Most enjoyable co-ed sports
December 21, 2012 2:56 PM   Subscribe

Female sports players: what are your favorite and least favorite sports to play co-ed, and why?

Sometimes I find that it's hard to play certain sports co-ed because of a big difference in height, speed, or strength. In other sports, sometimes guys resist passing to me even if I'm the only one open. I'm looking for a new sport to take up, and looking for input on which sports are likely to be more enjoyable than others.
posted by cairdeas to Sports, Hobbies, & Recreation (30 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
Ultimate frisbee is excellent co-ed. For one thing, the culture around it is great: you'll find little of the macho attitude that causes guys to hog the action. For another, co-ed leagues are the norm and not some little sidelight off the normal league. And finally, it's surrounded by a fun social scene too.
posted by forza at 3:29 PM on December 21, 2012 [6 favorites]

Cycling is very co-ed friendly. This might be a bit surprising, since the races themselves are usually segregated, but it's very common for the teams themselves to be mixed and for team-mates to do mixed rides during training. Cyclocross has a particularly pronounced reputation as a welcoming, newbie-friendly sport with a strong social component. A few years ago Swobo released a cyclocross bike with a bottle opener built into the saddle, which pretty much encapsulates the entire sport right there: ride some bikes over an obstacle course, have some beer afterward, and don't worry if your bike is a few grams heavier than it has to be.
posted by d. z. wang at 3:42 PM on December 21, 2012 [1 favorite]

I have played co-ed ultimate frisbee, soccer, and flag football.
- Soccer is definitely my favourite sport, but the 'never pass to girls' issue varies wildly across different teams and leagues, and I haven't figured out quite how to predict it (except that less competitive groups are not usually as bad). Indoor seems to have less of a problem with this because in outdoor you can just about ignore one side of the field for all your attacks.
- I'd agree with forza that Ultimate is probably the most 'even'/'accepting' sport, and if I wasn't quite short and bad with airborne objects, I'd probably play more of it.
- Flag football is odd, I can't quite decide where it fits on this spectrum - the way my league is set up girls are an integral part of the game, but there are a few special rules to make that happen which sometimes feels weird. It's also a very physical game (apparently we have different rules to your average flag football).
posted by jacalata at 4:06 PM on December 21, 2012

Water polo is sadly terrible. Either the guys are afraid to get near you, and therefore basically can't play with you, or they are all too happy to get up in your business.
posted by restless_nomad at 4:11 PM on December 21, 2012

I've had poor results with co-ed soccer. Either the guys didn't pass to me because I am a female and thus only on the field to make up the female quota, or the guys totally bowled me over and kicked me in the shins and were generally so aggressive that I got seriously injured (but at least I didn't break my collarbone like one of the other girls on my team!). Adult soccer leagues also seem to have mismatches in expectations for seriousness between teams.

Co-ed softball has worked well, but it's a much less physical game and so didn't do much in the way of fitness. I've heard of friends having lots of fun with kickball and dodgeball, but have not experienced it for myself.
posted by ChuraChura at 4:11 PM on December 21, 2012

I am not a female, but volleyball with skillful players is really conducive for co-ed. Especially 4 vs 4 where you do not have to rotate. I played a lot of this with very skilled female setter and libero.
posted by travis08 at 4:14 PM on December 21, 2012 [2 favorites]

I do not consider myself athletic, and co-ed badminton was both newbie-friendly and woman-friendly, in my experience. It was a good workout and I definitely did not get the feeling that I could not play effectively simply because I was new, or too small, or not strong enough, etc.
posted by flex at 4:15 PM on December 21, 2012 [1 favorite]

I play coed volleyball and love it. Mind you, I play rec league where there's not a lot of spiking.

Personally, softball was the worst for me... We had guys hitting home runs almost every bat, and they wanted all the most important outfield positions. It was a bummer.
posted by Paper rabies at 4:15 PM on December 21, 2012 [2 favorites]

Tennis and volleyball are especially fun coed, imho, because there is specific need for different skills on each team.

Soccer was fun in CA because there are more good female players there so the guys don't assume you suck and they will pass to you. In Europe? Forget it, you might as well be invisible. Flipside is the standard in CA for girls is very high!

Coed ice hockey is good too in no-check leagues because its about skill then plus the really good ex college players don't play or if they do they are mellow. I play hip-check Coed hockey too but at 6' I'm as big or bigger than most of the dudes.

Basketball is the worst. No one ever passes to you, ever, even if you are the best player on the court and they are all sick with the flu and forgot their glasses and can't see. They will not pass to a woman.

Then there are sports like curling or pool or riding horses where gender really doesn't matter at all.
posted by fshgrl at 4:32 PM on December 21, 2012 [2 favorites]

I had a good time playing co-ed volleyball. The league I played in many years ago was pretty low-key and most players played at a typical high school gym class skill level. The potential male speed/strength advantage doesn't matter as much if it's accompanied by limited skills.
posted by drlith at 4:43 PM on December 21, 2012

I too have had good experiences with ultimate frisbee.
posted by medusa at 4:51 PM on December 21, 2012

Co-ed softball (at least with my office) is the worst. Each team has to have a couple of women on it and the guys don't really want us there since we are usually not as good.

I haven't played Frisbee competitively but just throwing it around with both guys and girls, I've had a good time.
posted by mlle valentine at 5:20 PM on December 21, 2012

Guy here. I've played co-ed ultimate and have seen some guys avoid passing to girls, but it's generally not a problem, especially if you're joining a pickup game or rec league, not a competitive team. I've also played pickup co-ed volleyball and didn't see any gender discrimination. In my experience ultimate is more likely to be followed by shared beers, although that might be because my volleyball groups have been either with my parents or at a Mennonite church.

Another idea is circus toys (don't know what you'd actually call these). Hooping, juggling, poi, tightrope/slackline, rope dart, etc. Not exactly sport, but these are play, skill, exercise, and fun to do in a co-ed group.
posted by domnit at 5:30 PM on December 21, 2012

Apparently that is approximately the right term - circus skills.
posted by domnit at 5:39 PM on December 21, 2012

as a pre-teen: hockey, both ice and field, is a great co-ed sport, when everyone is still at the sort of age where you're all the same size

as a teen/adult: cheerleading and kickball

everything else kind of sucks
posted by elizardbits at 6:11 PM on December 21, 2012

Co-ed flag football has always been fun for me, but I'm generally quicker than some guys on the field. I also helped run a lot of our team's trick plays since the league required at least half the team on the field at any given time to be girls.

Co-ed broomball (not really a sport sport but fun nonetheless) is also amazing because no one really masters how to run on ice while whacking at a little orange ball.

Ultimate, like everyone else has mentioned, is good too. Just pretend you're a rabid dog chasing after a frisbee!

Basketball's the iffiest for me. It's damn near impossible unless you're a really good outside shooter or get a lot of fast breaks. It's pretty stupid to try to post up against a 6 foot something guy...
posted by astapasta24 at 8:26 PM on December 21, 2012

Great question. First, basketball. Basketball is my sport. I played at just about every competitive level there is except professional. It can be a good co-ed sport but that requires the right kind of league and the right teammates. The problem is that if it gets even a little competitive then the good players become ruthless (not just toward female players but also toward male players who don't play at a high enough level). It's a small window of co-ed fun but if it's there and you can find it I think it's probably the most fun.

Volleyball has a bigger window than basketball. For one thing, no matter how athletic the men are and how many sports they play there's a very good chance they never learned how to play competitive volleyball (the "bump, set, spike" mantra was never internalized) which opens up the game nicely. In fact, volleyball is a sport where women can use their generally smaller size to their advantage because they can get lower to the ground quicker and get some impressive digs. Plus women often do learn how to play competitive volleyball in high school so their skills are often superior to those of their male teammates. If some of the men are athletic and are skillful then that window can close and it becomes a game of spikes and hard serves. Still, there's more opportunity there.

I do recall playing some kind of baseball-like game in college that used a large plastic bat and ball. I played baseball competitively as well but no matter how well I hit this ball it would never go far and I couldn't control it very well. So the equipment helped level the playing field. Ultimately I lost interest because the game wasn't athletic enough but it seemed to work pretty well as a co-ed sport.

Another possibility I would like to see is the resurrection of James Naismith's original 13 rules for basketball (or at least some of them). Basically no running with the ball and no dribbling. This requires a lot more passing and I think might allow more people of different skills more opportunities to be actively involved. I've been trying for years to organize such a game but without success. Still, it's a physically active game with no physical contact, a good degree of skill, and the possibility for good, competitive co-ed play.

In the end I've never played Ultimate but I assume it's the best answer.
posted by bfootdav at 8:28 PM on December 21, 2012

Bfootdav: have you heard of netball? Mostly played in commonwealth countries, I haven't seen it in the USA, and it has a couple of extra rules, but its basically basketball with no running or dribbling and with enforced zones.
posted by jacalata at 8:49 PM on December 21, 2012 [2 favorites]

Jacalata: !!!!!!! I had never heard of netball till this moment! I'm not sure about the zones and the lack of a backboard but it's almost exactly what I was looking for. It looks like the equipment is specialized so adaptations would have to be made to play it on standard basketball courts. Regardless, it warms my heart to know this sport exists. Thanks!

P.S. I watched the video on the Wikipedia article and felt an uncontrollable urge to dribble. I imagine that adapting to the new rules would take time and I'd commit a lot of penalties along the way but god I'd like to give it a shot.
posted by bfootdav at 9:21 PM on December 21, 2012

Co-ed Netball (I'm in Australia) can be fun- usually it's the girls who are good and the guys have to work to prove their worth (especially in pick up teams!)

Lots of passing required (no running with the ball). But hell on the knees.
posted by titanium_geek at 11:21 PM on December 21, 2012 [1 favorite]

I think it really depends (for almost all of the sports) on the league/team. I've been on coed ultimate teams and I'm not a fan. Even at my height, 6ft tall, the guys just went for long haul Hail Marys, housing all the ladies on the jumps. On the other hand more "individual" sports work well as coed (rock climbing, a swim team, etc). Actually I really love my masters swim team, practices are coed but competitions are gender based.
posted by raccoon409 at 4:14 AM on December 22, 2012

Seconding Jacalata that Netball is a great co-ed / mixed sport as it's entirely non-contact and the different positions cater to different physical strengths - the wings and centers can be smaller and speedier, tall people who can shoot goals can play goal shooter or goal attack and tall people who can't shoot - well, they can play defence!

Also seconding titanium_geek that it's hell on the knees because once you get the ball, you essentially have to stop (although at a high level, it's a pretty fast flowing game) I recommend really good sport shoes and maybe some strapping if you have dodgy knees.
posted by rockpaperdynamite at 4:23 AM on December 22, 2012

Ultimate frisbee is absolutely my favorite. Women match up against women, so if you do have a guy on you, then there's a mismatch some where else on the field (so it seldom happens). Teams are frequently looking for more women because, for many tournaments, 3 out of 7 people on the field need to be female (per team). With almost half the field female, teams have to use their women or they lose.

My soccer experience has very much depended on the group. Some groups seem to adopt me as a mascot and pass to me almost too often. Others pretend I'm not there. At least one group has even been offended by my presence because the men were from a culture that doesn't interact with women.

Basketball is impossible (for me at least). I am just far too short and physical strength is far too important.

Climbing might or might not qualify. I enjoy climbing with guys. You're not really competing against anyone except the route (at least the way I do it).
posted by oryelle at 3:36 PM on December 22, 2012

Awesome thread everyone. Thank you very much for all of your replies! I'm most surprised to see all the recommendations for ultimate frisbee, since that's one of the sports that was really annoying to play for me (I played in high school so maybe it was a maturity issue, but the guys would rather pass to a guy who never once successfully caught the frisbee than to me, if I got my hands on it they would run behind me and scream for me to dump, and they would try for a Hail Mary throw every chance they could, to the end zone where the guy who was 6'4" had parked himself.) Having seen so many recommendations though, I'm thinking about giving it another try.
posted by cairdeas at 4:28 PM on December 22, 2012

If you try out frisbee, go for a league that requires at least 2 and preferably 3 women on the field at a time. Playing with 6 guys and 1 women on the field can make it harder to feel involved. Also, playing with more mature and more skilled players should avoid the problems you described.
posted by oryelle at 4:41 PM on December 22, 2012

I play co-ed tennis. The guys may hit hard, but you can send it right back.
Wonderful sport, I have met great people.
posted by ibakecake at 9:46 PM on December 23, 2012

Oh hey, I missed this thread earlier. I was a new female sports player once, so here are my suggestions. I've played coed soccer and volleyball regularly for about 7 years now and love them both.

Soccer - definitely play in the lowest level you can find ("recreational level") in a casual league (look for keywords like "social" or "fun" or "meet new people" or similar). If you can bring a friend or more, you'll probably enjoy it far more. Avoid playing with competitive-minded guys as a general rule because they will often avoid passing to girls (or to anyone they deem unskilled). Girls do this occasionally as well but I see it way more in skilled male players.

Volleyball - same thing, but probably better than soccer for beginners because there are more completely inexperienced players and you will always get opportunities to play the ball rather than needing to wait for it to be passed to you.

You can also look for "all sorts of sports" leagues which do a different sport every week, if they exist in your area - you can see right away which sports you like without committing to one. These are especially good for meeting people (if that's one of your reasons for playing) since a lot of people are there to socialize rather than because they love the sports.
posted by randomnity at 12:39 PM on January 21, 2013

And to add the angle of being skilled enough to compete vs. men, for any sport, you will almost always be starting at a disadvantage relative to male unskilled players, assuming you're not far more genetically athletic than the average woman.

That said, if you practice and become more skilled, you can definitely match and even exceed the skill of the men on the field/court, especially playing in casual leagues.

I consider myself to be a better soccer player than many of the guys on my team because I know my strengths (speed/agility, aggressive mindset, tactics/being in the right position) and have figured out how to use them effectively as a defensive player (defense is generally easier for beginners since you don't need to be very skilled with moving the ball around). Similar thing with volleyball - I'm definitely not anywhere near as good at blocking as the 6'4 guys on the team, but I'm much better at passing accurately and diving for balls and I have decent serving and hitting. I'm also pretty competitive-minded which means I sometimes outperform more skilled players due to the extra effort.

So, you might not be able to directly compete with most guys in things that require a lot of strength/height, but most sports have a role for skilled support players, and that can be every bit as fun to play.
posted by randomnity at 12:52 PM on January 21, 2013

From friends, I've heard good things about the communities surrounding archery and underwater ice hockey, and both seem to be co-ed.
posted by batter_my_heart at 1:10 AM on March 25, 2013

Wait, underwater ice hockey, what?! Ah. If you actually have access to an underwater ice hockey community and are badass enough to play, yes, I imagine no one will notice your sex.
posted by domnit at 7:35 PM on March 26, 2013

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