Columns / Discourse / May 24, 2017

Co-ed games can be challenging for all parties!

When I first joined the Ultimate Frisbee team at Knox, many of the women did not enjoy playing with mixed teams because the men did not throw to them as often as they threw to other men. Although both men and women on the frisbee team are now working hard to eliminate this issue, I can relate to the sentiment behind this point. Pointing out the number of times a female gets thrown to on the field is an oversimplified way of expressing how frustrating it can be to play a team sport as a female.

I tend to blame much of this frustration on the biological facts of how women’s bodies put us at a physical disadvantage. This argument must be addressed because it is a valid argument, but it is not always a relevant argument. Besides personal experience, there is evidence to support the fact that men consistently out-perform women in many athletic tasks.[1] However, when it comes to team sports, this biological fact becomes irrelevant when the game is 50 percent mental. It doesn’t matter whether or not someone has used this biological fact to justify the stereotype that girls aren’t as good as guys at sports ­­Ñ the simple existence of that fact can be extremely discouraging. Why try if there’s always a guy on the team that can outperform me?

The answer is that skill is a spectrum that does not just include athleticism. I find my strengths and I become motivated when I feel myself breaking the stereotype of a weak female figure.

The longer I stay on the Ultimate Frisbee team, the more frustrated I become by this biological fact, especially because I internalize it so easily. When I see the way professional female teams are treated by society at large (not being paid as well as their male counterparts, not receiving the same media coverage as their male counterparts) I find I am held at a much lower standard for performance than many of my male friends.[2] Whereas the expectation for boys is to succeed with their athleticism, I find the expectation for girls is to fail. The failure-oriented mindset makes it much more satisfying when I do succeed, but when I do not succeed, it is frustrating to become evidence for a stereotype that I’ve internalized about my gender. While my male friends have three times my vertical, I have found many similarities in our competitive mindset and drive to win a game. I struggle with my own competitiveness, but I have seen many female athletes with the same intense drive as the men.

An interesting solution to confronting the gender difference has been playing a mixed team sport. The differences in how the men play in relation to the females become apparent, but the similarities in team spirit, motivation and toughness also become apparent. By playing together, we are required to care about each other and learn each individual’s capabilities. Although the competitive season for ultimate frisbee is not mixed, the fall and winter seasons are primarily mixed due to limited field space, but also by popular demand. Many schools, such as the University of Oregon or the University of Colorado-Boulder, have year-round split-gender teams so as not to disrupt team chemistry. However, at a Division III liberal arts school in the Midwest, we have the opportunity to build not just an athletic team, but a conscientious and spirit-led team as well.

Overall, playing on a mixed team is beneficial to me and other female players as long as the attitude is positive competition. However, I have found issues with playing mixed ultimate frisbee when the men that I play with have a negative mindset and see the perceived physical differences as bringing down the level of intensity. I have heard the argument that playing mixed is a step down in competitiveness for many men who perceive athleticism as the only important part of learning a sport. To those men, I would ask: what are you learning when you play a mixed sport? How can you enter a mixed sport with a learning-based attitude that is not focused around pure athleticism? How can you improve your game by playing more conscientiously? And to those, both male and female who have never tried playing a mixed sport, I would highly encourage you to challenge yourself and learn how your knowledge of competitiveness changes by playing as a mixed-gendered team.


[1]                  Meyer, Robinson. “We Thought Female Athletes Were Catching Up to Men, but They’re Not.” The Atlantic, 9 Aug. 2012, were-catching-up- to-men-but-theyre-not/260927/. Accessed 15 May 2017.


[2]                  Conerly, Bill. U.S. Women’s Soccer Salaries: The Economic Justification For Paying The Men More. Forbes, 12 Apr. 2016, Accessed 15 May 2017.


Maureen Lincke

Tags:  co-ed sports knox college ultimate frisbee mixed sports

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