When I was in elementary school in Daly City, there was no girls soccer teams at any of the local schools but as a very active and athletic kid whose 4 brothers played soccer, I wanted to be a soccer player. So in fourth or fifth grade (I cannot remember) I went the the boys soccer tryouts for the school team. I made the team and practiced with the boys for a few weeks. What next transpired I am not sure, except that the school contacted my Dad and me and said that girls were not allowed to play on the boys team. That was the end of my soccer days until I picked it up again in high school.
I didn’t understand much about how this all unfolded except that I felt left out and that my brothers teased me endlessly about it for the next few weeks. It was not the first time I had been left out, as my brothers pretty regularly excluded me from whatever game they were playing, that was always part of our sibling relationship and rivalry. The role the school played in this decision made the issue bigger to me, yet I still was unsure what to make of it.
Ironically, only a few years before this, my two sisters, then students at San Francisco State University, lobbied the school to create a women’s Varsity Soccer Program. (At this time, Stanford, CAL and many local universities were expanding women’s sports due to Title IX). At first the SFSU denied their requests; the women formed a club team and still competed against other colleges. The club team did quite well. After they proved themselves a winning program, the school eventually agreed to support the creation of a university-sponsored women’s soccer team. This was the beginning of the current SFSU Gator women’s soccer program.
What I now realize that my exclusion from playing soccer was a formative experience in my youth, and while it doesn’t define me, it did contribute to shaping aspects of my identity.
I love soccer; I have played for 34 years, I attended my sisters’ college games when I was 6 and 7 years old, I have coached off and on for the last 22 years, attended the Euro Cup, played the Irish Women’s National Team, and been to 2 different World Cups.
The decision denying my “belonging” on the 10 year old soccer team was because I was a girl, and so something I loved, a passion of mine, was denied me because of my sex and the assumptions about gender and feminine expectations.
I carry this with me—I seek to expand access and opportunities not just for women and not just in the athletic arena, but for anyone denied something because of their identity.
And because I carry this with me, it is part of who I am at Lick. And I seek to be known at Lick, and so to know me means to know that gendered issues are important to me, and I believe important to and for all of us.
And it is for this reason that I believe it is important for Lick to continually seek to deconstruct those systems of power and privilege that deny access to any one of us, and yes, to continually talk about gender.