Girls get in the ring of male-dominated sports


Ava Nicely and Madelyn Shapiro

Every weekday from 3:45-6:00 p.m., junior Margaret Goletiani runs, lifts, and spars with the Wilson wrestling team. As one of only two girls on the team, Goletiani is paving the way for other girls to join previously male-dominated sports at Wilson.

Goletiani describes herself as a very determined person. “I knew that it was something that I definitely could do, and I really wanted a challenge,” Goletiani explained. Wrestling undoubtedly gives her that challenge with the rigorous practice routine. Each practice begins with running laps around the third-floor hallway, followed by sprints, wall-sits, and lunges. Before the team even starts to wrestle, they do about ten minutes of running up and down the stairs. Then, a typical practice involves learning new moves, such as how to pin someone from a certain position.

Though the sport is traditionally male-dominated, Goletiani emphasizes that the main factor in training and competing is one’s weight class, so her gender doesn’t determine her role on the team. On the Wilson team, Goletiani and one other student are the only people in the 120-pound weight class. Goletiani will typically train with him, however, when he is not there, she has to train with people in the next weight class, which is 130 pounds. “I often go up, which can sometimes be a challenge, but that will help you in the long run,” she said.

At wrestling competitions, her gender also does not limit her potential opponents. She has wrestled with one other girl, who attends GDS, and also has wrestled a boy from St. Stephen’s and St. Agnes. Since Wilson is the only DCPS school with a wrestling team, their opponents are schools from all over the DMV.

Though some may believe wrestling as a girl would be difficult because women have a different build than men, Goletiani actually uses her body type as a strength. “Women do have stronger hips, so you use that to your advantage,” she explained. This gives her an edge in competition over her male counterparts who are not accustomed to wrestling girls.

To prepare for the season and her wrestling debut, Goletiani attended a two-day clinic called Wrestle Like A Girl, an organization that strives to encourage more girls to join the sport. At the clinic, she met girls of all ages who were there to improve their wrestling skills. “You saw girls from literally like four years old up until 18, and so that was kind of cool. And they were all girls, and it was run by girls,” Goletiani said.

Another male-dominated sport at Wilson is the squash team. Though there have been a couple of girls on the team in the past, none of them are currently part of the group. For whatever reason, many girls tend to not fully commit to the activity.

With a small team of fewer than 20 members, the group meets on Mondays and Wednesdays in an office building in Friendship Heights. The team generally attracts freshmen who are looking to try a new sport, so most team members have never played squash before. However, students have to pay to join the squash team, which junior player Nico Bosquet explained was a major turnoff for prospective athletes.

Bosquet said that one of the squash coaches, Connie Barnes, has been encouraging the team members to do outreach to encourage girls to join. Bosquet explained that squash is more about cardiovascular endurance and strategy, so any differences in size between male and female players do not have an impact on competitiveness. “You don’t need the muscle mass to hit the ball. It’s a small rubber ball, and there’s a small space. It’s about playing smart,” Bosquet said.

The Wilson ice hockey team saw its first female player this season. Sophomore Amel Yakoub, who had played on a boys club team before transferring to Wilson, has been enjoying her first season with the team. She emphasized that being a girl has not made a difference in regards to how she is treated by her teammates. “I like to check a lot, I’m very physical, so it’s kind of like just having another guy on the team I guess. They’ll hit me back. I’ve gotten into one kind of fight,” Yakoub explained.

Since Wilson is the only DCPS school with an ice hockey team, Yakoub was very excited about coming to the school. She also plays for the Northern Virginia Ice Dogs, an all-girls travel ice hockey team.

Though Wilson has many male-dominated sports, there are also teams for only girls that were created just to counteract this trend and offer girls the same athletic opportunities as boys. For example, the Wilson bowling team was started in 2012 after DCIAA added bowling as a varsity sport in an effort to improve Title IX compliance. The sport is only for girls and gives them an opportunity to stay active and compete with other DCPS teams, according to head coach Rebecca Bradshaw-Smith.

Wilson is very fortunate to have a developed athletic program with plenty of sports offering for both genders. Though some sports like wrestling and squash are male-dominated, girls are in no way barred from joining these sports, rather, they are welcomed by the teams and encouraged by their peers to participate. By being among the first female Wilson students to partake in these sports, these girls are leaders empowered with the ability to inspire others to challenge gender norms.