Interesting real life stats on boys/girls sports

(137 Posts)
Ozgirl75 Sat 24-Apr-21 09:43:49

My 8 year old son recently competed in a cross country event. This was for around 25 schools, each of whom did their own cross country at school and then sent the fastest 5 runners to compete in this event.
This is all primary, being age 8/9, 10, 11 and 12.
I received the results today. I would have assumed that because the 8/9 and even 10 year olds were well below puberty, that boys and girls were similar speed runners.
Well they weren’t at all.
My son came 54th in the boys, running 2k in 9minutes 24 seconds. In the girls race this would have put him in 7th place.
The fastest boy was 40 seconds faster than the fastest girl. And this is 8/9 year olds.
This is relevant as the top 15 runners go on to trial at another event where the fastest runners of that run for the state and then eventually, Australia (obviously the pool gets smaller and smaller!)
My interests firstly are, why? Why are Pre pubescent boys significantly faster runners than Pre pubescent girls? For example, my son isn’t really even a runner, he’s just an all rounder and plays lots of sport, but he would have finished one place behind a girl at his school who already runs for NSW (and obviously runs and trains pretty hard).
And secondly - wow. If this is the difference before puberty, what will the difference be like after? (Rhetorical question). It makes me see even more strongly before that sport should be segregated for the absolute protection of girls’ sports and scholarships.

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FortunesFave Sat 24-Apr-21 09:48:33

I am in Australia too. I think, having girls who were always friends with boys, that the boys do tend to be faster quite early on.

My girls were always sporty/rough and tumble but haven't been typically as strong as their male friends.

After they hit 13=14 the difference is much wider...the boys shoot up quite quickly. Aussies are big though...

Ozgirl75 Sat 24-Apr-21 11:11:37

It just really surprised me that even amongst a group that wasn’t a random sample of children, but specifically children who were already fast at running (each child there was top 5 in their year for running) the girls were pretty much all slower than the boys.
The fastest girl wouldn’t have made it into the top 15 runners if boys and girls were running against each other.
And at our school lots of sport is mixed - eg girls can be selected for the boys soccer teams and the tennis team is basically 50/50 at year 5/6 level.
I was just fascinated that the physiological differences make themselves known so young.

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InvisibleDragon Sat 24-Apr-21 11:23:34

It may not be purely physiological. Boys are often encouraged to spend more time doing sport from a very young age and to participate in more physical activities - throwing, running, jumping, swimming. Even for young girls, their play can be less physical - pretend play with dolls, hair and make-up, drawing and colouring for example. And girls clothes are often styled in ways that are less practical and less comfortable for physical activity. Add to that, girls are not encouraged to be competitive and may receive censure for wanting to be the best. So from a very young age, boys get the message that it is good to be sporty and physical, whereas girls internalise the message that they need to be careful and that doing sport is embarrassing.

This is from Margaret Atwood's Cat's Eye about being a girl:

Something is unfolding, being revealed to me. I see that there's a whole world of of girls and their doings that has been unknown to me, and that I can be part of without making any effort at all. I don't have to keep up with anyone, run as fast, aim as well, make loud explosive noises, decode messages, die on cue. I don't have to think about whether I do these things well, as well as a boy. All I have to do is sit on the floor and cut frying pans our of the Eaton's Catalogue with embroidery scissors, and say I've done it badly.

So there may well be physiological differences between boys and girls that are noticeably at a young age, but let's not forget the impact of gender stereotyping and gendered behaviour expectations either.

Ozgirl75 Sat 24-Apr-21 11:33:05

I do very much agree with that - absolutely so. Except that these are the girls that absolutely are good at running and would be fit, determined, running at a high level - not just a random selection of girls.
So the fastest female runner in my son’s year is a much more committed runner than he is, and yet he is still a faster runner than her.
These girls are the best runners in all their schools (mixed and girls) and, to be fair, in Australia there is an extremely sporty culture that involves both boys and girls. Yet they still, as a group, are slower than the male runners.

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bluebluezoo Sat 24-Apr-21 11:34:28

It may not be purely physiological. Boys are often encouraged to spend more time doing sport from a very young age and to participate in more physical activities - throwing, running, jumping, swimming. Even for young girls, their play can be less physical - pretend play with dolls, hair and make-up, drawing and colouring for example. And girls clothes are often styled in ways that are less practical and less comfortable for physical activity. Add to that, girls are not encouraged to be competitive and may receive censure for wanting to be the best. So from a very young age, boys get the message that it is good to be sporty and physical, whereas girls internalise the message that they need to be careful and that doing sport is embarrassing

This.

Boys are usually encouraged to run around, play football etc. Even if girls are encouraged to be physically active it’s one ballet or gymnastics class a week, which won’t help with running fitness, so the difference between them and boys who are running around everyday playing football will be huge.

Ozgirl75 Sat 24-Apr-21 11:35:18

Please do note - I’m only saying this as a reason as to why I completely agree with sex segregated sport.

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Silverfly Sat 24-Apr-21 11:39:34

I've found the same OP. My DS was faster than my DD when he was 9 and she was 11 - and she's very fit and sporty. I was really surprised.

timeisnotaline Sat 24-Apr-21 11:40:39

ozgirl I’m in melbourne. By the top 15 runners go to the next level, do you mean 15 boys and 15 girls? Or 15 by absolute performance? I’m hoping the former!
I would absolutely agree that this is sex based difference- the average girl is much less active but in oz there is a lot of girls sport. We took my son to starter football (afl) this mornign (he’s 5) and it’s 20-30% girls, as we left the girls league game started, 2 teams of very fit strong 15-16 year old girls, every girl I know plays sports.

NotBadConsidering Sat 24-Apr-21 11:47:28

The “boys are encouraged more” point has validity, but not when you look at swimming. My DC swim in a squad as part of a club (also in Oz 👋). They have club night, where all the kids in the squad swim races. They’re mixed and the pre-pubertal boys are consistently faster than the pre-pubertal girls. Not all of them obviously - the curves overlap more. But this is a cohort of children who all swim the same sets in training, same frequency, race just as regularly etc. And there is still a noticeable sex difference pre-puberty.

Ozgirl75 Sat 24-Apr-21 11:52:35

@timeisnotaline yes I mean top 15 in each race (so top 15 girls and top 15 boys in each age range)

If it was top 15 by age performance, there would not be a SINGLE girl who would go through. Hence the importance of sex based competition.

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RedDeerRunning Sat 24-Apr-21 12:05:01

I think there is decent evidence that prepubertal boys have athletic superiority over girls from as young as 4. There was a Japanese study in very young children that showed boys had greater strength (I think). Don't forget, they have testosterone in the womb.

Ozgirl75 Sat 24-Apr-21 12:17:17

Then it is just so unbelievably unfair and shit for girls that any one of these boys could just decide (in some states) to be a girl.
I have a friend who works in a school where they have had a couple of transitioning boys to girls and she’s very “well they aren’t very sporty and the girls are really supportive” and I have said “yes that’s fine for THIS one but what if the next one is sporty?” and what these running results show is that they don’t even need to be super sporty to beat the girls really quite easily and comprehensively, even without the added benefit of puberty.

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Ozgirl75 Sat 24-Apr-21 12:19:54

And again, well, it’s only a running race, except certainly over here there are numerous sports scholarships to university, and if girls have been resoundingly beaten through school then this is clearly unfair for their chances of getting these scholarships (if boys can run as girls which generally over here at the moment they can’t, thank goodness).

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timeisnotaline Sat 24-Apr-21 14:21:21

RedDeerRunning

I think there is decent evidence that prepubertal boys have athletic superiority over girls from as young as 4. There was a Japanese study in very young children that showed boys had greater strength (I think). Don't forget, they have testosterone in the womb.

It’s probably not that surprising when you think how the baby growth charts are different. I was so surprised there were boy charts and girl charts when I had my first, I thought they were all just babies and the same.

NecessaryScene1 Sat 24-Apr-21 14:23:52

Why are Pre pubescent boys significantly faster runners than Pre pubescent girls?

Here's a good discussion on the subject, with Emma Hilton and Linda Blade.

www.youtube.com/watch?v=tu9GzW39oLA&t=4716s

Linda Blade discusses her own experiences and stats of children at similar ages.

Helleofabore Sat 24-Apr-21 14:26:15

This study refers to the study they did on Australian school kids.

link.springer.com/article/10.1007/s40279-020-01389-3

Iirc the boys showed advantages from around 6 years old.

NecessaryScene1 Sat 24-Apr-21 14:29:44

Quick summary of the point in the video - boys and girls of the same age are only close in performance in a specific start-of-pubescence time window, when the girls are on average further into puberty than boys, so are more developed.

But before and after that window, boys are further ahead.

People are misled by charts/studies which show the male/female gap increasing from puberty, and assuming the small difference at age 11 applies through the entire pre-puberty period. It doesn't.

PermanentTemporary Sat 24-Apr-21 20:55:29

Certainly by Tanner stage II, there is no overlap in testosterone levels between boys and girls - levels are already in different ranges.

Ozgirl75 Sat 24-Apr-21 23:57:07

That’s really interesting, thanks so much for linking those articles.

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Fucket Sun 25-Apr-21 05:00:28

I have to say having children has made me rethink boys and girls and their relative strengths. I have a ds who is one school year younger than his sister and they are yr 3 and yr 4. They have spent the last year or so doing exactly the same activities, thank you lockdown.

I’ve had to have a conversation with him that because he is a boy he can’t play rough and tumble like he wants with his sister(s) - he has two - because theyre not as physically capable or wanting to as him.

I’ve had to explain to my upset dd that even though I’ve banged on and on about how boys and girls are equal since she was born, that eventually boys are stronger and faster than girls.

I’ve been honest and said to them both I didn’t think it would materialise before puberty. I feel like on some level I’ve been fed a myth and I’ve passed it on.

In the wake of the me too scandal I’ve made sure to explain how strong boys can scare girls to my son. That showing off strength between boys when they play can scare girls. I’ve had to tell him he has to use his strength to help his sisters not hurt them. Which so far has improved their play but is making my stomach turn in knots that I’ve basically turned my kids into stereotypes of boy = hero, girl = pathetic princess who needs rescuing. The latter more so his younger sister who he will escort, carry, assist in all matter of things, despite my efforts to get her to help herself.

So I do think that if we don’t acknowledge this difference in ability at a younger age, a lot of boys are going to grow up unaware of their natural physical abilities over girls. Perhaps on some level why teens and young people think there is no problem in trans people competing in women’s sport is because they have been educated to believe there is little difference in the sexes that can easily be remedied by medication.

I’m in my 30s and I grew up believing I could do anything a man could because I am tall and quite broad framed. I went into a physically demanding career and it rapidly became apparent I’d have to work ten times harder just to be average. I wish I’d really truly known this at 18 and Perhaps saved myself a lot of misery believing myself to be useless.

In trying to pursue equality for the sexes we seem unable to have a proper dialogue with children (who grow up into adults) about the fact that men on the whole are stronger than women. I knew of course that big, strong males were always going to be stronger. I was that naive to think that much shorter men would not be stronger than me. Media representations of tiny actresses beating up men do not help.

But yes I totally get where you are coming from. It’s not until you see it for yourself with your own children do you finally see the truth about the difference between the sexes.

NecessaryScene1 Sun 25-Apr-21 05:25:31

Media representations of tiny actresses beating up men do not help.

I've never seen a game (video or other) where male and female characters have different stats, and I think I've played quite a lot of games. It's only ever a visual difference.

You can understand the creators' logic - players would be pissed off about being "penalised" for wanting to have a female avatar, and aren't going to want "female" to be "slightly-harder mode".

So misleading.

Although then again, you maybe still wouldn't register the difference properly unless you had played both male and female in one game, or it was a directly competitive game.

But with them being always being the same, I think the repeated reassurance from each game that avatar choice doesn't affect anything can bleed through into general thought if you're not stopping to think about it.

Okay, now I'm wondering - I've never done any sports games since Daley Thompson's Decathlon. Presumably they're largely avoiding total nonsense by making your avatar's sex match that of your competitors? Always male in a lot of cases.

A quick Google suggests FIFA 21 has women's football teams. Do they at least have some overall female/male performance difference, so the games play differently, or is it just a reskin so a top-ranked female player performs the same as a top-ranked male player? Does Rapinoe (rating 93) perform like Messi (93)?

CrazyNeighbour Sun 25-Apr-21 06:25:15

These are “Motivational Times” for swimmers. More girls swim competitively than boys, and they have better attendance on average than boys at training (I.e. they train harder!)

In terms of these standards a child who achieves AAAA would be “possible future Olympian”. AA would be a decent club /regional swimmer.

Even from aged ten and under there are differences, and they just get bigger.

There are tens of thousands of data points feeding into this.

Sometimesonly Sun 25-Apr-21 06:43:11

This is interesting. I didn't realise the differences were there so early either. I have B/G twins at primary school and dd is easily able to beat her brother in a race despite him being the sportier child. Obviously she is the exception rather than the rule. It makes it even more infuriating that the discussion around this seems to be entirely based on testosterone levels which are only one factor we should consider.

334bu Sun 25-Apr-21 07:35:58

My experience of b/g twins is the exact opposite. From a baby my son was always stronger than his sister. Having been brought up with only female siblings and a girls school education, the differences between them astounded me . Moreover I had always firmly believed that boys were only more rumbustious than girls because they were encouraged to be so and girls were treated differently. Boy did I have a rude awakening.

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