I am not a Female Hooper…Just a Hooper by Jazmine Charles

Have you ever heard the phrase, “Wow, you can play well – for a girl?” Well, if I had a dollar for the number of times I’ve heard this phrase in the basketball world, I would probably be a millionaire. Since I can remember, I have always been an athlete, playing multiple sports throughout the year. It wasn’t really until basketball started to become my main focus and the sport I put so much time and effort into that I started receiving a lot of comparison. “Wow, you play well for a female.” “You really know how to shoot the ball for a girl.” “I’ve never met a female baller that can really play that well.” And my all-time favorite, “Wow, you are a good female basketball player, but I bet I can beat you one-on-one.”Growing up as a tomboy, it never occurred much to me that I was ever considered less than any of the boys I used to play against. It seems that the older I got, the more society kept trying to categorize or label me as a female athlete and as a player. What I mean by this is that, although I was a good ball player, I still had to meet certain gender role qualifications.There have been occasions in which I have been told that I can’t be good at both basketball and be pretty or feminine. Or if I was too rough on the court, that I still needed to wear dresses and skirts when I am not playing. I have been told that I needed to choose a career that most women like to do such as: veterinarian, teacher, or stay-at-home mom. I’ve been told that there was no way that I should be able to live outside the realms of these restrictions. The first time I was compared to a boy and basketball was when I was in middle school. I was challenged to a game of one-on-one with a boy who played on the middle school team. Of course, a slight crown formed when they seen that he wasn’t blowing me out the water. Next thing you know, to their surprised I won, and of course, that’s when all the infamous phrases began. “You just got beat by a girl.” “Dude, how did you let a girl beat you?” During that moment, I felt inferior. It made me feel that no matter how much I worked and practiced the game of basketball, that I was never supposed to beat a boy- just because he was a boy. (Mind you I was a starter and he was a benchwarmer). But it didn’t matter, because he was male and I was female, there was no way he was supposed to lose.  This soon became a turning point in my career and my love for the game. Still to this day, now that I have played, high school, collegiate, and professional basketball and have even broken records, I still get questioned whether or not I am good. I still get picked at and saying “yeah, you are a great female player.” My question to everyone else is why do I have to be restricted? Why am I not just a basketball player- who just so happens to be a female? So, a little piece of advice to all of you who question, criticize or scrutinize us female athletes. If we are good- just tell us we are good. We know that we are females, but we also know that the hours, work, and dedication we have given to our sport has made us great, period. No more using the word female basketball player, female hooper, or female athlete. Just say, “Dang, she can really play. She is an awesome player.”

Thank you.

Sincerely,

Just a Hooper

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