I glance at the scoreboard. Tied game, five minutes left. This is my chance to be a game changer, I thought. All I need is the ball.
Sprinting back to my side of the field to defend, I see a rare sight in girls’ lacrosse at the varsity level. My opposing teammate has decided to leave her stick in a position where I can check her stick – hitting it in a way that loosens the ball. I pull my stick into position while running to the girl, making sure to wait for the perfect time to inflict my attack.
When I come down on her stick, the sounds of our plastic heads striking together and blaring whistles fill my head. I notice the girls’ stick on the ground and the ref digging for something in his pocket while he yells “Dangerous slash,” to fans and parents. I give an eyeroll as the ref pulls out a yellow laminated piece of paper.
Pissed, I walk off the field, take off my eyewear and assume my seat next to the score table – my view of the game for the next two minutes. I am now an official member of the two minute club, just because my check started above my shoulders.
Since I started playing lacrosse, two-thirds of my fouls have been from dangerous checks, back checks, empty stick checks and across-the-body checks. Every game, there seems to be a new illegal check for me to perform and have the whole game stopped because of my offense.
The most frustrating part is that 10 minutes away from our practice field at Linwood Park, the boy’s lacrosse team is working on their form of defense up at East: checking anywhere and everywhere, as hard as they can, hoping the opposing team will make a mistake and drop the ball. While they have some restrictions, such as no checks to the head and only being able to check the player with the ball, boys are allowed to be much rougher and physical than any level of girls’ team.
I’ve been to many boys’ lacrosse games, and three thoughts always run through my mind: That had to hurt, How’s that not a foul? and Why can’t I do that?
When I think about why the rules are so different, no clear rationale comes to mind. The only thing I can think about is the stereotype that women are weaker and more fragile than men.
Is the reason I can’t check my opponent from behind really because I’m a girl? Am I automatically inferior and weaker because of my gender? Sure, the female race hasn’t evolved from hunters or isn’t known for being able to bend steel, but we are strong in our own way.
If I weren’t strong, I wouldn’t be able to score against girls who are twice my size. I wouldn’t be able to run the whole length of the field, only to run all the way back down after a turnover. And I for sure wouldn’t be able to play a whole game without being taken out because we only have two subs.
Girls don’t have football. Girls aren’t typically welcomed on rugby teams. Girls are said to throw like, well, girls. Females are constantly undermined in sports and mistaken for the clichéd weak, fragile and scared-to-get-scratched-up type of girls. Girls are capable of so much more than they get credit for in sports. Throwing like a girl doesn’t always have to be an insult. Men on average are stronger than women, but that doesn’t make every woman weak.
I’ve never met a girl at the high school level who’s opposed to being challenged. No girl playing lacrosse minds falling on the ground and getting turf burns down her leg. My teammates don’t quit the team after being tripped by an opponent because the game is too physical.
Girls’ play the sport because it’s one of the most contact-heavy sports girls can play. They play because of the fast pace and the adrenaline rushes you get from scoring goals or causing turnovers. Guys can mock the sport all they want, but there’s nothing I can do about it. The level of aggression I show during games is predetermined by rules, refs and coaches.
I chose to play girls’ lacrosse, I didn’t choose the rules. Even through all my ranting and complaining about the strict rules of the game, I still love the game along with all the memories and friendships it’s brought to me over the past three years. Lacrosse has shown me that girls can display their strength and athleticism – all while wearing a skirt.