TV show gives girls power on the field

`Kicks' showcases sports' positive effects

April 09, 2006|By MARISA GUTHRIE | MARISA GUTHRIE,NEW YORK DAILY NEWS

Whoopi Goldberg wants to empower girls to get in touch with their inner boy. Sports -- the sweaty, fast, kick-butt kind of sports -- are not just for boys anymore, Goldberg said. "We're not used to seeing girls play sports. If they're ice-skating? Maybe. If they're doing gymnastics? Possibly. But soccer?"

So Goldberg developed Just for Kicks, a TV series that revolves around the friendships and issues facing the girls on a New York City soccer team.

"Most people still have this idea that if you're doing what is considered a sport, you don't get to be a girl," Goldberg said. "You get to be a tomboy, which is one of those words that I actually hate."

The squad in Just for Kicks, making its premiere tonight on Nickelodeon (at 7 p.m.), are 100 percent girlish. They have crushes on boys and share makeup tips, but also kick it on the soccer field.

"What I wanted to explore," Goldberg said, "is how do we, on a one-on-one basis, treat the girls that are playing sports? How do we look at them? Do we say, `Oh, she's butch?' And for the girls, do they feel that, `Oh, I have to pretend to be not as good when I'm playing soccer with a boy I like?'"

In the first episode, Alexa (Francesca Catalano) must convince her cheerleading teammates that soccer isn't nerdy or butch, but cool.

Teammates Vida (Jessica Williams), Freddie (Mallory Low) and Lauren (Katija Pevec) are working through their own hangups.

Freddie is a chatty misfit who always seems to say the wrong thing at the wrong time.

Lauren is an accomplished ballet dancer and violinist who is taking her first tentative steps at social interaction with her peers.

Vida is the most well-adjusted, but her outspoken nature masks deep-seated insecurities.

"We're dealing with old issues that aren't ours," Goldberg said. "We carry them and we pass them on to those who come after us. I am hoping to crack some of those."

That the show capitalizes on the popularity of soccer for girls and boys is no accident. The worldwide success several years ago of the U.S. National Women's Team spurred thousands of young girls to put on cleats and shin guards.

"I think that the [better] sports girls now are coming up because they're winning national championships," Goldberg said.

Which is a far cry from the old days.

"When I was a kid, there were no organized sports for girls, except for dodge ball," she said. The national pastime of schoolyard bullies.

"Yeah," Goldberg laughed, "you really got to keep your self esteem up with dodge ball."

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