The Locker Room Conundrum

by Sharon Enck aka PuckGal
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On the ice, they are unidentifiable — just cage-masked figures in pads, breezers and skates. It doesn’t matter that they have an extra Y chromosome.

But off the ice, it’s another story.

While girl hockey players may be getting some equality in the game, off the ice a struggle is ensuing: To locker room or not to locker room?

For girls playing on co-ed teams, the answer is not as simple as you would think. Some areas of the country have instituted a separate locker room policy, in essence segregating the girls from the boys. The reasons all sound like good ones:

- To head off any potential issues that may arise from boys and girls dressing together.

- To make both sides, male and female, more comfortable; not to mention the parents.

All of that does sound good until you examine it a little deeper.

A locker room in youth hockey is not just a place to dress. It’s a fort; a place for camaraderie to grow, strategy to be discussed and where a group of kids can morph into a team. So what happens when you take that Y chromosome, an integral part of the team, and separate her by putting her in a different room? You isolate her physically and mentally and possibly drive a wedge in to what should be a well-oiled piece of machinery.

You make her different.

Girl hockey players aren’t in it to be different. They want to part of a team; that unidentifiable, cage-masked figure making the plays or stopping the pucks.

Some girls though don’t necessarily want to be in the same locker room as the boys. Karlie C., a Peewee, chooses to dress elsewhere because the boys are “gross” and she doesn’t like the “shenanigans”. I can’t tell you how funny it is to hear a young girl use the word shenanigans—it was like talking to my grandpa!

Her teammate, Maddy B., however and others like my daughter, McKenna, wouldn’t want to be anywhere else. They want to be “with their team” and McKenna finds their antics hilarious from her vantage point on the inside—spitballs, bodily function humor and all!

Like anything else however, opinions and viewpoints change. Even my daughter has had several changes of mind over the years. When she first started in Mite she put her unders on in the bathroom and then joined the team. Then in Squirt, she became comfortable with the boys to a point where she dressed and undressed with them. It was not as though she was strutting around in there with Victoria’s Secret on!

There is such as thing as too comfortable however. This last season, McKenna took it a step farther when, seeing the locker rooms were overcrowded, took it upon herself to join several teammates in a common area to undress. Her pink-pantied behind up against the glass caught my attention from the warm room! That is where I drew the line!

While everyone had a good giggle over it, no one cared or filed a report with USA Hockey (at least not to my knowledge.) They were just three 10-year-old teammates sitting on a ledge—one hockey player in a sports bra and underwear and two in boxer shorts. Of course, if there had been some fallout or a situation, I would, as a parent handled the situation accordingly.

And don’t get me wrong, I am not obtuse enough to think that this situation is OK forever or even in to the next season. As the kids get older, and the locker room talk and the hormones get stronger, some adjustments will have to be made.

But is segregation the answer?

To do that, in my opinion, could potentially break down a team’s dynamic. How equal can a girl be if she has to closet herself away pre-game to ready herself? That is where girls often times have to prepare—in a tiny little closet or makeshift dressing area in a corner—and sometimes all by herself. Talk about being made to feel like a second class citizen!

I thought we had come a loooong way baby.

As confusing as this is to the parents, even our hockey programs seem confused. During tryouts this last couple of weeks, McKenna dressed with the boys at one rink and had a separate locker room at another. Her goalie camp last year put all the girls in one separate room but a path was worn between the boys and girls as they tried to “prank” each other all week.

So what is the answer?

Should it be an age thing? Different rules at different levels? Should it be case-by-case with the coach and program director making policy? Some programs require at least one responsible adult in the locker room at all times. Is this a successful way of ensuring that issues don’t arise while still keeping the girl players with the team?

And should a girl be forced to be in the locker room if she doesn’t want to be? Karlie C. is perfectly happy dressing elsewhere but Maddy B. and McKenna want to be included in the shenanigans however gross or silly it all may be. Who’s to say any of these girls’ thinking is wrong?

In closing, my personal opinion is this, all kids are different, all teams are different and perhaps each situation needs to be viewed on its own with our kids being our guide.

Now that my head hurts, what is your opinion?


Sharon Enck, (aka PuckGal) lives and breathes hockey in, of all places, Phoenix, AZ. She has covered the Phoenix Coyotes for several years and her blog, “Covering the Five Hole”, is dedicated to the antics of her goalie daughter, McKenna, and anything related to being a hockey mom. The surly in Surly Gurl Media, Sharon is also a freelance writer and social media manager. Visit Sharon and McKenna at her blog site, PuckGal, and she can be reached at