Would you tell a boy to “smile” while losing at baseball?

by Erica on July 19, 2015

I was at a girls’ youth softball game recently and I loved watching the kids play.  But something I witnessed has been bothering me since…

Full disclosure, I am a girl.  Well, really, I’m a 38 year old woman.  I played youth and high school sports, and I’ve also coached youth and high school athletics.  I’ve had many successful seasons as an athlete and coach.  I’ve also been known to be a jock.  And proudly so.

So imagine my surprise when I heard a young male coach refer to the players on the team I was cheering for as “babe,” “honey,” and “sweetie.”


And then, to top it off, he told his players that their body language was poor (they were losing by several runs) and for them to “smile.”

I nearly lost my mind at that point.  “Smile?”  Seriously?????

Would we tell a boy who was losing in a baseball game to “smile?”

No, of course we would not.  And we don’t.

Why?  Because when a boy is losing they aren’t expected to turn around their mood and suddenly be happy.

Why?  Because losing sucks, and athletes are expected to work harder, listen to their coaches, and try to turn it around with their teammates.

Smiling has nothing to do with this.  It’s optional.

So why are we telling girls who are upset because they are losing to “smile?”

I’ve been told to smile when I was upset, both as a young person and as an adult.  And that is total and complete b.s.

And now I’m watching young athletes, who happen to have female reproductive organs, be told to smile when they’re losing.

News flash for anyone who does this…losing sucks for girls too.

To be clear- I’m not a “win at any cost” type of athlete or coach.  I think kids (and adults) can learn a lot from losing, and sometimes even more than when they win.

And, I appreciate people willing to do one of the most under-appreciated and thankless jobs- coaching youth sports.

But we MUST stop as a society from telling girls, and women, to smile.  (And calling them “babe,” “honey,” and “sweetie,” unless you happen to be married to them or gave birth to them.)

Because, really, your feelings of being uncomfortable with a girl, or woman, being upset in softball, or in life, have nothing to do with them.

Really.  It has nothing to do with them.

It has everything to do with your own discomfort of seeing them upset.

And as grown ups, we have to deal with our own feelings, and not put them on others.  Particularly children.

So, please, if you hear a friend, family member, or colleague use this type of language with girls (or women), please help us all out and enlighten them on how it’s inappropriate and harmful.

Girls have a right to be upset when they’re upset.  As do women.

Telling them to smile is the same as telling them they don’t have a right to feel what they feel.

And that’s a harmful message to send.

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