In my decade-long time as the girls' varsity soccer coach I have always had between five and eight players of hispanic heritage. However, despite my best efforts to recruit them, I am down to three, with two seniors having been on my team since freshmen year. Checking with other coaches in my and other schools the lack of Latina girls in sports appears to be a very disturbing trend. Sure, you can still find many Latina girls on some teams where the school is almost totally Hispanic. However, for the most part it appears that the percentage of Latina girls on a team is much lower than the school's population. What can be causing this problem? There are probably many reasons or combinations. I will try to pick out what I think are the problems, based upon my discussions with ESL, ELL, and other teachers.
1. Home Life: Many Latina girls are expected to do the chores that their mothers used to do. Cooking, cleaning, and supervizing younger family members. This may be due to an increasing lack of a father in many families making the mother the sole bread winner and the teenage girl then takes over the role of the mother.
2. Increasing ineligibility of their boyfriends to play soccer due to poor grades. Unlike many other cultures there appears to be a link between the Latina girl's decision to play/not to play soccer based upon their boyfriend's participation. Why are the Latina girls different? I asked that question to one of the Latina guidance officers. Her response was that Latina girls are very loyal to their boyfriends and won't play soccer if the boyfriend can't/won't. Again the increasing lack of a father in the household may be part of the reason on why boys are not doing well in school.
3. Finally, the attractiveness of many types of expensive items in a typical teenage girl's possesion (all cultures). Ipods, picture cell phones, and computers are all a necessity for the typical teenager and usually for a teenager to have these items they need a part-time job. This means that the opportunity to participate in after school activities are eliminated. Combined with the other two reasons, this reduces the students available for sports.
Are there any solutions to the dwindling participation of Latina girls in sports? More intact family structure. Aggressive recruiting at Freshmen orientation, and last, but not least, a targeted program to encourage all girls' to join after school activites by showing the girls the advantages of joining a team.
a. Better self-esteem
b. Working well with teammates
c. Have better quality friends
d. More respect from other students
e. Social bonding with team members
In conclusion, it will take a very aggressive effort if we are to stop and reverse the loss of Latina girls' in after-school activities.
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