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Removing gender requirements from casual dodgeball

Starting with the spring/summer season, we’re removing gender requirements from our casual dodgeball leagues on a trial basis.

Most co-ed rec sports leagues require a certain number of women to be on the field or court at any given time. If there aren’t enough women, the team can play short — suggesting that the women on your team are equal to having no players at all in their place. We’ve even heard of some co-ed soccer leagues where the goals that women score count for more (the suggestion being that women score fewer goals).

When we launched this league, one of the first changes we made to the rules was to make the gender rules more even — there had to be at least two people of the opposite gender on the court. But the fact is that fewer women play organized sport than men, so changing this rule had little effect on the actual outcome.

The result of the gender rule is that women are often forced to play entire games when they have no subs, or other times they get benched because teams don’t want to play more than the minimum number.

We want to encourage more women to join organized sport and while some may argue that by removing the gender rule, we’ll be discouraging women to join, we would argue that running women ragged or benching them isn’t making sports attractive, either.

Additionally, we have some people in our league who have non-binary gender identities, and we’ve been told the rule makes them feel uncomfortable. One of our founding philosophies for this league is to create an inclusive, welcoming space that anyone would feel comfortable joining, regardless of ability, outward appearance, or gender.

In 2019, we removed the gender rule from our soccer league and have received positive feedback about this decision. Women appreciate being able to take a sub when they’re tired, and most teams still have a high ratio of women to men.

There are a couple of teams that are mostly men with only one or two women. We have not found this to be a problem. These teams didn’t purposely exclude women from their team in order to crush the competition, as some people have warned us might happen.

In fact, some of the best-performing teams — in both soccer and dodgeball — are the ones with a more balanced ratio of players.

That said, our casual leagues are not really about the score. These leagues are about having fun, meeting new people, spending time with friends, and exercising in a way that doesn’t feel like exercising.

We’d love to hear your feedback on this decision once you’ve had a chance to give it a shot during the spring/summer season!