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A girl participates in an athletic competition to show that girls can be as good as it as the boys are. Note that this may require pulling a Sweet Polly Oliver. She then makes good by a) outplaying (or at least equaling) her male counterparts in an athletic competition, or b) joining another team, and winning a game for her team. Sometimes this happens in retaliation to being called "just a girl".
Almost always, the girl is treated as a hero (with the "being carried on the other athletes' shoulders" treatment) upon winning the game.
This is frequently an instance of a Jackie Robinson Story. The Spear Counterpart is the Billy Elliot Plot in that they both subvert gender norms, but whereas that trope centers on the same-sex parent's disapproval, the parents' input in this case is not as vital, and they tend to range from supportive to neutral.
Standard implementation, with a win at the end:
- It could be said that the anime series Princess Nine is based on this concept, with nine female athletes banding together to form their own baseball team.
- Pictured above: Taishou Yakyuu Musume may be even more so, since it deals with an all-girl baseball team in 1920s Japan. And all because the girl in the picture, Akiko Ogasawara, was told by her arranged boyfriend Sousuke that girls should Stay in the Kitchen. It's actually an example of the second type - the girls barely lose their match, but win the respect of the boys and their parents... meaning they get what they actually wanted. Especially Akiko, who proves to Sousuke that when they marry, she'll be his equal and not his Trophy Wife; one of the last scenes of the anime has them happily going out in what seems to be a date.
- Aki finding her need-for-speed and becoming a Riding Duelist in Story Arc 3 of Yu-Gi-Oh! 5D's.
- The ending of Girl Got Game definitely counts, complete with the whole manga being about a the protagonist pulling a Sweet Polly Oliver.
- This is the outcome in the film Little Giants.
- In Shaolin Soccer, Mui shows up at the end of the championship game in a Big Damn Heroes moment to counteract the Evil Team with her Tai-chi skills.
- She's the Man, the modern re-imagining of Shakespeare's Twelfth Night, centers around this trope. The girl's soccer team is cut, the girls are denied the chance to try out for the guys' team because "girls can't beat boys," so Amanda Bynes transfers schools in drag and Hilarity Ensues.
- Children's book example: in Gordon Korman's The Zucchini Warriors, schoolgirl Cathy Burton disguises herself as a boy to lead Macdonald Hall's thoroughly inept football team to victory.
- The backstory of Kirsty from Johnny Maxwell Trilogy is filled with this.
- In Margaret George's book Helen of Troy, Helen pulled this off in a local race when she was younger. Unfortunately, the mother of one of the losers tried to kill her for it.
- It seemed like almost every sitcom in the 70s-80s had to have one of these episodes that took the concept Up to Eleven, where not only did the female cast outperform the guys at everything, but turning every male in the show into a massive chauvinist whether they were in previous episodes or not.
- The biggest example may be Small Wonder, where Joanie, Harriet and Vickie go camping with the guys and prove superior in pitching tents, fishing and cooking - even at the end, it rains on the guys' camp and not the ladies who are five feet away.
- Punky Brewster, with radio-controlled model cars.
- The Brady Bunch, "The Liberation of Marcia Brady." Marcia says in a news interview that girls can do anything boys can. She joins the Frontier Scouts to prove it. Peter retaliates by joining the Sunflower Girls. While Marcia holds her own with the boys, Peter is humiliated.
- This was actually a reoccuring theme in the show. Any time the boys and girls had a contest, the girls would win. The only subversions took place in season one: in "Vote for Brady," Marcia willingly drops out of the student council president election, and in "54-40 and Fight," the rowboat vs sewing machine fight is discarded when the girls use the family's supply of Checker Trading Stamps to get a color TV set that the whole family can enjoy.
- M*A*S*H had a bowling episode in which Margaret Houlihan tried for half the episode to tell Potter she would be a valuable asset to the team, but female team members were so far from his thoughts that when she said she wanted to help, he assigned her the task of seducing the major player for the opposition. Of course, once she ends up on the team proper, she pulls her weight, and the 4077th wins the bet.
- To be fair, a big part of the reason Potter is against Margaret bowling on the team is due to her having lost a baseball game for them previously. He and a couple other characters snipe at her for this. And the big reason Margret was so good at bowling now was the guy she seduced talked of nothing else.
- Degrassi Junior High, "The Great Race." The girls' swim team challenges the boys' soccer team to a swimming match. The boys secretly know the girls' team is better, but they think they can win — because the girls' star swimmer is morbidly afraid of letting boys see her in a bathing suit and because they allow champion swimmer Snake to join the team, even though he's awful at soccer.
- Lizzie McGuire features an episode where Lizzie turns out to be really good at flag football, and gets recruited to Ethan's team. She quits because she's treated as "just one of the guys" by Ethan but then learns that girls can be athletic and girly.
- Basically the entire point of Hang Time.
- Dee in It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia took part in the football try outs in one episode just to prove that she was more athletic than Mac and Dennis who were also competing. Despite the fact that she had a "spine made of glass", she managed to make it the farthest than any of the other guys, but only because they were completely out of shape.
- Subverted in the end of the episode, when she injures her foot just kicking the football.
- In the Renford Rejects Robin is turned down for the school football team purely because she is a girl and the PE teacher Basil Stoker thinks it is a man's game. In the first season finale Robin is instrumental in helping the Rejects stay in the league by winning their last game of the season against the school team, the Razors.
- In the Wishbone episode, Bone Of Arc Samantha joins the boys' soccer team and her team mates love her for it.
- In the Degrassi episode, Fight The Power a few girls really look up to Jane for joining the football team. At the same time, she ends up being violently bullied by the rest of the team, the cheer leaders, and even the principal.
- In Sister, Sister, Tia wants to join the ice hockey team only for a Jerk Jock to tell her it's "guys only." She convinces Tamera to join her in pulling a Sweet Polly Oliver, and the two end up beating the pants off the guy and his friends before revealing it was them the whole time.
- On Our Own (a lesser-known TGIF entry starring the Smollet siblings) has Jordee and her friend be mocked by a group of boys who won't let them participate in remote-control car racing. The two don boy disguises and enter anyway, win, and totally humiliate the boys in the process.
- Full House has this with Michelle and soapbox derby racing. She quits when she mistakes Becky's sarcasm for really admitting girls can't do it as well as boys, despite Becky being a much more competent mechanic than any of the guys combined, but changes her mind and enters the race. She beats the pants off the boy who'd been bullying her about it the whole time, too. The same episode posits a Billy Elliot Plot, where Joey takes up ballet to help with his hockey and gets teased for it by Jesse and Danny. They're forced to admit they were wrong and tell Michelle that Joey's a good example of how girls and boys can do anything they want to.
- The Fabulous Moolah became the first woman to wrestle at Madison Square Garden, which had previouly outlawed women's wrestling.
- Both Madusa Miceli and Jacqueline Moore won the Cruiserweight Championship, the former in WCW and the latter in WWE. Jacqueline also won her second Women's Championship from a man (don't ask).
- Chyna became the first woman to hold the Intercontinental Championship. She would go on to hold it three times (the second one was a co-champ thing with Chris Jericho).
- Quite a few eps of Rocket Power, with Reggie Rocket as the girl. For instance, "Major Scrummage", where she scores the winning points in a game of rugby.
- Justified, since she's the oldest by two years and the only one who has reached puberty.
- Phineas and Ferb has an Olympics-type match between...well, Buford, the bully, who press-gangs Baljeet, and Isabella, who gets Candace to help her. The girls win.
- Of course the girls and boys would have tied, if Buford hadn't cheated at the end.
- Buford seems to retain an unwillingness to back down against girls in other episodes, too, such as "Let's Take a Quiz" and "Brain Drain." We never find out who wins the former, while Isabella beats him again in the latter.
- The Simpsons:
- "Lisa On Ice": Lisa becomes the star goalie of a hockey team, leading to the inevitable showdown with Bart, who plays for another team, although Bart is actually in conflict with Lisa due to Homer's favoritism rather than actual chauvinism. They eventually realize their relationship is more important and make peace without deciding a winner.
- "Bart Star" subverts this: Lisa boldly declares her intent to join her brother Bart on his football team, but becomes reluctant when coach Ned Flanders welcomes her with open arms, mentioning the three other girls on the team, who are also welcoming. Lisa tries to salvage her mold-breaking intentions by decrying the footballs for being made of animal parts, but learns that they're synthetic, with the profits donated to charity. Unable to cope with not being on the moral high(er) road, she runs off sobbing.
- Parodied in the South Park episode "Cartman's Silly Hate Crime 2000," where we're supposed to root for the boys in the sled race while it's the girls who act snotty and superior. Though their secret weapon (Cartman's massive extra weight) gets arrested for a hate crime, they wind up winning in the end, and the most annoying girl is implied to be eaten by a bear. Yay!
- Subversion: Clone High, "Shot in the Dark", where "John Dark" turns out to be the Joan of Arc clone in a cap and mustache. She hits a free-throw to score the school's first point against their competition and win a bet principal Scudworth had made against their rival's principal... and then the team treats the Abe Lincoln clone as a hero (on the grounds that his stirring speech convinced all in attendance to let her shoot in the first place), leaving Joan feeling completely betrayed.
- In Gormiti the Lords of Nature Return, Toby's boastings about being better at judo are summarily shot down by Jessica beating him by one point at the school tournament. She was quite smug about it, too...
- Anne Chan gets several little moments like this, usually in response to Alan or Tom claiming she can't surf, climb trees or follow a crook as well as them because she's a girl. They're both miniature crowning moments of awesome and Played for Laughs at the same time.
- Subverted in an episode of What's New Scooby Doo where the culprit turns out be a girl who was sabotaging the skateboarding tournament. She claims she was rejected because she's a girl (even though there is another girl there), but it turns out she was rejected because she genuinely sucks.
- Hey Arnold has an interesting twist on this plot, with Patty Smith proving she's a hell of an arm-wrestler and Harold being forced to deal with losing to her several times. He's pissy about it for most of the episode thanks to Sid and Stinky's taunts, until he realizes it was an honor to lose to someone as good as Patty and tells them so before he knocks their heads together.
Sometimes, the girl or her team doesn't quite pull off a win, but the girl has still proven herself anyway:
- In Captain Tsubasa, softball player from Okinawa Maki Akamine helps Kojiro Hyuga develop new training techniques. However, when it's time for her big softball game, she loses, and Hyuga gives her her spirits back with a hug under the rain. Maki doesn't give up, continues training, and later she's chosen for the national softball team.
- It's been so long since this editor saw The Bad News Bears that she doesn't remember if the team won the last game or not. But Amanda (played by Tatum O'Neal) was definitely a kick-ass pitcher.
- The end result in the book There's a Girl in My Hammerlock.
- A brief clip from Thirty Rock shows that Liz sued her high school for the right to play football, despite the fact that she was absolutely abysmal.
- Also, Ned's Declassified School Survival Guide parodied this, with Cookie trying out for cheerleading, and getting laughed off because he's a boy. He sues them, and gets a tryout, leading to this quote, summing up the tryout.
Claire Sawyer (Future Lawyer): You can't be denied because you're a boy. You can, however, be denied because you stink.
- Chyna was the first woman to enter the Royal Rumble and compete in the King of the Ring tournament. She didn't win either of them but it was still pretty groundbreaking.
- Women in WWE who have competed in competitive intergender matches (which weren't squashes) aside from the two mentioned above: Molly Holly, Trish Stratus, Lita, Ivory, Jacqueline Moore, Victoria and Mickie James.
- Miscellaneous examples:
- Molly Holly once knocked out The Hurricane with a frying pan.
- Trish Stratus dealt then-boyfriend Chris Jericho a solid punch in the mouth at WrestleMania XX to kick off her second Face Heel Turn.
- Lita played a sort of Sister Bear role when her boyfriend Matt Hardy was battling The Undertaker at the 2002 Royal Rumble. She crashed the Rumble Match and she and Matt double-teamed the "Deadman." They didn't get very far, but it was still pretty Badass.
- Mickie James humiliated Santino Marella by pinning him clean in a match in early 2009 (when Marella was in his "male chauvinist" phase).
- In TNA there's also been Awesome Kong, ODB and Hamada.
Theatre or Things That Take Place on a Stage
- The ballet Play Ball! is about an exhibition game between male and female minor-league baseball teams. The game is stopped by rain, and mutual respect runs rampant. It's more fun than it sounds.
- Not sports but definitely a physical competition: in the Soul Calibur game series, Seung Mina's entire motivation for seeking the Soul Edge is to find it before her father's star pupil Hwang can. She hopes this will prove she's as valuable in a fight as any guy. (According to the official storyline, neither of them ever get close. In Hwang's SC 2 ending, though, Mina still gets a not-so-small reward by saving his life after his battle with Inferno and having Hwang openly thank her and aknowledge her strength.)
- In Madden 12, McDonalds contest winner Hope Bromley appears in the free agent pool, the series' first female player. She's ranked 65 overall.
- Brian Clevinger's How I Killed Your Master has Fang Lin, most accomplished disciple of the Tiger Knuckle martial arts style, and all-around Ace. In her introduction, she wipes the floor with some goons who have Liu Wong at their mercy, and in a flashback she handles Wong himself (an accomplished martial artist in his own right) without breaking a sweat.
- Of course, since the Tiger Knuckle discipline is taught by a woman, Fang Lin's victory may have less to do with this trope and more to do with Liu Wong being an overconfident Arrogant Kung Fu Guy at that point in his life.
- Doug: the school baseball team rejects Patty from the school team just for being a girl, she forms her own team, with some other rejects and girls. In a game against the school team, Doug represents the game winning run for Patty's team after finally getting a hit... But what do you know, Roger makes the game winning catch from her at-bat and wins for the school. Patty then decides to turn down the school coach's offer to let her join the school team.
- The Proud Family, the one where Penny plays on the school football team, single-handedly turns the homecoming game from a blowout loss into a game they have a chance to win... and drops the ball on the final play.
- Parodied mercilessly on Futurama, with Leela proving to be the worst Blernsball player in history.
- It's played straight later on, when another female player beats Leela. She is hailed for being the first woman in the sport to be good at it.
- Lets not forget Leela's Arcturan Kung-Fu master who insists he would automatically win in a fight against Leela because "Girls lack the will of the warrior."
- On Avatar: The Last Airbender, Katara's battle with Pakku fits this trope. She proved herself to be exceptionally talented, but let's face it, an untrained teenager wasn't going to beat the best Waterbending master in the world. It does play a part in getting her the desired result, though, as Pakku ends up changing his old-fashioned views and starts training Katara.
- In the Adventures of the Gummi Bears episode, "Girls Knight Out," Princess Calla joins a competition in disguise in a contest of who would be her Royal Protector to prevent being shackled with one, which includes a surprise challenge by her own father in disguise. Eventually, after winning, she comes clean to her father the King and he notes that he was deeply impressed by her fighting skills and publicly announced that she needed no bodyguard after all.
- Higher than former #1 overall pick JaMarcus Russell