|Published Online February 1, 2016||$US5.00|
This article examines gender identity amongst female soccer players within a small, competitive New England soccer club. Despite the vast rise of female soccer players in the United States over the last twenty years, most clubs have little to no knowledge of how their female athletes are faring compared to their male counterparts. Bhave and Franklin explore girls’ perceptions of youth soccer, showing that female athletes have an intense competitive spirit, distinct perceptions of gender inequalities, coupled with acute multi-layered parental pressures. The authors show that these female athletes have two distinct facets of their soccer identity: “game face” and "girl face." The "game faces" are the external, public gender inequalities and perceptions that girls articulate regarding their status and experiences within the club, in comparison to male players. In addition, "girl faces" are the private, deeply hidden pressures and struggles they feel, which are rarely discussed within soccer communities. Bhave and Franklin's rich data, illuminates a ten-month research process that involved, creating a club-wide gender dialogue with female athletes about their experiences, 48 qualitative interviews (arranged in 7 separate focus-groups), dozens of informal discussions with board members, parents, coaches and additional players and participant observation, culminating in the creation of an innovative girls’ initiative called, “GO NORDIC,” which focuses on advocacy, self-confidence and self-awareness. This research forces us to question the paradigm of a normative youth soccer club culture that often views athletes as genderless players.
|Keywords:||Female Athletes, Soccer, Gender Identity, Qualitative Research|
Adjunct Professor, Sociology Department, St. Michael's College, Richmond, VT, USA
Athletic Director, The O'Neal School, Southern Pines, NC, USA