Fascinating. Throwing really does have big gender differences. But … girls can learn to throw like a boy.
It turns out throwing may be the biggest gender difference of all:
Janet Hyde … has studied the gender gap across a broad spectrum of skills. She believes that men and women aren’t as different as they are often portrayed … Hyde found what she defined as a “very large” difference in only two skills: throwing velocity and throwing distance.
At least some of this is cultural. But if you go to a society where both sexes throw a lot, women do much better:
… Thomas studied aboriginal Australian children, who grow up in a culture where both men and women hunt, and both sexes throw from childhood. “Our hypothesis was that [the aboriginal] girls would be better throwers and not as different from the boys as in European, Chinese, Australian and all the U.S. cultures.”
The data bore him out …
But, most of it comes down to boys using different mechanics:
To understand why a girl “throws like a girl,” it’s necessary to define just what throwing like a girl is. According to Thomas, a girl throwing overhand looks more like she’s throwing a dart than a ball. It’s a slow, weak, forearm motion, with a short step on the same side as the throwing hand. A boy’s throw, by contrast, involves the entire body. Thomas describes a skillful overhand throw as an uncoiling in three phases: step (with the foot opposite the throwing hand), rotate (with hips first, then shoulders) and whip (with the arm and hand).
Girls don’t do any of those three steps as successfully as boys, but Thomas zeroes in on one aspect in particular: the rotation.
So, can a girl do all that?
The power in an overhand throw — and in a golf swing, a tennis serve or a baseball swing — comes from the separate turning of hips and shoulders. The hips rotate forward and the body opens, and then the shoulders snap around. Women tend to rotate their hips and shoulders together, and even expert women throwers don’t get the differential that men get. “The one-piece rotation is the biggest difference,” says Thomas. “It keeps women from creating speed at the hand.” Even when women learn to rotate hips and shoulders separately, they don’t do it as fast as men.
There doesn’t appear to be a muscular or structural reason for the difference.
“Men have wider shoulders, which translates to higher velocity at ball release. They’re bigger and stronger, and you could argue they can rotate their body faster, but the women have less mass to rotate,” Thomas says. The difference, he suspects, isn’t in the arm or the torso or the shoulder. “I’d bet my bottom dollar there’s something neurological. It’s the nervous system.”
Even so, girls can learn the motion that boys use and improve quickly:
Thomas warned that simply learning the motion wouldn’t work miracles, so I didn’t expect one. And I didn’t get one. But … That was a 10 percent improvement in just 30 minutes.
I believe this. The vXwife and the vXsister-in-law don’t throw like girls very much at all. And they both spent a lot of time in those early throwing years playing with boys. But, the vXboy, who has never been interested in sports, and so wasn’t pushed, still throws like a girl.