I Love Playing Basketball

What are your thoughts on women competing against men in recreational, but male-dominated sports? I like to play pick-up basketball but often find myself the only female on the court. Although the men are respectful, I get the sense that they don’t like to guard me since they cannot be as aggressive as they like.

I enjoy playing with them, but I don’t want to be a burden. Am I interfering with male bonding time?


Dear Terry,

What an interesting question! You specifically ask if you are interfering with male bonding time (yes), but we hope you don’t mind if we discuss the issue more broadly.

As you note, your presence is causing the men to play the game differently than if you weren’t there. You note that the men are respectful. Consider the alternative — they treat you like a guy, possibly harming you physically and definitely harming themselves spiritually. So, regardless of bonding, you are forcing them to change the way that they play the game. That doesn’t sound very good to us.

Basketball isn’t just a ‘male-dominated sport.’ Unlike, shall we say, volleyball, it is a sport that encourages people to move quickly while getting very close to each other. Since we discourage physical contact between men and women who aren’t related to each other, we are not fans. An exception might be if a family group playing a relaxed game intended to include not only males and females but six-year-olds and grandparents as well. In that case, all involved would play in an entirely different way.

Friendship is one of the sections of our new book The Holistic You: Integrating Your Family, Finances, Faith, Friendships, and Fitness. Possibly the most controversial idea we propose in that section is that platonic friendships are a myth. We are not going to attempt to lay out our argument here, but we think that not only are you being a burden to the group in regard to the game, but that you are not doing yourself or your relationship with these men a favor by attempting to be “just one of the guys.” You aren’t.

We understand that what we are saying is counter-cultural and probably disappointing. Yet, we think that your writing to us in the first place, as well as being a Happy Warrior, suggests that you suspected what our answer might be and are willing to add it to your thinking while coming to your decision.

There are other women out there who like basketball,

Rabbi Daniel and Susan Lapin

What do you think? We’d love to hear your thoughts on this Ask the Rabbi & Susan post.
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