FTLComm - Tisdale - January 8, 2001

The remarkable play and achievements of the Canadian National Women's hockey team at the Nagano Olympics has been the spark that has ignited a growing and impressive sport. In Tisdale, girls have played the highly skilled hockey-like game of ringette for years, but this year only one team is on the ice and there are girls teams at the atom and pee wee levels.

This game took place at eleven Sunday morning as the Atom Flyers take on the Tisdale girls Atoms. An atom team is age ten and under, so most of these children are in grade five
with younger ones in grade four. The rules for atom hockey are the same as other levels of hockey with the one exception and that is that body checking is not permitted.

The top picture on this page shows the opening goal as the boys start the game off with one at 18:21 left in the first but that was to be one of the few glories they would experience in this contest. This girls team had attended a Saskatoon tournament during the Christmas vacation and came away with the championship. In the next few minutes the boys found themselves out played and definitely out goalled as three quick plays made the game one sided.

The development of girls hockey is a great thing because of the positive and life long skills that a player develops from such an intense team sport. Girls are different and they attack hockey much differently then boys. The most notable difference is that they tend to view the game as a game and though they play just as competitively they tend to enjoy the experience and coaches will tell you, girls laugh. Boys do not laugh in a hockey game, they will enjoy themselves but they do not laugh.

In small communities for the past decade it has been common for a few girls to play the game but they have done so as members of a boys team and in general this has been excellent for the boys and the girls but the popularity of the sport now makes it possible to have all girl teams and without exception they should be playing against all girl teams. Particularly at this level. For years Regina's minor hockey system had girl teams at all of its levels and they did not have enough teams for the girls to play each other so it was the tradition, largely because the calibre of the girl's play was well below that of the boys, to have the girls play the age group younger than themselves.

But things have changed. The girls on the ice in Tisdale on this fine Sunday morning are skilled hockey players and at the atom level the differences really show up. Girls, as we all know mature much quicker than boys and at age ten the difference is startling with the average girl almost a head taller and the most important difference is the one you can not see.

The educational developmental psychologist Piaget discovered what he called "formal thinking" the ability of a growing child to at some point in their development to be able to think beyond the tactile and visible but to formulate in the mind an abstraction of a situation. This process occurs in girls between nine months to a year ahead of boys. At the atom level, though coaches try desperately to teach the "game" to their boys, they should take Howie Meeker's advise, he explains, because of the intellectual ability of the young boy, concentrate on the "skills" and leave the game to pee wee coaches.

This means that a girls team at the same age as a boys team will have players who can understand the strategy and complexities of the game at a much different level and the result is plain and obvious. The coaches in the game you see here were playing with two very different teams, the boys coach relied on the boys instincts and developed skills, while the girls coaches were constantly explaining moves and plays during the game and within the next shift you would see the results of the coaching.

The elements of hockey are quite different then other sports like baseball where the primary difference that makes girls at the ten to twelve year age group just physically superior to their male counterparts. Though this is a factor in hockey it is not nearly as important since checking, which relies on body weigh is not permitted. However, during this game it was demonstrated time after time that the highly skilled and agile full size girls outmatched the boys considerably. Remember that a large boy who has matured quickly in physical size may tower above his peers but will tend to be clumsy and awkward. A girl on the other hand who by nature just grows quicker will not demonstrate the similar awkwardness but will use the advancing size and developing skills to her advantage.

Though girls hockey is great for the girls it is inappropriate and potentially damaging to the boys for them to be matched in such a contest. If we have small numbers of kids in a community and boys and girls games are to occur we must in all fairness mix the boys and the girls together to form coed teams otherwise it just isn't fair and we will be turning off boys to the sport and even more importantly, their attitude toward females will be shaped by the experience.
Timothy W. Shire