Sport Leagues Based on Size & Weight

In the US the Republicans are all excited about transgender people playing high school sports and having an unfair advantage over CIS people. (It is a bit of a red herring, you would have to look long & hard to find actual examples of this happening.)

So I saw some little meme proposing that sports competitions be based on weight and size, not gender.

Would that work? I suspect small light boys might have an advantage over full-sized girls in all or most sports. But I am not quite sure. I would welcome you thoughts.

This isn’t really a direct answer ti your question, but there are a lot if assumptions in there that maybe need to be addressed first, I think.

In some of the cases, the sports playing person has to be tested for testosterone levels before and after to make sure they aren’t “cheating”.

In my state, the legislature criminalized medical remedies to gender dismorphia for anyone under 18. Sure, that 10 11 12 year old might not know what they’re talking about, but apparently a committee of utter strangers know better than Mom and Dad whats best for their kid. So, has the person recognized that maybe they have the wrong body and was able to get therapy early enough in life to do things like block the onset of puberty?

The answer to your question is contingent upon those questions and probably others I didn’t think of, so maybe?

Weight generally won’t be a fair comparison between the sexes since there is typically a 10-15% difference in body fat percentage between the sexes. Women generally have a higher fat percentage then men. In general when comparing men and women of the same weight, men will generally have more of that weight made up by muscle. And the men have an easier time gaining that muscle due to testosterone levels, so they don’t have to devote as much time to weight training as women. Men could spend the extra time training other aspects of the sport while women would have to spend that time in the weight room. If a trans athlete is undergoing hormone treatments then many of those differences are equalized so it’s not really as much of a factor in that case. But if it was just a league with people who were not undergoing hormone therapy, then the genetically XY people would generally be stronger, quicker and more powerful than the genetically XX people even if they were at the same height and weight.

Also, because of those muscle-building differences and testosterone, men typically have significantly more upper body strength for where this is a factor in the sport. And in general, men tend to be bigger and bulkier when mature. So maybe high school soccer, especially in lower grades might be a good unisex match; but wrestling by weight class still fails because of the muscle differences; ditto boxing (Is there even such a sport as high school boxing???) I recall a discussion about professional tennis where professionals in the sport suggested the top women’s player might be the equivalent of the 100th ranked men’s player -again, muscle sizes. There might be some sports where quickness and agility are more important than muscle power (goalie? baseball pitcher? Dodge ball?)

Once puberty is sufficiently advanced, though, those muscle differences matter. An alternative might be to handicap - girls get an X% extra in each weight category. But beyond, maybe, age 14 that might be a losing cause anyway.

The question is what categories? If it’s just a house league, who cares? Just enforce the rules against rough play and dirty tricks. When it’s the school-vs-school teams, I suppose ability is the only criteria for selection. But then, do high schools typically have a second school team for freshmen only?

In sports where this makes sense, it’s already done. It’s also generally done in youth sports through the expedient of basing competition based on age.

Beyond childhood though, this would not be fair to female competitors. A 5’8", 140 pound female s not athletically equivalent to a 5’8", 140 pound male. There is more difference between them than just size.

It’s much more lopsided than that, perhaps by a factor of 10. The top female player would have a difficult time scoring many points against any professional male player. The differences in speed and strength are just too vast.

In soccer, for example, the USWNT regularly loses against U17 boys teams. They have lost against U15 teams although those were more scrimmages than actual competitive games.

Thank you all.

In the Olympic setting, men and women only currently compete directly in equestrian and sailing. Excluding mixed gender events such as tennis.

It’s generally well accepted that there is no inherent gender advantage in target shooting either. Despite segregation at the Olympic level, lots of national and international competitions remain non gendered and no clear gender advantage seems evident.

I wonder if there are other athletic sporting endeveaours where the two genders can compete without advantage

Possibly motor sports (whether it’s a sport or not isn’t really pertinent to this thread.)

Bicycle racing is broken up by gender and/or age and discipline, yet upper body strength is not a factor in road racing (it’s a bit more advantageous in mountain biking) compared to overall aerobic fitness and leg strength, so there’s more to it than just that.

Anyway, there are beginner to pro categories for both men and women (men cat 5 is beginner, progressing up to cat 1). However that only applies to road racing. A cat 1 road racer doing their first cyclocross race still has to start at the bottom in cat 4 (cyclocross has not cat 5). Then there’s the age categories. There’s various under-18 categories, but also masters over 30. This gives some opportunity to play the options in a race. A beginner racer entering the men’s 35-39 race is going to get clobbered, but a 45 year old cat 3 racer will likely do better in the master men 45-49 category than in the cat 3 open with a bunch of up and comer teenagers and 20-somethings. A strong 13 year old junior may choose to race up in the 15-18 age category or jump in the open cat 3 race.

In any particular event you’ll likely see a couple of junior races (boys/girls under-15 and 15-18 leading to four separate podiums), men cat 5, 4/5, 3/4, 3, and 1/2/3, women open (1/2/3/4), women 1/2/3, and master men 30+, 40+, and 50+ and master women 30+ and 40+. This is already a ton of categories and will quickly fill up a schedule. So while it’s entirely possible to have just a cat 5 race, just a cat 4, just a cat 3, etc., you usually see at least some combined races, such as 3/4 that allows the cat 4s to dip their toes into a harder category, and the not-so-strong cat 3s to perhaps win some socks. Even then, many categories will be combined into a single race/start even if they’re scored separately, such as men cat 3/4 and masters 40+, or men cat 4 and women’s cat 3/4. This keeps the day from being 14 hours long, and also helps ensure there aren’t races with only five people on the course.

I bring this up just to show how quickly things get complicated. Being a heavy guy myself I’m all for weight categories, but in the few races they’ve been used (clydesdale 200+ lbs) it’s just a special separate prize category by the race promoter and isn’t actually recognized by the sport’s governing body. That’s also a very coarse cutoff compared to a sport like wrestling where there’s about 10 weight classes (more for kids). If such a thing were implemented officially, it would probably be just another layer on top of all the existing categories rather than a replacement for gender, age, or skill. There is something to be said for straight-up skill-based categories regardless of gender. The result is that women simply wouldn’t be able to ascend to the higher categories men would, at least not as many. The question is if that’s fair or not.

Depends on numbers of athletes, budgets, and field time limits.

I teach in Oklahoma. Just about every scholastic team sport has varsity and JV teams when the school is big enough. Then bigger schools also have a freshman team

Is the category for men exclusive? IOW, are women prohibited?

It’s my impression that in many (most?) sports, the category frequently designated “men’s” is actually open to anyone (with the necessary skill).

I guess that raises the question: What sports exclude women from men’s competitions? (I think the Olympics may do this, at least to some extent.)

In baseball, basketball and NFL football, you want different sizes and weights of players. Nobody would turn down MLB players Jose Altuve (5’6", 165#) or Aaron Judge (6’7", 282#) for their dream teams. I suspect the same goes for those sports down the line to school teams. You’ve got to have different sized people to get different jobs done.

Generally not (there are some exceptions for high-level international races, national championships, and stuff like that). But for the most part people can race “up” a category if they wish. I mentioned juniors before, who can compete in older categories, and masters can compete in younger categories too. For women, from the USAC rule book:

Women may enter any men’s race for which they are eligible by age, category, and any performance requirements. They may also enter categorized races for men that are up to one category lower than their women’s category. For road, track, and Cyclocross events, category 1 women may enter men’s races up to two categories lower.

Master women may compete in men’s masters races as follows:
(i) category 1 and 2 master women may enter men’s events for riders up to 10 years above their racing ages;
(ii) category 3 and 4 master women may enter men’s events for riders up to 20 years above their racing ages.

I recall that, when Danica Patrick first started competing in NASCAR, some other drivers believed that she had an advantage, due to her light weight (she was listed as being around 100 pounds).

The NASCAR rules, at that time, required that lighter drivers carry extra weight in their cars, to balance out car weights against an assumption of a driver weight of 180 pounds. But, the maximum extra weight required stopped at an additional 40 pounds (for a driver of 140 pounds); the rules did not take into account a driver who weighed less than that. So, Patrick’s car, with her in it, weighed about 40 pounds less than her competitions’ cars did.

(I do not know if NASCAR revised their rules as a result of this.)

Thats interesting around cycling. Also very cool. Its always great to see sports with competiive mixed teams and it helps couples and families compete together which is great.

In my (perhaps ignorant) mind I had thought road cycling would be hugely advantageous the male gender attibutes. Despite the smaller disparity in lower body strength , it still exists, and I assume there is also the cardiovascualy advantage of mens muscle:fat ratio being optimised for that sport.

Makes me think of another sport with similar demands placed primarily on legs and cardiovascularity - long distance running. I see men and women frequently compete in Marathons and such together. Womens WR times are ~13min off Mens. Over 2 hours this is the same ~10% difference we see in many other athletic sports. However if you exclude the top most times and look lower at the professional runner median, things close up a bit.

Of course, this is only indirectly related to her sex. A male driver could be very small, too. Unless one can demonstrate a very small male driver would have an inherent physical advantage over a female, it’s a sport that would allow for easily implemented equal competition, unlike, say, sprinting or hockey.

That’s true, and the Autoweek article I linked to noted that Mark Martin was also apparently under 140 pounds.

Since the average NBA player is 6’7” it would make for a really interesting start-up to have a league in which the rim is lowered 7” and there is a player maximum height of 6’0”.
It would cool to see what kind of players would emerge as the best in the world in something like this.