Athletes shattering gender roles

Mason+Kramer

Mason Kramer

Nicole Arnold, hockey

“I asked my mom if I could play [hockey] when I was 4 years old and she told me I had to wait another year, thinking I wasn’t serious,” Nicole Arnold said. “Right after my fifth birthday I was all excited and told my mom I was old enough to play now, so she signed me up.”

Arnold, sophomore, spent her childhood on the ice. She always loved the atmosphere of the rink. So at 5, she picked up a hockey stick and some pads and began to play. Being the only girl on Kirkwood’s hockey team, Arnold faces few hardships or disadvantages and focuses on her love for the sport.

“Now that we’re older it gets harder to keep up,” Arnold said. “The boys are a lot stronger and faster.”

Being a female on an all-male team has never been an issue for Arnold when it comes to her relationships with the other players. While she knows of other girls on male hockey teams who were not always welcomed to join the game, Arnold has had better luck.

“Everyone’s been really great to me, and none of the guys seem to have a problem with [me playing],” Arnold said.

While she acknowledges that playing in a male-dominated sport has its challenges Arnold feels as though there are more positives than negatives. If you’re a female wanting to play on a team with all males, Arnold said your best bet is to pay no attention to the small amount of people trying to discourage you.

Picking up the game of ice hockey as a young girl has brought Arnold a long way in her sports career. Playing with the boys wasn’t an issue as a 5 year old, and for Arnold, it never will be.

Mason Kramer, horseback riding

While many of the top horseback riders are male, Mason Kramer, junior, has been surrounded only by females in his arena the past three years. Though he has never competed with another male in his division, Kramer pays no attention to the fact that he is the only male horseback rider around.

“[The girls] really don’t act any differ- ently toward me,” Kramer said. “We’re competitive while we’re on the horses, but fine with each other once we get off.”

The only noticeable difference Kramer has found since he picked up the sport in 2009 between playing with all males and playing with all females, is that girls seem to be a lot like their female horses: mean.

“Guys have a bigger team mentality,” Kramer said. “The girls are just pushy and more competitive.”

For Kramer, the hardest part about be- ing the only male in his horseback riding division is living up to the expectations that top level riders, mostly males, have set for him. While the high expectations do become stressful at times, Kramer looks at the positive side and realizes that being a male rider, he has been given more job offers and recognition for his hard work and dedica- tion for riding.

“It can be a really good thing for your future because of all the opportunities you’re given,” Kramer said. “It’s also a per- fect place to meet girls.”

Even though the finances of grooming and transporting his own horse tend to get a little much, Kramer knows it’s worth it. He has mowed a large number of lawns since he picked up the sport three years ago, and puts a good amount of his money away specifically for his horse.

“You have to work for it,” Kramer said. “You can’t just expect it like a lot of the girls do.”

Elise Tadros and Elizabeth Klippel, water polo

Elise Tadros and Elizabeth Klippel, juniors, are two girls on the KHS water polo team. On a team dominated with males, these two explain the risks and the rewards of playing an aggressive sport on a co-ed team.

“You can obviously tell [the male players] underestimate you at first,” Tadros said. “But then they realize you can play just as well as they can and starting treat- ing with you with a lot more respect. It’s fun and you get a lot of good competition.”

With four broken noses under her belt, Tadros said Water Polo is a challenging game. “It takes practice and confidence overall because they are just people. Just because they’re guys doesn’t mean they’re better than you. It just matters who works at it the hardest,” Tadros said.

Klippel said being a minority motivates her to better herself in areas where many male players are lacking to make up for her weaknesses.

“I mean I guess it’s hard because you’re playing with mostly guys that are twice your size and you have to kind of keep up with other ways of beating them because they’re most likely stronger. Since they’re more powerful, you have to be better at swimming and other tactics,” Klippel said.

Knowing that not just anyone can play water polo, Klippel said the right mindset is critical.

“Really love the sport and keep work- ing at it because it can be tough being one of the other girls and their are disadvan- tages but you can get really good at it,” Klippel said.

Tadros agrees the rewards of the game outweigh the trials.

“Just get in there and be confident and play to your best ability because that’s what [the boys are] doing. Why shouldn’t you?” Tadros said.