Women’s Soccer Success

We are used to being insulted by Bill Clinton but today’s insult by Allysia Finley was disappointing because she is a member of the WSJ Editorial Board.  She is writing about soccer and Why U.S. Women Rule The World.  The sub headline says America’s democratic ideals deserve the credit for America’s soccer superiority.  The sub is wrong but Allysia is right by imprecise when she says:

Girls in the U.S. are encouraged to play multiple sports. That prevents burnout and helps them develop a range of athletic skills. [Emphasis added]

She leaves it oddly passive on who is doing the encouraging.  She does note that promising athletes are captured by federations or teams in other countries.  In the U.S. it is their families and the organizations they create.  She gets the emphasis all wrong when she says:

Hundreds of thousands of girls play for high-school teams (and some in travel leagues), and colleges recruit the top thousand or so.

We would like to see her data on the item in bold.  We are willing to bet that every woman on the US national team played on a travel team and that at least 900 of the college 1,000 played on a traveling team.  Note that anyone growing up outside the US is not included in our estimates.  Again, this is their families.

Then comes the insult.  We used to hear it from Bill Clinton but Allysia has softened it some by emphasizing college athletics and she could make sense of it.  We will help her out.  First she says:

One reason is the 1972 civil-rights law Title IX, which effectively requires colleges to provide an equal number of athletic scholarships to men and women. The law has forced schools to reduce men’s athletic programs like wrestling, but it has encouraged more girls to participate in sports.

Here is how she could make sense of it.  Families and non-govermental organizations take care of the soccer player (and several other sports) until age 18.  The government has acted to help them after age 18 by giving women more scholarships and denying them to men.  This helps the the US Soccer team because there isn’t a market mechanism for women in soccer.  There is a market mechanism for men in many, but not all, sports.

Where do US women rule besides soccer?  Swimming and gymnastics come to mind.  Here is a list of the top 15 men and women swimmers by gold medals.  Eight of the 15 women are from the U.S.  The men do even better.  Where do we see the most families and traveling teams?  You know.

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