Newswise — Kids' organized sports allow even liberal communities to have it both ways " embracing aspects of gender progress while clutching comfortable stereotypes " sports sociologist Michael Messner finds in his new book. "It's All for the Kids: Gender, Families and Youth Sports," published by the University of California Press, documents persistent gender divisions in the Little League and American Youth Soccer Organization (AYSO) teams of South Pasadena, Calif., a progressive and affluent suburb of Los Angeles. The plainest segregation occurs in coaching, said Messner, whose experiences as a parent of soccer and baseball-playing boys provided the impetus for the book. Messner's oldest son had a female soccer coach in his first year of AYSO league play. That turned out to be an anomaly. "I started noticing as the years were going by that there weren't any more women coaches," Messner said. "The women coaches coached almost exclusively the very youngest kids (of either gender)." On the other hand, the crucial "team parent" in soccer " the team's chief operating officer " was better known as "team mom." These phenomena intrigued Messner, particularly when compared to the inroads made by girls into organized sports over the past 30 years. "How is it in this day and age that we have division of labor between women and men set up so clearly?" he asked. In his book, Messner attributes the gender segregation to what he calls "soft essentialism" : an often unspoken belief that girls and boys deserve equal opportunities but are naturally different. Messner believes most differences actually result from years of socialization. His observations of coaches show how youth sport amplifies these differences and makes them appear to be natural. As a shared belief system, soft essentialism embraces participation by girls in team sports, Messner said, but it also justifies pushing girls toward softball even though they are legally entitled to play baseball " and often creates an inhospitable environment for female coaches in both baseball and soccer. In the book, Messner describes a progression of coaching styles for different ages of youngsters: from the "Teddy Bear," to the "Crossing Guard," to the "Drill Sargeant," to the "CEO." The styles evolve toward what he called a "narrowing conception of masculinity." He added that coaches of young children rely mainly on "kid knowledge," while coaches of older children need to develop specialized "sport knowledge." Messner found that an over-emphasis on "sport knowledge" imposes a heavy and narrow gender bias, driving away not only women but many male "Teddy Bear" coaches. "There's something about sports, that because it has directly to do with the body, and with physicality, historically there have been these masculine meanings attached to it," Messner said. In particular, he added, "There's really this sense "¦ that men own baseball." "A lot of the women I talked to really wanted to (coach)," he said. "I think they're being informally discouraged from doing that." Messner predicted women will make inroads into coaching, and he cited data showing a slow increase in the percentage of female AYSO coaches. "There's no overt discrimination against women," he added. "There's no bad guy in this story." However, individuals' often unexamined beliefs about gender function to create a very skewed gender division in youth sports. And these continued divisions in youth sports reinforce an "unfinished feminist revolution" in families and workplaces, Messner argued. A professor of sociology and gender studies in the USC College, Messner studies masculinity and sports. His previous book, "Taking the Field: Women, Men and Sports" (Minnesota Press, 2002), discussed gender inequities, men's violence, financial interests and the cultural imagery of televised sports. In both books, he argues that gender equity in sports is healthy for boys as well as girls, as it prepares boys for a world where they will need to work respectfully with female colleagues and bosses. (Messner expands on his findings at