As an NCAA athlete, it is important to realize what your role is on the team, to understand each other’s weaknesses and strengths. But what is vital is recognizing why you are playing the game. I asked two current soccer players, one on the men’s team and the other on the women’s team, why they play that sport and where their love for the game sparks from. There are many different reasons and ways people fall in love with the game. When I asked freshman Ben Dweh on the men’s soccer team, he said he plays because it connects him to his roots back home in Liberia. “Soccer connects me back to my home country. I thrive on making both my parents and country proud, as well as myself.” Sophomore Quinn Bingham of the women’s soccer team said, “Soccer is special to me because it has always been a part of my family, with both my brothers and my dad playing. I have always been a competitive person, so soccer was a great outlet for that.” Bingham brought up a good point here: Being an athlete allows one to express themselves and provides a space where one could let out all their anguish, courage or fears; it truly is an art. Soccer has always been one of those sports that has had both genders but on separate teams, unlike classic stereotypical one-gendered sports like football and cheerleading. Because of this, I thought it would be interesting to ask the players as well as their coaches for their takes on this matter.
I asked the coaches if they thought there were any major differences between how men and women play soccer. Head Men’s Soccer Coach Will Greer said, “I think the physical side of the game is a major difference. Both are physical contact sports, but the men’s side teams try to enforce their will physically on players more to make up for technical and tactical deficiencies. It is important for the women’s side to come together socially and bond more as a team. The men don’t need to like each other in order to have success.”
To contrast, I asked Head Women’s Soccer Coach Joe Sagar, who said, “The game at its core is exactly the same when men and women play the sport. The dimensions of the pitch, ball size and length of play are all exactly the same regardless of the gender of the players. Speaking in general terms, women’s games tend to be played at a slower tempo than their male counterparts and I would say often tend to be much more attacking in their nature. I personally feel this is due to the general physical differences. With the average player being smaller on the women’s side of the game, this leads to larger spaces for attacking teams to exploit and take advantage of compared to the men’s game. Personally, I feel that the women’s game is a purer form of the game that relies much more on teamwork rather than athleticism and individual brilliance like the men’s game can be.”
Now knowing some of the differences between the game of soccer among the opposite genders, I question whether soccer could be played with one team, mixing the genders. I asked current players, one of each gender, in order to see their different reactions or takes on the idea. Ben Dweh said, “It would be great if soccer could be a mixed sport, but when I think about it rationally, I don’t believe it would work out. I say this because men and women have different physical attributes. It is also possible that in team relationships and further drama could impair our abilities to work to our fullest as a team.” He also went on to list some differences in terms of the game. He says that the physiological and psychological level differs depending on your gender. An interesting fact that he adds is the idea that “the game stops much less often because women soccer players are far less likely to fake fall.” In agreement with Dweh, Quinn Bingham also said we shouldn’t mix the teams because of physical differences and the challenges they pose. “Seeing as our team’s average height is around 5’1”, I don’t want to play against men who are 6’4”. I think co-ed soccer was fun when we were younger and closer in stature, but at this age, I think the risk of injury would be too high.” In the end, the idea of combining genders seemed like a cool thought at first, but realistically concerning. I personally can attest to the dangers of playing with both genders, because that is how I managed to get my concussion. However, my teammates sophomore Lauren Turner and sophomore Katlyn Seiffert and I play in a co-ed soccer league during our off season, so the solution is to find the perfect balance of aggressiveness, from just playing for fun to full-on cutthroat maniac, but as the saying goes, “it’s better safe than sorry.”