One of our first posts was about the effect of girlfriends and wives on (male) player performance. The Setshot community felt that, in general, the presence of female spectators caused guys to try too hard and impress too much--to the detriment of their overall play.
Lately I've had another girl problem. There's a 17 year-old girl who plays in one of my regular pick-up games and SHE IS A BALLER. She's only about 5'5" and maybe 110 pounds, but she is fast like the wind and never runs out of gas on the court. She literally goes full speed on every single possession. She's also got a sweet jumper that she does not hesitate to stick. I'm guessing that she is a star on her high school team but I've never actually asked. Now don't get me wrong, she's not better than me, but I'm twice her age, bigger and stronger, and have been playing ball for 20 years. While she's not a dominant player, she's smart and hardworking, so she gets her share of open looks and invariably drops a few points in every game.
Guys who play with talented women will be familiar with my dilemma. And as one of the quicker, smaller guards in the game, I am often called on to check her. In principle, I don't mind this, as she's a good player and I respect her game. She is not the problem. The other guys in the gym are the problem. If she scores or makes a nice play, a chorus of ignoramuses will let loose with something along the lines of "Oooooooh, she DID you. Ooooooooooh." And if I actually step up, play defense and steal the ball or block her shot, I get this: "You're a bully." Of course, when it's time to match up, none of those guys want to guard her. I think they rightly see the situation as no-win and act accordingly.
Anyone else recognize this Catch-22? It bothers the hell out of me. I mean, a good player is a good player, right? The girl I'm talking about is better than many of the male players in the gym, but if one of the less-talented male players schools me, it's not an issue. If the girl scores on me though, dudes act like my penis just fell off.
In my experience, this problem goes away after a talented female player becomes a regular in the game and the regular male players begin to ignore gender and focus on ability. It definitely helps if the talented woman has humiliated multiple male regulars, as this normalizes the general impression of her skill level. In other words, she becomes one of the guys. One of the best pick-up players at NYU was the star of the women's basketball team, a fantastic scoring forward who went on to play professionally in Europe. She was the quintessential normalized female pick-up player because she was so talented that no one could really be blamed when she did something great (which was often). But even in this case, where pretty much everyone knew about her killer game, I would often hear some snickering from the peanut gallery when she scored.
What's up with this?