throw a shutout in the Little League World Series.
For her accomplishment, she was also featured on the cover of Sports Illustrated this week, another first for any Little League player.
Pitching last night, though, Mo’ne proved mortal. She gave up six hits and three runs, and was pulled after 2 1/3 innings in a loss to Las Vegas. If her team manages to rebound and advance to the championship game, she’ll be eligible to pitch again on Saturday. I’ll continue to follow her story with interest.
Mo’ne’s mom, Lakeisha, is accustomed to her daughter excelling in sports, but says she’s been shocked at the attention and fame she’s been drawing in Williamsport.
“She’s trying to cope with the situation,” she told a reporter. “She’s still trying to enjoy herself. She doesn’t want the attention on herself. I never in a million years thought this whole thing would blow up like this.”
As a parent, I can appreciate Lakeisha’s reaction. Our sons have never played in the Little League World Series, of course, but she’s responding like a mom of a child, not the agent of a star in the spotlight. I appreciate her desire to keep Mo’ne grounded and the effort to keep the fun in the sport and the experience.
In the midst of all the media attention, Mo’ne has been called a “role model” for other girls who want to break down the stereotype of certain sports being reserved for specific genders. Talk of “gender-based biases” is once again in the sports headlines, with many decrying any distinction-drawing between male and female sports and athletes.
By no means is this a new debate. Advocates for co-ed adolescent sports have enjoyed a seat at the table for years, and really no sport has been off-limits. The “barriers” have fallen a long time ago, from football to baseball and every sport in between.
But let me ask is this:
While acknowledging and celebrating the success of young women like Mo’ne, is there room for those who think the benefits of gender-exclusive sports outweigh the benefits of co-ed competition?
By blending the two sexes on the field, is something lost off of it?
Should sports be genderless?
Or when it comes to athletics, do boys deserve the right to spend concentrated time with boys – and girls with girls? Or, in the name of progress and enlightenment, is that now passé?
I can’t help but reflect on how my experiences growing up playing football and baseball helped shape me for the better as a young man. And now I’m watching the same process unfold with my two sons. I imagine many of you are in the same boat, especially now as another season of sports kicks off this fall.
What do you think? I welcome your thoughts on the matter.