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Boys and Sports

I am looking for others’ experiences with and thinking about boys and sports. I’m wondering how to handle the men’s oppression that is inherent (at least at this point) in boys’ competitive sports, and its increasing intensity as boys get older. I’m also wondering how to talk with our sons about men’s oppression so that they have a full picture of what they’re up against and don’t end up blaming themselves for their struggles. I look forward to hearing from you.

Mindy Johnson
Pasadena, California, USA

Reprinted from the RC e-mail discussion lists
for leaders of parents and for leaders of men


 Thanks, Mindy, for raising the topic of boys and sports. It is an important topic, one that affected me deeply as a young male and as a parent. (I am now seventy-four years old.) From my perspective, the heart of the problem is at the intersection of men’s oppression and capitalism. Capitalist society encourages competitive sports because they are profitable for the sports industry and related industries (alcohol, fast-food, clothing, building-construction, and so on). Men’s oppression gives men the message that it is okay to destroy their health in order to win and sometimes make money in the process.

What I did as a parent

As a parent, I played with my children and let them win in every way I had attention for—or when I was able to grit my teeth and carry on.* I let them win in wrestling, board games, and sports.

I played sports with my children by myself and with our family (boys and girls, mother and father). We laughed a lot and stopped playing when someone got hurt, so he or she could cry.

I coached a youth basketball league team that was committed to giving all the players on the team equal playing time. I rigidly observed that rule, even though it meant losing games and having some of the young people upset with me. My own son got upset with me because I let some youngsters play who had little attention for the game. He told me that I did not want to win badly enough. But he ended up not playing competitive sports and being a great ally for his nieces and nephews. If someone was injured during practice, I stopped the practice and had everyone gather around the person and give attention. I used the occasion to share a little RC theory about the value of crying or saying “Ouch.”

I tried to not watch sports on television with my young children. I finally decided to stop watching them at any time. (I recommend that to all parents.) I haven’t broken the addiction completely, since I still find myself reading the sports section in the newspaper. I tell myself that I want to be able to talk with other men about the current sporting situation, but that is just an excuse.

I think fathers and other male relatives giving up their addiction to competitive sports is crucial in helping young boys not get addicted. And I think women have a role to play—in interrupting the fascination that females can have with male athletes. Having females attracted to them is one of the “rewards” the society gives to straight male athletes.

With my grandson, I have talked about how injuries from competitive sports can affect men’s physical health later in life. I remember reading a newspaper article about what happened to the health of the men who were on the championship U.S. football teams in the 1980s. And there is increasing information about the long-range effects of concussions and other injuries on professionals and amateurs (including college and high school students) in other contact sports.

Julian Weissglass
Santa Barbara, California, USA

Reprinted from the RC e-mail
discussion list for leaders of parents

 * “Carry on” means continue doing it.

Last modified: 2021-06-01 12:29:59+00