Samantha Capriles is a rising senior at the Baccalaureate School for Global Education (BSGE) in Astoria, Queens, a very talented soccer player and a close friend of mine. Samantha and I attended the very rigorous and well-known IB school as freshmen and sophomores until I transferred to another school. She is hardworking and a super smart student. Samantha is also one of the most talented soccer players I know, scoring 18 goals in one season and breaking a PSAL record. I thought Samantha’s feedback would be insightful as she is on the frontlines of high school soccer.
As a girl growing up in NYC, why did you start playing soccer and why do you still play it in high school? “My parents forced me to start playing soccer when I was 10 years old after I quit the baseball team I had been playing on since I was very little. At first I hated the sport because I couldn’t find the position that suited me the best. However, after years of playing I found my spot as striker (the most attacking orientated player on the pitch). I didn’t just enjoy the position but I was also very good at it. I mainly attribute my success in that position to be the reason I still play soccer today.”
Do you think that there is inequality between men and women in sports today? If so, do you have any personal experiences that really capture this inequality? “Despite my love for soccer, the inequality in the sport and in athletics in general become very apparent as a player. I was able to experience these inequalities between men and women in sports personally throughout the years. For example, you get comments from guys all the time who say things like “she runs like a girl” or “she kicks like a girl” in a very negative connotation, as if my ability is less. I’ve experienced that guys immediately assume that they are dominant and better than any girl on the pitch without even watching them play. In my younger years of playing, I was very insecure about this and it was quite hurtful to hear things like that. It would really hurt my self esteem while playing, and confidence is an essential aspect to playing well. Eventually I taught myself to tune it out because I was confident in my ability and knew I was a better player. However, for someone who is less skilled or confident, it may be hard for them to even try to play purely because they are scared of comments like these. Furthermore, I’ve played on co-ed teams in which the coaches reinforce these inequalities as much as the younger boys. Usually coaches would put the girls on the bench immediately and not even give them a shot at showing their potential. Obviously, this would have a huge impact on younger girls trying to build up the confidence to play on a co-ed team. Girls are being benched every game for guys that might even be worse at the sport than them; eventually this leads to unhappiness with the sport or a lack of motivation to play, which slowly dwindles the number of girls who want to be on these teams.”
What Is your opinion about the US women’s soccer teams battle for equal pay? “I think that their battle is very powerful for women in any sport all around the globe. I don’t think that it even matters if they won the case or not because they made a powerful statement and stood up to inequality. Obviously, I believe these women deserve equal pay especially because their team is more successful than the male team. “
Parts of this interview have been condensed.
Final thoughts…When thinking about Samantha’s memory of comments such as “she runs like a girl” or “she kicks like a girl” (and wondering for a moment if I’ve ever said that), I remembered a while back my mom telling me about a little girl disqualified because of her hair. Three years ago, an eight year old girl on a Nebraska soccer team was accused of “looking like a boy” because of her short hair. Her soccer team was disqualified in a tournament because officials thought her team was cheating by sneaking a boy into the game. Although afterwards soccer stars such as Abby Wambach sent her video messages of support – “Mili,” she tweeted, “don’t EVER let anyone tell you that you aren’t perfect just as you are. I won championships with short hair.” – I can’t help but hope that she is able to build the confidence that my friend Samantha has and keep playing with any kind of hair she wants.