Sports, America’s greatest pastimes.
Sports in America has become a huge part in our culture, in fact 72 percent of Americans are sports fans, according to a poll conducted by Gallup. As the world of sports have evolved into a dynamic that is loved by both boys and girls. With that, there has been designated sports that are either female dominated or male dominated.
For years there has been sports like cheerleading, which is female dominated, or motocross or football that is male dominated. However, there are boys and girls that want to join a sport that may not agree with there X and Y chromosomes.
We have seen gender inequality, discrimination, and the judgement that goes on in the world around us, but that’s what kids are facing who want to join a sport dominated by the opposite gender. For example, a boy in cheerleading, or a girl in motocross.
Here are their stories.
Rj Merrit, is a 17-year-old junior at Murrieta Mesa High School Calif., who is on the varsity cheer team. He has been doing cheer for one year but has been involved with the team for two years and he says he “absolutely loves it.”
Merrit started as the school’s mascot during his sophomore year, which worked very closely with the cheer team. This closeness is what veered him in the direction of cheer. “I was the mascot for my school and was very involved with the cheer team. I decided to actually try out for the team because I didn’t really like being the mascot but I did like being involved with the cheer team.”
As a male cheerleader he faces a lot of discrimination, since it is female dominated. He and several other male cheerleaders get pinned as gay or feminine. Cheer in general is a tough sport, but even harder when you’re one of the few that aren’t female.
To Merrit, cheer is a very complex sport that requires strength, flexibility, endurance, all while maintaining a peppy, positive attitude with a smile on your face 24/7. Not only that, cheer is competitive, very competitive.
“On the cheer mat you are dealing with competition 24/7,” Merrit said. “Whether you’re competing for a spot in the routine, competing for captain, or competing with other teams. Also competitive cheer is very aggressive and challenging with risky stunts and competitive with other rival teams.”
Merritt has plans on continuing his career in several different ways. “I definitely do plan on doing this sport in college and maybe even becoming a future cheer coach.”
“My advice to future male cheerleaders would be that with all things that are dominated by the other gender, someone is always going to have something to say…you can either let that get the best of you or you can turn it around and be the best that you can be because at the end of the day being a part of a team is like having a second family,” Merrit said.
On the opposite side of the spectrum, Mandy Mastro is a 20-year-old who has been racing for 16 years, and four years in motocross on and off.
Mastro grew up in a motocross atmosphere, with her father working in the motocross-field, and being raised by three brothers and a “tom-boy” mom. Her dad and brothers are the ones who got her involved in motocross at a very young age. One-and-half, to be exact. She started off on a Yamaha PW50 with training wheels and extra help from her dad.
“The aspects that drew me in, were being in the dirt, being in a family oriented community, the sport itself, working hard 24/7, having all support and love through everything,” Mastro said.
Motocross is a completely different ball game though when it comes to being male dominated, and for females, its even more difficult.
“We have to literally fight for what we want. We want to race with the guys? We need to prove that we’re strong enough, fast enough, good enough,” Mastro said.
In Mastro’s opinion, by overcoming the fears of something being difficult, she has become a stronger woman and athlete. In a sport where women are limited by one or two “pro classes” to race against the guys.
Girls who want to race against the guy not only have to face the competitive aspect of it, but have a hard time getting sponsored and paid to race. “For women the progression of going pro is not as clear as guys who race.” Mastro said. Since it’s harder for women to go pro, they are often discriminated towards by sponsors and some trainers.
Mastro had plans of taking her motocross career to the next step, until she got severely injured in 2015. She ended up with a bad head injury, a few broken ribs and a broken shoulder. Which caused her to rethink her motocross career, but is still very passionate about the sport.
“To prove that us women are going to change this sport and try everything we can to get where we want to be in motocross, be consistent, confident, be sure and be positive, stick with your dreams,” Mastro said.
These are just two of many stories of boys and girls in sports dominated by the opposite gender. They face many hardships but are strong, and the stories don’t stop there.
Becca Longo, a 19-year-old girl who was the first ever to receive a football scholarship to a division two or higher school. Longo, signed with Adams State University in Alamosa, Colo. as one of the starting kickers.
“A lot of people think, ‘aw. She’s a girl, she can’t do this, she’s not strong enough, she’s not big enough.’” Longo told ESPN in an article on her college football career.
Longo who grew up with her older brother, got her into football. Tossing the ball on the weekends, football was their happy medium. According to another article on People. She tried out for the high school team her sophomore year and has been playing since.
Being in a sport like football is hard enough, but for Longo she has to deal with a great level of negativity from her peers. Longo told Diana Pearl from People, that she dealt with negativity from classmates, teasing her and saying she couldn’t do it, but that’s what pushed her to do it.
Even now, she still receives tweets saying things such as how this is all a publicity stunt, or how she’s going to get injured, but anyone can get injured from football, boy or girl.
“If they want to think that, they can think that.” Longo told ESPN. “Then I’m going to kick a game-winning, 55-yard field goal… see how loud they are then.”
As for now, she is focusing on the present, but wouldn’t mind making it to the NFL one day.
Last but certainly not least, we have Quinton Peron and Napoleon Jinnies who are the first male dancers to make it onto the Los Angeles Rams cheer team.
Both Peron and Jinnies have been dancing all their lives, being classically trained. “I thought, why not me? Why can’t I do this?” Peron said to ABC news in an interview.
Peron Jinnies went through a grueling three-week audition period, for the cheer squad. They were among 76 finalist who auditioned for the Rams’ cheer team.
According to USA Today Baltimore Ravens, and Indianapolis Colts have men on the team doing stunts, but not dancing. This is the first time we’ll being seeing men dancing along with female cheerleaders.
This is just the beginning of something that will be legendary. All these people are changing the world, just by challenging the “norm of the society of sports.”
“Our cheerleading program is co-ed. It is our goal to provide equal offerings for both genders and our current program structure consists of 11 men’s and 11 women’s sport programs. If there happened to be a female that one of the coaches of one of our men’s teams –whom I would deem as our expert—felt was qualified athletically to participate safely, I would both agree and allow for it,” Scott Cathcart the Athletic Director at Palomar College explained.
All the challenges they face now, will only guide them into becoming strong, willful, and independent people.
These boys and girls are bringing a good change to the world. Little by little, these people are slowing fighting against gender discrimination and the stereotypes that cloud our world today.