Extraordinary Girls: Meet Joyce, a 16 Year Old Wrestler
I’ve been thinking about all the amazing things girls my age are doing, and I’ve decided to start interviewing teenage girls who break the mold. I’m starting out with Joyce, a sixteen-year-old wrestler on a co-ed team who’s kicking butt!
FL: What made you join the wrestling team?
Actually joining the team started as a joke…then I started actually considering it. I love trying new things, whether it is new food or new activities. I also really love to move around and get exercise, and I felt that wrestling would be a good thing to do in the winter. I’d never played another sport with as much contact as wrestling, and the only other co-ed team that I’d been on was my school track team in 7th and 8th grade (but there was no contact there and I only competed directly against girls.)
FL: Before joining the wrestling team, had you ever heard of women wrestling? What was your impression of female wrestlers?
I realized that women’s wrestling existed but I never really thought about it. I knew that there were a few girls on the team last year, but other than that I thought of it as primarily a guy’s thing. I didn’t really know any female wrestlers other than the girls on the team last year and they all seemed incredibly confident. The picture I had had of women wrestlers was that they were really strong and “butch,” but now when I think about women’s wrestling I associate it with the girls on the team.
FL: Did you have any inhibitions about joining a team with boys?
I did think that it would be a strange experience to be doing such a high contact sport with guys.
A family friend laughed at me when I first brought up that I was considering it. She asked if the team would just be girls and when I told her that I would actually be part of the boys’ team (I think it’s listed under “Boys Wrestling”) she asked if I was concerned about wrestling boys. I actually wasn’t. I’ve always felt incredibly satisfied when I can beat boys at athletic activities (even in 5th grade I used to race and arm wrestle the boys) and I was excited by the idea of a challenge.
She brought up that I would be getting sweaty with teenage boys while wearing very little clothing and the sexual implication sort of bothered me at first. But, I decided that I would be approaching it as a sport, so I wasn’t going to let that concern me. The guys were also getting sweaty in minimal clothing with other guys because they saw it purely as a sport, so why should the fact that I was a girl stop me?
FL: What was your first time wrestling like? What about your first time wrestling a boy?
The first time I wrestled was so intense. It was also the first time I wrestled a boy. I had been practicing and learning moves for about a month. When my coach went down the line-up and read out that he was putting me in, my heart started beating really quickly. I was both incredibly excited and nervous at the same time. The other team didn’t have any girls so I knew I would be wrestling a boy. In practice I was best at defense so I resolved that I would not let myself get pinned even if I couldn’t win. A wrestling match consists of 3 two-minute periods if neither wrestler gets pinned.
During that match I fought back for the full 6 minutes.I didn’t have any sense of awkwardness at the fact that I had my body pressed up against a guy’s because I was too busy thinking about trying to push up to get back up to my feet. I ended up losing, but I was satisfied that I didn’t get pinned in my first match ever. I felt like I had fought as hard as I could have and I hadn’t given up.
I was also proud because the other coach told me that I was the best girl he had ever seen wrestle.The captains on the team said that I was a really strong fighter and that I had done better than they had expected.
FL: Has anyone ever said anything teasing or derogatory about your being a wrestler? What do you find people’s reactions usually are?
At one meet a guy on the other team said rudely and jokingly to his friend that he didn’t need to worry because he was going to be wrestling a girl, talking about another girl on my team (UGH THAT MADE ME SO MAD WHEN HE WON!).
People are normally surprised. They also want to know why I decided to join. I guess the primary reaction is curiosity. Before the season started, my friends said they were scared for me because they thought I would get crushed (but that’s really not an issue because I am wrestling guys or girls who are the same weight as I am so they can’t exactly crush me).
FL: What advice would you give to other girls who are looking to break into a seemingly scary activity?
JUST TRY IT! Give yourself a week to decide before rejecting it right away. I decided that I would go to wrestling practice for one week before I decided if I wanted to be on the team for sure. I grew to really like the team and wrestling itself. Although I was SO frustrated after the first day because I was just so confused about how to do the moves, but they got so much easier after just three days of practice.
FL: What has been the best thing to come of your wrestling?
Recently the mother of our male captain said something to me that made me feel really powerful. She was talking to me after my first meet, and she said that she thinks that if a girl can wrestle a guy, then she can do anything.
Fiona Lowenstein is a high school junior, weekly guest blogger and Girls Leadership Institute alumna. Read more of her work here.