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Excerpt from Oral History Interview with Anson Dorrance, June 11, 1991. Interview L-0054. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007) See Entire Interview >>

Female sexuality and soccer

Dorrance describes his role in improving the image of female athletes. He thinks that the "attractive women" he recruits help revise many people's beliefs that women turn to sports because they have no romantic interests to fill their time. He believes that one women's basketball coach who recently declared that she would not recruit lesbians was employing a clever recruiting strategy, because fearful parents would respond well to it. He disagrees, however, with the premise behind the coach's announcement: that young women might become gay by associating with other gay women. As he concludes his thoughts, he briefly comments on the need for male coaches of female players to be very careful not to enter an inappropriate relationship.

Citing this Excerpt

Oral History Interview with Anson Dorrance, June 11, 1991. Interview L-0054. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007) in the Southern Oral History Program Collection, Southern Historical Collection, Wilson Library, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

Full Text of the Excerpt

MARY JO FESTLE:
I guess soccer would not be a sport that one would immediately think of as feminine. And certainly you're encouraging the players to be extremely aggressive. I've seen them play and they're incredibly tough. Is that a concern for you? Is it ever a concern for the players?
ANSON DORRANCE:
I think by the time I get the players it's not a concern anymore. They went through that catharsis in high school when they were either being shunned or excoriated for being aggressive. So, by the time I get them that's not a psychological issue anymore for me. That's one of those junior high issues when, you know, puberty starts to kick in and they start to realize maybe who they are and what direction they are going in. Those are issues that maybe junior high coaches and high school coaches have to deal with. I don't, because obviously, women I recruit have proven themselves in this arena and it's not an issue for them. One thing I do think we have contributed towards, though, is a lot of girls we end up recruiting here obviously, are the sort of girls that I'm recruiting because I'm not only interested in winning, but also promoting the image of the school and the sport. I think we have some very attractive women. I don't think that stigma is ever going to be thrown in our direction. But by the same token, we've had some very average looking women that have competed here and succeeded and that are still involved in athletics, so I think we have a balance. Maybe it's conscious to a degree and maybe again, it's just a sacrifice I'm making to make the game more popular. I almost think it's positive for us to bring in these women that are attractive to basically, bury that old stereotype that you know, if you're a woman and you compete in athletics it's because you can't go out on a date. I mean, it fills your afternoons, where you would have basically spent them boy chasing if you had a shot. But since you don't have a shot, you've poured yourself into athletics and that's where we want you to remain. You know, that's a very negative stigma. And I think for awhile in women athletics, that was the case. And maybe in the way I am, I guess, building this team up. It's certainly not conscious, but obviously there is some sort of subconscious influence because the teams I've had, I think, are great teams but they're attractive and we look good getting off a bus. I think it's to bury that stigma because it is still a stigma in some sports.
MARY JO FESTLE:
And I've seen in the news recently, I think it was a woman basketball coach, sort of letting out the word that she would not recruit lesbians.
ANSON DORRANCE:
Yeah, was that at Penn or Penn State?
MARY JO FESTLE:
I think one of those.
ANSON DORRANCE:
Yes. I heard that on tour. And that's very clever recruiting because what you're recruiting, you're not really recruiting the player, you're recruiting the parents. And obviously, lesbianism isn't something we address. I mean, we understand it's a part of women's athletics and you know, the lesbians I've had on my teams have been great; great players, great for chemistry, very positive role models in my opinion, but you can never come out and make that sort of statement publicly because you would be destroyed by it. I mean, all the religious zealots out there would make mincemeat of you. I was reading in the paper today the Presbyterians, I guess, won't push through this new stance on pre-marital sex and bringing in gay and lesbian preachers. Now, I don't know anything about the Presbyterian sect except this didn't go through. And I'm sure the reason it didn't go through isn't that it wasn't a positive step. It's just that the public reaction would be so negative toward their church that they would suffer as a result. people in my opinion are sort of narrow-minded and one-dimensional. I forget where I was going. Oh, the thing with Penn State. I think that's clever recruiting. Was it a woman?
MARY JO FESTLE:
Yes.
ANSON DORRANCE:
Okay. All parents of young athletes are aggressive and have this fear that their daughters are gay or are going to be. And I think this is a way to sort of let the parents know, "If you send me your daughter, I'll convert her," as if such a thing is possible, which is absurd. Everything I've read about it and my understanding now is I think your sexuality is on a continuum from rampant heterosexuality to rampant homosexuality with bisexuality being in the middle and you're dropped somewhere on the continuum. And to a degree, your environment takes you in one direction or another, but if it takes you in a direction away from your natural genetic predisposition, you're not going to be comfortable. And so, in a way, if these parents of this girl that's sort of on the border or maybe even a bit gay, is sent to this school to be converted into being a heterosexual, I think you're doing her a disservice if she spends her whole life confused and unfulfilled and you know, nervous. And so, I don't know whether or not that's necessarily a good thing. But it's great recruiting. I mean, it's clever. She's going to get a lot of good players and she's going to win over parents who have this fear watching their daughter grow up and become a lesbian, you know. "Oh, gosh, she's a lesbian because we let her play softball last summer," or something. "Oh, God, it's our fault." So I think that's clever in one perspective, but I think it's dishonest from another. I don't think that coach has an understanding about, I don't know what it's called. Gender predisposition? I don't know what the formal term is, but I think she's missing the boat.
MARY JO FESTLE:
I guess one advantage that you have being a male coach is that you don't have to deal with, "Is the coach a lesbian?"
ANSON DORRANCE:
Yes, but then you've got the other thing which I think is even worse. I think the greatest challenge for men coaching young women is, you know, there's a sexual line you can't cross, and it's crossed constantly because let's face it. A lot of the girls that come in, especially into a high visibility place like this have a tremendous respect for you. And you know, these mentor relationships, they're bent out of shape to a degree anyway. It would be an environment that would be easy to exploit and so if you don't have that as a stigma, you've still got the other thing that is something you've got to be very careful about. I think one of the worst things about men coaching women is that line that's crossed. It's not so much you have to be careful, but you do. And it's not one sided. It's not just coming coach to player. So, you know, there are issues you've got to deal with from that perspective that, obviously, the female coach wouldn't have to deal with.