The left is now arguing that the people most upset about biological men like Lia Thomas and Laurel Hubbard competing in women’s sports are the ones who otherwise don’t care about or watch women’s sports.
It’s nonsense, just like the argument that men can’t have an opinion on abortion, but allow me to present my credentials nonetheless.
I was a three-sport varsity athlete in high school, and was most accomplished as a goalie for the field hockey team. I broke my school’s record for saves in a season and was named Defensive Player of the Year in my region. Alas, I wasn’t quite good enough to be recruited to a Division I team, so I opted to play on the club team at Georgetown. Bragging about your old sports accomplishments is pretty cringe-inducing, but I don’t get to do this very often, so indulge me for a bit.
As a lifelong athlete, the integrity of women’s sports is very important to me. I also feel uniquely qualified to comment on the transgender issue because I have actually competed against men.
For those unfamiliar, club sports in college are one step above intramural and one step below Division I. Club field hockey has a national governing body. We form regional leagues with other nearby schools and we compete in a national tournament at the end of the fall and spring seasons.
We also are allowed to have men on our teams.
Field hockey is a very popular men’s sport internationally, but it never caught on in the US. To remedy the fact that many male exchange students could otherwise not play their beloved sport, women’s club field hockey offered them a home. However, the league also recognized that men are generally more athletically gifted than women, so there were rules in place to keep things fair. We could have as many men on our team as we wanted, but only two were eligible to be on the field at a time during games.
Our team at Georgetown usually had anywhere from three to six men on our team each season. Some joined because they got cut from another sport’s team, some because they were looking to try something new, and others, I’m sure, joined so they could be closer to a gaggle of fit college girls.
Most of them had never picked up a hockey stick in their lives. Still, no matter how uncoordinated they may have looked during the first few practices, those men would often become the most talented players on our team within just a few months. They quickly outpaced women who had been playing field hockey their entire lives. Even those who never quite got the hang of the stick skills were valuable due to their superior strength, size, speed and agility on the field.
Of course, playing with men isn’t as fun when they’re on the other team. They would out-dodge and out-run us women all day long. If a man got on a breakaway, there was no woman on our team fast enough to track them down. This often left me in the goal defending shots faster than any I’d ever seen. It was pretty demoralizing to know that I had a snowball’s chance in hell of stopping them. There was simply no question the men had a major advantage.
Our team could at least even the odds by having men on our roster, too. The women competing against men in individual sports, like swimming, weightlifting and track, don’t have that luxury.
Gender-integrated team sports, though, arguably have more hazards than individual competitions. In individual competitions, the worst that can happen to a woman up against a man is that she lose. In a contact or limited-contact sport, women can be seriously injured.
At the beginning of our season, we had a safety talk with the new men on our team. That entailed explaining to them that they had to pare back their abilities sometimes to avoid hurting their female competitors. A grown man running full speed with the ball at a smaller, slower female defender often ended in disaster. Full strength shots or passes fired at unpadded players were similarly dangerous. Teams that didn’t keep their male players “in control” earned bad reputations across the league.
I have not seen any activist who supports trans participation in women’s sports grapple with the safety issue. Yes, sports are inherently somewhat dangerous, but I have seen firsthand just how much more dangerous they can be when men get in the mix. Women will no question be at risk of serious harm if trans women start competing in contact sports as well.
I built close bonds with all of my club field hockey teammates, including the men, but none of us were blind to the fact that they were simply different. Frankly, it doesn’t take an athlete to know that men just have a higher base athletic ability than women. Club field hockey made a concerted effort to keep competition safe and fair. The rules currently being implemented and enforced in regard to transgender athletes, which only focus on hormonal differences and not overall biological advantages, do not accomplish that.