Strong Rock, Bad Dreams

A little girl’s dreams have been crushed. There’s no doubt about that. The only question is, who did the crushing? Popular opinion is that it’s all the fault of a school. A Christian school, mind you.

Maddy Paige was a starting defensive tackle last year for a recreational football team. Next year she wants to play for her school, Strong Rock Christian School. The private institution has a policy prohibiting girls from playing on all boys teams. As a result, everyone who is everyone is mad at the school.

Sexism is alive and well down in Locust Grove, Georgia!

The Bible Thumpers are at it again!

And so on and so forth with all of the expected moans and groans.

What do we want? 

Seventh grade girls to play football!

When do we want it?

Now!

But no one wants to look beneath the rhetoric, at the core, where the real problem rests. Isn’t that where one can usually find the painful truth? Maybe that’s why so many people prefer the surface arguments. They’re not nearly as painful as the truth. On the surface, I can play the victim. It’s beneath the surface where we find the real culprit. And we may not like what we find. Hooray for the surface!

The school isn’t the problem here. Yes, I know. They’re the ones crushing a young girl’s dreams. But is it the job of an educational institution to inspire kids to follow their dreams? Absolutely not. An educational institution, as well as a family institution, at least the good ones, the ones that care to look beneath the surface, see that their responsibility is to give guidance, not continual and groundless affirmation. Not all dreams are worth following.

Parents and teachers are there to narrow down dreams for kids and help them to see which ones are worth following. So in a very real sense, parents and teachers are supposed to crush dreams. Gasp! But the fact that nobody wants to be a dream crusher is why so many young adults find themselves in a quarter-life crisis. All of their lives they’ve been told by parents and teachers that they can do anything they want to do and nothing can stand in their way, even gender or a lack of talent. As a result, they end up following their dreams, however wild and irresponsible they may be, only to see them crushed by the hard realities of life. Better to have a wild and crazy dream crushed at 10 than 25.

As you might expect, Paige’s mother is furious with Strong Rock’s dream-crushing policy.

“What they’ve done here is they’ve taken Maddy – they let her have that cake, then they took it from her and they smashed it.”

Fair enough. But wouldn’t it have been easier if mom and dad had done the smashing long ago. Or perhaps, I don’t know, not even let her have the cake to begin with? Maybe a different piece of cake?

Look Maddy, football is for boys. That doesn’t mean that boys are better than girls or that God loves boys more than girls. He just created them to have different roles. It’s sort of like the Trinity. The Father, Son and Spirit each have different roles but they are still equally God. Hey look, a softball!

Oh, but I can hear the arguments already.

Do you honestly expect a parent to talk to a sixth grader about the Trinity?!

No. But it would be nice. Besides, if we think that our little ones are old enough and responsible enough to be activists, maybe they can handle a little theology better than we might expect.

And that’s another thing that’s lost in cases like this. The child. Parents have to know that this cannot end well for the child, whether it’s in the seventh grade or in the NFL. Strong Rock said that Maddy’s presence on the middle school team “may” cause boys to have impure thoughts.

May?

May!

Seventh grade boys have impure thoughts looking at a can opener. Imagine what happens to the minds of those little seventh grade boys when they are told to wrap their arms around young Maddy’s waist or push her in the chest. Go ahead. Imagine. I can guarantee you that a group of seventh grade boys already are imagining. And that’s the thing that no one wants to talk about. When it comes to the blurring of gender lines, imaginations are given the opportunity to become actions.

In our culture we are quick to make accusations about sexism. And institutions usually, over time, cave to those accusations. That’s why there are women in our military fighting side by side with men on the front lines.

But we can’t have our cake and eat it too, to borrow a phrase from Maddy’s mother.

We cannot then be surprised when the real sexism takes place. The sexism that leads to a powerful man raping a woman under his command while on the field of battle. Or the sexism that takes place when a seventh grade boy with a wild imagination and a camera phone spends the better part of the afternoon tackling a girl.

Maddy says that Strong Rock Christian School has taken away her dreams. Maybe so. But maybe, in taking away those dreams, Strong Rock Christian School is protecting something that is much more precious to Maddy.

Her innocence.

20 thoughts on “Strong Rock, Bad Dreams

  1. Why doesn’t her mother celebrate the fact that she is a girl and that she should be treated like a girl. She isn’t one of the guys and it’s as if her mother would have preferred having a boy in the family. We as women are the weaker sex physically.
    There is so much more to this than football. When I watch American Idol there are so many kids that have been told they can follow their dreams and they are so talented and then they get in an arena where there are truly talented kids and for the first time, they realize their parents gave them false hope and at that point are humiliated and devastated and embarrassed. Why doesn’t this mother care enough about her daughter to protect her from all of that. Hey mom…help Maddy enjoy being a girl.

  2. Jay, once again you have hit a “touchy” subject straight on with great discernment. We definitely need to pray for this mothers, and others like her, to see the truth and look beyond themselves.

  3. The “real” problem, here, is your support of the “blame the victim” plan. When do we expect men and boys to be responsible for their own thoughts and actions? Rape is NEVER ok. NEVER. It doesn’t matter who the woman is, where she is or how she is dressed. Your argument that service women are asking to be raped by demanding the opportunity to serve their country is appalling. Sexism and rape are two totally different things. I am sad and fearful for any females who are exposed to your rhetoric. There has been quite a bit of research which shows that it is not teaching children to succeed which is most important to healthy development, but teaching them to try, and try and try. Children will live up or down to our expectations. By teaching our girls that they are “weaker”, we are insuring that they will be. By teaching our children to try for their dreams, no matter how out of reach they may be, we are teaching them to work hard and take pride in their effort and attitude, rather than the bottom line or outcome. What about having a set standard for making the team and allowing anyone to try out? If girls try and don’t make the standard, then they don’t make the team. Rather than banning girls from the team, all together, why not educate the boys regarding what is and not acceptable behavior? Also, a schools’ responsibility is to EDUCATE CHILDREN. It is not their duty to mess with children’s dreams, aspirations or anything of the sort. Schools should leave the parenting to the parents and concentrate on educating children.

    • At what point did I say that rape is okay and that the victim of a rape was “asking to be raped”? Thanks for reading.

    • That sounds great, but reality is, and always will be that boys are driven by their hormones. Teaching boys to treat girls as something to be conquered, as in football, does the exact opposite of what you are saying. It encourages aggression against women. Women are physically weaker. They are not as strong. To deny that is to deny nature. We think that we should make men allow women into testosterone driven environments and then fault the men when they treat the woman like a testosterone driven participant. This mentality is why mothers of teenage girls allow them to dress in short skirts and bikini’s and then say the boys should not objectify them and should treat them with respect because they are girls. They need to wake up to reality. Women these days want to have it both ways.

      • That wont help at all. Sports are a important part of school, not only do the teach and instill teamwork, but they also set an educational standard that has to be met. I played sports in school, and if my grades weren’t up to par then i didn’t play. I let my grades slip once my freshman year, after missing baseball season it never happened again. The desire to play sports made me a better student.

  4. As a Strong Rock parent, I fully support the school and it’s decision. It is a private school so if you don’t like the quality education, the great teachers and administrators and the rules, which may include an occasional “NO” to your requests, the public school is down the street. Look at the big picture, not the “Just me” picture.

  5. Your analysis is spot-on Jason and I’d only like to add that of the thousands of people who are “liking” the FB page about half of them actually hate Christians – which is what Maddy claims to be! All the while, the mom, who made the page thanks people for their support of Maddy. What a skewed and self-centered view of this issue ~ “I want my way!” means that I will viciously malign a Godly man, allow others to dishonor the Lord by attacking His followers, and consistently paint a GREAT Christian school as unfair for telling her “no” on something. By the way ~ it has been painted in the media that this child was specifically “booted”. The policy has actually been in place for some time now. Our family stands WITH Strong Rock!

  6. Saying that schools are responsible for smashing dreams is disgusting. Dreams cause people to work harder and to try to achieve a goal. And if they don’t achieve it, they may chose a different dream. Not having dreams is an excuse for laziness which is clearly the problem with the majority of the population in Henry Co., And it shouldn’t matter if its a “boy” sport, if she can compete at or above that level then she should very well have the right to. and where in the bible does it say men are to play football, and women are to wear bows and tiny skirts and cheer on the sidelines. Actually men are allowed to be cheerleaders is this Biblical for them? playing football does not make her less womanly. I think it just would make her even more of a woman to have the strength to play a very tough sport, but if she is physically and mentally the best fit for the position. There should not be any reason why they would not let her play. The rest of the US, including other Christians, have adopted this idea specifically the new military standards adopted last year. SRCS should do the same. Also for being a non-denominational school, they should be more open to other denominations views, but Strong Rock is known for having a bunch of crazy strict southern baptists run the place.

  7. A friend posted your article on facebook, I hope you won’t mind a few comments. For the record I am a fellow believer and from your neck of the woods.

    I want to set aside whether or not a school should be the institution deciding what dreams are valid for a child and try to understand your defense of the schools decision in this particular case.If I have read correctly your post makes two main defenses of the schools decision.

    1) Eventually her dream to play football would be crushed, therefore she should not be allowed to play football now.

    This raises several questions:

    – Should any child who will likely not make it as a professional athlete (or college, or high school) be barred from playing that sport. As that “dream” is not worth following?

    – Does the same hold for children in Theater and other pursuits? What about children with physical and mental disabilities? Many of them will never ever play in the NFL anymore than this girl.

    I guess I don’t follow exactly how her “dream” to play football will be crushed in any different way than millions of other kids who will never play a sport at a high(er) level.

    – What’s you general criteria for when a dream needs to be crushed early by a loving authority figure, and when can wait and be crushed by “natural causes”.

    – Why do you think her dream will be eventually crushed?

    I am sure you are aware that many colleges have NCAA women’s rugby. I imagine that football may be a reasonable substitute in a place like LG with no rugby.

    Also there is this:
    http://www.atlantaphoenixfootball.com/

    2) That her playing football would lead to player would lead to boys to having impure thoughts.

    I’m going to assume you did not mean to imply that if a girl on a middle school football team were to be raped that we “cannot then be surprised”. I can’t fathom that you meant that.

    Do boys have impure thoughts, yeah. I would guess that girls may have an impure thought or two about fit young men running around in skin tight pants. Should we abolish the football team least all the children be consumed with lust? And what of the swim team? Surely the meets should not be co-ed. Maybe the Burqini is the answer.

    Clearly, schools, especially a christian school should do what they can to keep a handle on adolescents sex drive during school activities. But the idea that a girl playing football is any more sexually provocative than, well… being tossed up in the air in a short skirt exposing your athletic undergarments to people. But I would bet dollars to donuts that this school has cheerleaders.

    Thanks for your time,

    (For the record I think as a private school they have every right to set any policy they want. There is no way in the world I would put my own daughter in a school like this.)

    • I was preparing to leave my own comment and critique of this argument, but you eloquently articulated the same frustrations that I had with this particular post. Thank you for that. Despite my best efforts, I am not certain that I would have been able to remain as kind in my remarks – Especially when it came to responding to the rape analogy. I appreciate the effort in the blog post, but the rhetorical holes in the argument are upsetting and reveal several of the reasons why we still need to make serious strides towards recognizing sexism and building a stronger foundation for true gender equality.

  8. When someone decides to attend a private school, they agree to the rules and procedures set forth by that school. The parent made the choice knowing this. Therefore, there should be no issue with her child not being allowed to play on an all boys team. Once again, people are trying to push their agendas and bash a Christian school for not conforming to what is considered to be “politically correct”. So sad that Strong Rock has to defend themselves.

  9. This post begins with the simple and brilliant challenge to look beneath the surface of rhetoric and explore the core of the issue. Well, in the words of a great American “Challenge accepted!”

    At the core of this post are two issues. The first being that “parents and teachers are there to narrow down dreams for kids.” Let’s forget for a moment that any teacher worth anything knows that a lack of confidence is the largest barrier to success in most subjects. Swimming teachers? Just tell anyone who is afraid to jump in that the pool and all its fun is not for you. Music teachers? Just tell the student who struggles with pitch to give up now. After all, your job is to crush dreams. Most teachers would more likely describe their job as “there to provide children with the tools to be successful at any dream he/she chooses to pursue”, but the job sure gets a lot easier under the pastor’s rhetoric. Unfortunately, public schools, by his definition, are in fact doing a horrible job. No one bothered to crush the thoughts of a young black man who had a dream of racial equality, in spite of how ridiculous those ideas seemed in the south in the 60s. No one told a young Michael Jordan to choose a more realistic dream when he didn’t make the varsity squad. If only those young men had been lucky enough to have the good pastor here or the administrators at Strong Rock to teach them the value of crushing unrealistic dreams before its too late.

    I don’t have the space here to address the ideas expressed in the second half that we shouldn’t be surprised when women in the military are raped. Obviously, the pastor doesn’t believe teachers are capable of teaching young men to control their base impulses on the field of play, or battle. After all, teachers aren’t there to foster improvement, just crush dreams. In the meantime, in addition to keeping women out of the military battlefront and football fields, why not put them in burkas and forbid them to be out alone in public? America would be so great if we could just get to the core of the issue!

  10. If this 12-year-old can’t play because there isn’t a future in it for her, then neither can the vast majority of the 12-year-old boys on the team. The NFL is not a realistic dream for most of them. Furthermore, I saw the girl in question, and I’m willing to bet she is bigger and stronger than her male counterparts right now. That will change in coming years, but for now she is probably as physically capable of holding her own on the field. Should her parents protect her innocence and encourage her femininity by allowing her to cheer? Talk about giving boys impure thoughts! I can somewhat get behind the school’s argument that she doesn’t need to be rolling around on a field with 12-year-old boys, because I recently served in church with a 12-year-old boy, and he stared at my (32-year-old) chest the entire time. So I can imagine what would happen if these boys were permitted to accidentally touch breasts… Yikes. But what a wonderful opportunity to teach them that breasts are a body part they should have nothing (sexual) to do with until they’re married. There’s your teaching opportunity, Strong Rock. Other than that, I just really can’t get behind this idea that football is a theological issue. Perhaps by fostering a love for football in this girl, you’re enriching her marital relationship later in life… how many of you wish your wives were more supportive and understanding come football season? Look, I know at least one teacher and one sports coach at this school, and I know they have good hearts and sound theology. This is an excellent example, though, of how when it really comes down to it, the church and/or Christian school is not responsible for this girl’s theological upbringing — her parents are. And if they have decided that she can simultaneously know her role in the church, future marriage, etc. and play middle school football, then they’ve done right by her. That’s what I -a Christian who takes God’s Word and my female role seriously- want them to hear. And while I completely agree that Strong Rock is a private school and therefore free to function how they please, the last thing anyone should hear is: if you don’t like it, “the public school is down the street.”

    In related news, 75 days until opening season. Rise up (men only, of course)!

  11. The blog post is poorly written, lacks discernment, and is logically flawed; however I agree with the school’s decision. Where I strongly disagree with the school is in its INCONSISTENCY. Why in the world did SR let her play in previous years?

    I was also thoroughly confused as to why a Christian would not expect their children to understand the Trinity by the sixth grade. That’s a pretty low bar.

  12. I agree with the previous poster who commented that, at the heart of this unfortunate situation, Strong Rock is a private school, and as such, can implement any rules or policies it deems necessary. Parents have the right to remove their children from the school, and enroll them in other insititutions, be it public or private, that may more closely align with their beliefs and/or the needs of their child.

    Aside from that, I am blown away by your implication that Maddy’s parents have somehow failed her because they chose to allow her to pursue her football interests and talent, instead of urging her toward some more “feminine” activity. I thought society had advanced beyond the notion that women and girls belong at home birthin’ babies and fixin’ supper. Maddy would be more apt to be the subject of an adolescent boy’s impure thoughts if she were dressed in a cheerleader skirt than she would if she were suited up in football pads. I am dumbfounded by your suggestion that rape is inevitable when a woman attempts to place herself in a man’s world; while your words didn’t articulate that direct thought, that is certainly the message that was delivered.

    As a parent, I agree that we have a responsibility to guide our children, and raise them in such a manner that they become reponsibile, productive adults. That being said, your statement that parents are doing a disservice to their children by not crushing some of their dreams is ABSURD. My son tried out for his middle school football team last year, having never played organized football in his life. Did he make the team? No. Was he disappointed? Sure. I was proud that he had the courage to attempt something outside of his comfort zone, and of the committment that he showed in attending the conditioning required prior to the tryouts. Did I attempt to console him with some consolation prize? No. Am I bad mom because I let him tryout knowing that he would likely not make the team? Absolutely not. He learned that sometimes, even if you give your all, you don’t make the cut. I would much rather my child try 100 times and fail, than to sit complacently because he doesn’t think that he will be good enough. Is failure really a bigger blow to his self esteem than having someone say, “Hey kid, not everyone gets to be an astronaut. Maybe you should just aim for garbage man.” Many of the great things that have happened in our country were a result of someone having enough courage to refuse to conform to some societal standard that they were some how less of a person because of their race, gender, or class.

    Life is full of disappointments; this much is true. However, as parents and teachers we should be teaching our children how to cope with those disappointments when they come, rather than conveying some message of “don’t try because you will only fail.”

  13. Actually, I would argue that football should be played by nobody, especially not children with developing brains and little necks. Simply put, it is the sport of morons, not merely because it has appeal to a simpler audience, but because it is out-and-out dangerous. Any sport that involves that much forceful bodily contact is inherently unsafe, a fact that is borne out by an examination of the autopsied brains of dead veteran players. Allowing children to play is to encourage them to dream of football later, to play it, and very likely to hurt themselves incredibly badly at an age where we don’t give them toy cigarettes for precisely the same reasons. Let football slide away into history, along with gladiatorial combats.

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