Eye of the Tiger

Playing up, the gender gap

Traditionally, more female underclassmen are pulled up to varsity sports than their male counterparts. There are several factors that lead to this trend, including the age at which athletes mature, injuries and burnouts.

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PHYSICAL DIFFERENCES:

Because of the developmental gap between boys and girls, high schools typically do see more girls getting pulled up at a younger age than boys, because they are just as developed as the upperclassmen. Girls typically end puberty between the ages of 15-16, while boys typically end at the age of about 16-17. This extra year, allows a 15 year old freshman girl to be able to be brought up to the varsity level and have no problem competing against the older girls, where as this may be more difficult for still developing boys.

(NATALIE RUSSELL / EYE OF THE TIGER)
Boys varsity basketball coach Greg Granucci finds that despite boys deveveloping later, he makes his decision to pull up underclassmen based off of their skill and talent.

Varsity softball coach Art Banks understands that girls develop quicker than boys, and believes this explains why girls get pulled up more often than boys.

“Girls develop a little faster, they are able to play up at a higher level quicker,” Banks said. “Boys that are younger like a freshman physically can’t compete with the older kids.”

Last year, varsity softball player Annie Lemos was pulled up by Banks, and found that although she at first faced some difficulties due to her size, she was able to quickly adjust.

“I’m really short so when I would play I would look a lot smaller than my teammates,” Lemos said. “But once I was playing with them for awhile I adjusted pretty quickly to playing with older girls.”

When pulling up underclassman, coaches must evaluate not only the player as an individual, but the program as a whole.

Boys that are younger like a freshman physically can’t compete with the older kids.”

— Varsity softball coach Art Banks

While considering underclassman for his roster, varsity basketball coach Greg Granucci, evaluates the program as a whole and the underclassman for certain characteristics before bringing them up.

“We decide on talent level and attitude and commitment all those things that go into making a player for our program,” Granucci said. “If we feel like we have some underclassmen that are capable of playing at the varsity level then we will pull them up.”

Sophomore Josh Alger was also pulled up as a freshman to varsity basketball and baseball, and could tell the physical difference between him and the upperclassmen while playing.

“They had more years of maturity on me and they were more grown into their bodies,” Alger said. “You could tell they were stronger because they had more time and experience in the weight room than I did.”

When boys get pulled up as underclassmen, they often find themselves encountering a greater physical difference than a girl would.

 

 

GIRLS MORE LIKELY TO QUIT ATHLETICS:

Another reason girls teams may tend to pull up more than boys, is because of a lack of personal from upperclassmen.

I’m done playing. It’s gotten to the point where it’s not really worth going through anymore.”

— Varsity soccer player Hailey Linarez

According to Gatorade’s “Girls In Sports” study, by the age of 17, half of the girls playing sports will quit. This is because high estrogen levels as girls enter puberty leads them to a new attitude, turning many girls away from competition and towards relationships and connections.

 

Junior Madi Whitaker was a key player on the JV softball team for two years. This season Whitaker decided not to play varsity softball because of a loss of interest in the sport.

“I just wasn’t passionate about softball anymore,” Whitaker said. “I didn’t enjoy it and it wasn’t very fun.”

 

 

INJURIES:

(CAM MEDRANO / EYE OF THE TIGER)

After suffering numerous knee injuries, senior Hailey Linarez found herself having to walk away from her passion of soccer. After playing sports competitively, girls often come out with more injuries on average than boys, pushing many to quit.

Girls also are more prone to injuries than boys because their bodies are built differently.

Girls have looser ligaments which allow for greater flexibility and a wider pelvis which affects the alignment of the knees and ankles. Research has associated injuries to the knee common to women.

Injuries are both a mental and physical setback for athletes, because when they get hurt, no matter how serious it may be, they see all their hard work falling before them. When athletes get injured they must decide if it is worth it to come back, or if they want to quit. Throughout her career, senior soccer player Hailey Linarez, has had to deal with many different knee injuries. After obtaining her second injury, Linarez had to decide whether or not she should continue to play.

“My second injury definitely made me reconsider playing because it was a step back after I had just came back from another injury,” Linarez said.

Linarez was given the opportunity to continue her soccer career beyond high school, but turned it down because she did not want to risk getting hurt again.

“I’m done playing,” Linarez said. “It’s gotten to the point where it’s not really worth going through anymore if in the future I’m not going to be able to do a lot of other things that I may want to do.”
Because of girls tendencies to quit playing sports, and their greater likelihood of obtaining a potentially career ending injury, varsity coaches of girls teams are more likely to consider underclassmen for their team.

 

 

BURNOUTS:

Another reason girls teams may tend to pull up more than boys, is because of a lack of personal from upperclassmen.

According to Gatorade’s “Girls In Sports” study, by the age of 17, half of the girls playing sports will quit.

This is because high estrogen levels as girls enter puberty leads them to a new attitude, turning many girls away from competition and towards relationships and connections.

Junior Madi Whitaker was a key player on the JV softball team for two years; this season Whitaker decided not to play varsity softball because of a loss of interest in the sport.

“I just wasn’t passionate about softball anymore,” Whitaker said. “I didn’t enjoy it and it wasn’t very fun so it was a pretty easy decision.”

 

 

THE UNDERCLASSMEN EXPERIENCE:

(CAM MEDRANO / EYE OF THE TIGER)

When underclassman are brought up, there are always adjustments that have to be made to their game. Young athletes must learn how to adjust to the speed and physicality of the game and also change their mentality.

Alger got pulled up to the varsity basketball and baseball team last year as freshman. Alger is currently getting recruited by top level Division 1 schools for baseball. Even a high performing athlete like Alger noticed he had to make adjustments to his game in order to play at the varsity level.

“I had to play at a higher level,” Alger said. “It was a lot quicker game than I was used to because everyone was a lot bigger and stronger.”

Last year sophomore Annie Lemos came in as a 5’1 freshman on the varsity softball team and was given the starting pitching job. In order to be successful, Lemos had to make many adjustments to the metal aspect of her game.

I had to learn to play bigger than I was.”

— Varsity softball player Annie Lemos

“I had to change my mentality in order to play at the varsity level and be able to successfully pitch to high level hitters,” Lemos said. “I had to learn to play bigger than I was.”

Varsity point guard, sophomore Alyssa Sandle, had to adjust both the physical and mental aspects of her game when she was given a big leadership spot on the girls varsity basketball team, who had just one league the season prior. As a freshman, the 5’3 guard had to learn to play a lot more physical and elevate the mental side of her game.

(DEAN EFSTATHIU / EYE OF THE TIGER)

“I’m very short. I got thrown around a lot and they were a lot more bigger than me,” Sandle said. “I had to play a lot more physical and I had to think the game a step ahead and bring my basketball IQ higher.”

Senior softball player Sadie Langlet knew she had the capability to play varsity softball when she was brought up as a freshman, for her it was all about meeting the expectations of a varsity athlete.
“I always knew that I could play varsity,” Langlet said. “I guess it was the fact that they were older, more experienced, and some of them were definitely more talented and I had to learn how to live up to that standard of a varsity player.”

Underclassmen have to make adjustments to both their physical and mental game when pulled up to play varsity.

About the Writer
BELLA AYALA, SPORTS REPORTER

Bella Ayala is a sports reporter for Eye of the Tiger.

This is Ayala's first year, she hopes to become a strong reporter and make an impact on the program.

In her free time Ayala enjoys playing competitive softball and basketball.

Ayala is known by her friends to be competitive and ambitious.

[email protected]

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