Youth: How Women in Soccer Shatter Performance Stereotypes
Apr 1, 2021
Men and women are physically and psychologically different, so it’s no surprise that they play the beautiful game in different ways. In this post, we’ll look at what the research says about the differences in playing styles between men and women soccer players and take a look at the physiological and psychological aspects that set them apart. We’ll also discuss how women soccer players are shattering common stereotypes and what this means for the future of women’s soccer.
If you compare the scale of women’s and men’s heights, weight, lung capacity, leg strength, among other factors, research shows that the present situation for women soccer looks something like this. Imagine “men playing on a much larger pitch, with larger goals and a ball about the size and weight of a basketball in a game lasting 113 min.” This scenario would be a very different game and require different techniques from the players.
Performance Advantages of Women Soccer Players
Soccer has the same rules for men and women, which means that physically, women have to cope with tougher demands than males. Women soccer players may not play the same as men, but there are some aspects of the game where women have a clear advantage over male players.
Greater Emotional Intelligence
Women have learned from an early age to be aware of emotions and, in general, are more sensitive to the feelings of others. According to research, thanks to this early socialization, “women exhibit a more extensive knowledge to perceive, interpret and manage their emotional expressions,” This means that on the pitch, they can decipher and interpret the feelings of their opponents in different ways. This understanding allows them to react in different ways than male soccer players might. Women have also developed strong leadership ability using their emotional experience and emotional self-regulation on the pitch.
Physiologically, women have less strength than men, play slower and are shorter with less muscle mass. They have adapted with a focus on sharper techniques rather than relying on strength in their style of play.
Women have less aerobic capacity than men, so they need to train to pace themselves more effectively. Research shows that the fitness difference between men and women soccer players is 12%, compared with a 23% difference overall. This comparison indicates that female soccer player’s fitness is better than male soccer players compared to the general population.
Increased Interest and Popularity in Women’s Soccer
There are also differences in how women’s soccer is seen around the world. In the last 15 years or so, women’s soccer has exploded around the globe. In some countries, like the USA, women’s soccer has had greater success and is far more popular than men’s soccer.
There is also a massive push for training in women’s soccer, with resources and focus going into grassroots soccer clubs and more girls and women-focused youth academies and training facilities. With more funding and training for girl’s soccer, we’re bound to see more success and new records broken in the future.
What Needs to Change
While women’s soccer has made huge strides in the last few decades, there is still a lot that needs to change to make things more equitable. A significant issue is the current pay gap and other inequalities such as a lack of training facilities for female athletes.
There are also considerable gaps in research into how female athletes can reduce their injury rates for ACL injuries and concussions. Compared to men, women have much higher rates of injury for both these conditions, but most of the research only looks at male athletes.
Reminders for Women
Women soccer players should keep in mind injury risk when they play and be sure to wear women’s soccer protective gear such as women’s padded pants and soccer leg guards to help reduce the risk. Goalkeepers, check out our women’s goalkeeper pants to protect you from turf burns and dives.
While it’s true that women’s soccer is not the same as men’s soccer, it doesn’t do either one any favours to compare them. As we’ve seen in the past few years, women play a different game from men and have shattered every preconceived idea or stereotype about female athletes and what they can achieve. Who knows what the next decade will bring, but it seems the sky's the limit for women’s soccer.