Mailvox: competing with women

The Baseball Savant’s experience flies in the face of what we’ve all learned from television:

I’ve been meaning to write you this story since you mentioned the whole Mia Hamm and her knowing the US Men’s Soccer team could destroy the women’s. Back when I was in college, like you, I was an athlete at a D-1 school. Obviously I played baseball, but our women’s basketball team was also D-1 and the women coaches would go to intramural players and other athletes from different sports to find guys for the women’s team to practice against. The interesting part was that the coaches would specifically tell us to take it easy on the girls and not to play that hard. We would be instructed to let them play and make their cuts and let them make their passes and to never block shots. Also, we couldn’t play man-to-man defense but rather would fall back in the zone.

However, every once in awhile the coaches would tell us to just go play. Keep in mind that we were either intramural players or athletes from other teams and it would get ridiculously ugly. At one point we ran like 68-0 in about 10 minutes of play. It was ridiculous. These were girls playing D-1 basketball and it was absurd how bad we were beating them. Not only that, but they were getting pounded physically. At that time I was 5’10” and around 200lbs with 7% bodyfat and I almost felt abusive towards the girl I was guarding. To be honest, all of us had played high school basketball so it wasn’t like we didn’t have any skill, but we beat the women’s team so badly the coaches called it off about 15 minutes earlier than the time they had down for us to scrimmage against the girls.

The other part of the story is that during intramural season, we played a team that had one of the men’s players. Obviously the men’s team was D-1 and it had been the NCAA Tournament a few times while I was in school. Our intramural team was primarily made up of the guys who played against the girls. When we played that one team with just one of the players who played on our men’s team, he single handedly gave us a severe beating the likes we didn’t see from any other team. He had to score 50 almost effortless. The really sorry part of the story is the guy was like the 4th guy off the bench and didn’t get all that much playing time. I could not even imagine what the men’s team would have done to the women’s team if they were to play. My guess would be the men would have put up at least 100 points in a half and I don’t think the girls would score at all.

One summer at the gym, I met a 6-4 guard who played for the Gophers and later managed part of one season with the Detroit Pistons. The first time we played, I got stuck guarding him and I’ve never felt so helpless in my life, as on the rare occasions when I managed to get in the right position, he would just spin up and around me and dunk the ball. It didn’t matter what I did, there was absolutely no way I could slow him down, let alone stop him. It would have made no difference if I’d walked off the court, I would have done as much good sitting on the sidelines as I did trying to guard him.

We ended up getting along pretty well, as he was a huge NBA Live fan and knew me from my video game column in the Pioneer Press, so we played together a few times after that first humiliating experience. And I never once saw anyone, no matter how good they were, present him with the slightest difficulty if he decided to go all out. He seldom did, and usually contented himself with passing the ball and taking long-range threes. But his athletic ability was unreal.

This isn’t to say that girls can’t be effective in playing team sports if they know their relative disadvantages and compensate for them. In last weekend’s pickup game, the one girl there was playing right mid for us and she did very well. The other team tended to leave her open since they weren’t worried about her, so whenever I got the ball as the right defender, I quickly pushed it up to her and told her to cross it when the defense finally moved up to attack the ball. She wasn’t going to beat anyone one-on-one and she didn’t have much of a shot, but she was perfectly capable of making a pass to create a shot for someone else.

When the left defender finally began to mark her, I started running up the sideline so that she could simply push the ball outside when she got in trouble. That let me blow past the defender and draw the central defenders, which created opportunities for crosses to the far post and pull-back passes in front of goal.

Of course, none of that would have worked so easily if the idiot playing left mid for the other team wasn’t dumb enough to continue leaving her alone because she was just a girl.