The idea was conceived two years ago when I saw a young girl, about 10-years old, playing futsal with boys in the Tanjay gymnasium. She was the lone girl player, looking chic and fashionable with all the prescribed gears for football: football shoes, shin guards, socks, shorts and shirt. I was completely fascinated by the sight of a girl, pigtails flying, scrambling, tackling, dribbling the football, unmindful that she was the only girl in the playing court. I tried to recruit this girl to come to Foundation University, and serve as an inspiration for others so that we could have more elementary girls playing football. But the father said that she is currently studying at the Tanjay Central School and transferring to FU would pose some inconveniences that the family is not prepared to face.
Currently, FU has two girls playing in the grade school boys football team. They are Jumawan, Mikhaela G. Torres, Krisha Cleire Marei C.
Mikhaela Jumawan and Krisha Torres, both 11-years old and in grade V. FU president, Dr. Mira D. Sinco, wrote City Schools Supt. Dr. Profetiza Lim to allow Michaela to play in the boys’ football competition in the Dumaguete City Division Meet scheduled on Oct. 14-17. We hope that Dr. Lim will approve the request, and in doing so, she will go down in the history of the Palarong Pambansa as the first enlightened school official of the DepEd who supports mixed-gender sports in the annual school games.
Two weeks ago, I emailed former Chairman of the Philippine Sports Commission, Dr. Philip Ella Juico, to ask him to write on the subject of mixed-gender sports. Here are excerpts from his column appearing in the PhilStar last Oct 6 entitled: “Mixed-gender sport in the Palarong Pambansa.”
“There is no doubt that we ought to emphasize gender equity (which connotes justice)/ gender equality (which connotes sameness of opportunities) for the simple reason that women are human beings and human resources who make up half the world’s population.
“According to the Hunger Project, women bear almost all responsibility for meeting basic needs of the family, yet are systematically denied the resources, information and freedom of action they need to fulfill this responsibility.
“The vast majority of the world’s poor are women. Two-thirds of the world’s illiterates are female. Of the millions of school age children not in school, the majority are girls.
“The contribution of women to society’s development has been amply demonstrated. Studies show that when women are supported and empowered, all society benefit. Their families are healthier, more children go to school, agricultural productivity improves and incomes increase. In short, communities become more resilient. And the earlier society supports and empowers women, when they are still girls, the better will they be prepared to assume responsibility as partners in development when they mature.
“With the above as the basic premise, it is not therefore very difficult to come out in full support of the proposal made by some forward-looking sectors to promote mixed-gender (boys and girls compete side by side as teammates or against each other) in children sports to open up more opportunities for girls to participate in sports which is consistent with the United Nations Rights of the Child.
“The DepEd Palaro Board may wish to consider mixed-gender in sports like football, volleyball, sipa and Little League baseball, as is already being done in many countries. In fact the Britons, through the Bristol Open, which is one of the United Kingdom’s leading Sport Martial Arts competitions, allows boys to compete against girls.
“The 2010 Singapore Youth Olympic Games (YOG) also blazed the trail when the swimming events in the YOG featured a mixed gender event for the 4X100m freestyle relay and the 4X100m medley relay. It is to be noted that swimming was in the first modern Olympics in Athens in 1896 and has since been included in every Games since then.
“Mixed-gender swimming was probably one of the reasons why the United States opted to participate in the YOG despite what they said was the lack of top caliber opposition and the fact that the YOG overlapped with the Pan American Games which the Americans consider a major event.
“Writer Braden Keith says that perhaps the most intriguing part of the attempt of Cornel Marculescu, FINA (world governing body for swimming) director general, to lure the Americans was the mixed-gender relay event which became a theme of the YOG. The relay had two male and two female swimmers per team.
“Probably the mixed relay can be something which may be of interest at the end of the day,” Marculescu said according to Keith. “It is a very good opportunity to test new ideas which after that may become an event in world championship or in the Olympic program.” Lately, the ISU (governing body of figure and speed skating) announced that eight mixed-country multi-gender teams will compete for team awards at the 2012 Junior Olympic Winter Games.
To achieve the mixed-gender ideal, certain changes in mind set have to take place. One look at the Palaro events show very clearly that there are more boys than girls competing. If the change in mind set is achieved, children sports should have three categories: boys, girls and mixed-gender. Should mixed-gender be carried out, there will be a balance in the number of boys and girls who participate in the Palaro.
“The DepEd may do well to, at the very least, seriously study mixed-gender sport if only to make sports more egalitarian.”
I reproduce the above for the benefit of the public school officials in our University Town, specifically to Provincial and City school superintendents Dr. Maria Milagaros Velez and Dr. Profetiza Lim, to gain the singular distinction of being the first in the in the entire DepEd bureaucracy to allow and authorize mixed-gender sports in the provincial and city division meets. As Juico said, it’s all a question of “changes in mind set.”
Very soon, FU will launch an experiment in mixed-gender football. Competitions in elementary, secondary and open football, with 7 girls and 4 boys in a team, will be playing. FU is looking forward to the participation of Silliman University and Bacong, a football club that recently won both the elementary and secondary championship in the provincial division meet and will represent Negros Oriental in the Region 7 Palarong Pambansa. It should be an exciting experiment in children and youth sports.