Over the past couple of weeks, in the wake of the end of a basketball season, I have been attending a lot of men’s sports events. I like watching other sports, like futbol (soccer), but seem to enjoy more of the game when I know how to play it. I also find it intensely fascinating to observe the interactions between men within teams and how they may differ from women. It is the sociologist in me that asks if there are enough differences between the genders so that the way the sport is played changes altogether. Of course we get the traditional physical argument (that men are bigger, faster, stronger than women) but I’m more interested in the dynamics and chemistry within teams, when it comes to sports. Do women work better in teams? Are men more comfortable if there is a clear leader? A lot of gender differentiations seem to surface when it comes to sports, so it must affect team dynamics, no?
With basketball, I’ve heard the typical “The WNBA is slower than the NBA.” and can’t really say anything because I haven’t watched enough of either to opinionate. Yes, I’ve noticed the pace of men’s basketball is quicker and more powerful. It also seems that women’s basketball is more strategic and although it is slower, it might be more interesting to watch.
One of the sporting events I witnessed recently was an all-men’s basketball tournament in a small semi-outdoor court, with eight participating teams. The competition wasn’t very intense, but I noticed how angry some of the players would get after missing shots or layups. I observed how after erring the ball, one guy scrunched up his face, brought his hands in two tights fists and while shaking them, yelled “Hija de putaaa!” Anger seems to be a powerful emotion and up to this point, I can’t personally relate to this emotion while playing sports. I believe that out of control anger can really zap your concentration within a game. I think professional players feel all the emotions of the game, but they’ve learned to channel it into their stamina and power, rather than letting it snap out of them to the point of wanting to fight.
I have sensed differences in emotions when playing with men versus women. However, both parties express pass through the same emotions, just in different ways. And I believe that most of the time it is based more on personality than on gender. This year, I played in an all-women’s soccer tournament where two players almost started going at it in the heat of a highly competitive environment. Their female team members had to hold them back, so that they wouldn’t start hurting each other. I’ve also played basketball with men who are amazing examples of how to remain cool and collected, no matter the emotion or situation. Either way, I think gender does not necessarily define temperament.
On an end note, I think for once I’d like to see someone walk into a room containing a bunch of athletic women and hear them say “Wow, I really feel the estrogen and progesterone in the room.”