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Boy barred from girls field hockey team because he’s too good

Apr 26, 2012, 11:12 AM EDT


An attorney hired by the family of 13-year-old Keeling Pilaro says that he is confident that a decision to ban the boy from an all-girls high school field hockey league will be overturned by the time play begins in the fall. Pilaro, an eighth grader, has been a standout player for the South Hampton (N.Y.) High field hockey team since he was 11 years old, and this past season was the only boy in the league. At 4-foot-8, 82 pounds, he’s not exactly imposing — in fact he’s the smallest player on the South Hampton team.

But a mixed-competition committee of Section 11, Suffolk County’s governing body for high school sports, have ruled that he can’t play next season. Official reason? He’s just too good — and that could have an “adverse effect” on the girls in the league.

Pilaro showed “superior stick play in comparison to the great majority of those girls against whom he was competing,” according to a letter after the hearing from Section XI Appeals Committee chairman James Wright. Pilaro learned to play the game when his family lived in Ireland, where field hockey is popular with both boys and girls.

The league also turned down an appeal.

“He is a talented field hockey player and what the committee has to look at is do we think this is adverse affect on the young ladies and the committee felt that it was,” said Section XI official Edward Cinelli.

But now some are questioning whether the ruling is actually violating Title IX, the federal law instituted in 1972 that states:

No person in the United States shall, on the basis of sex, be excluded from participation in, be denied the benefits of, or be subjected to discrimination under any education program or activity receiving Federal financial assistance.

That has since been amended in several states, among them New York, to include schools not receiving Federal funding.

“If he’s not allowed to try out for the team, that opens up the door for all kinds of discrimination,” said Dana Edell, the executive director of SPARK movement, a girls activist organization.


Asked if he was afraid of being teased for being the only boy on a girls field hockey team, Pilaro said “I don’t care, as long as I get to play a sport I love.”

  1. datcrazybok - Apr 26, 2012 at 2:00 PM

    I’m pretty torn on this one. If you were going to let him play when he wasn’t the best player, why wouldn’t you let him play when he is? You wouldn’t kick an eligible girl out because she was too good. If he is eligible when he sucks, he should be eligible when he’s awesome.

    But, the flip side of that is how long until some 6’10″ basketball reject sues for his chance to join the girls’ volleyball team? How long until a baseball player sues to join the women’s softball team? Where do we draw the line?

    They should probably make a men’s field hockey team, and when noone shows up, they should shrug their shoulders and say… “Welp… we tried…”

    • cpmustang - Apr 26, 2012 at 3:33 PM

      Doesn’t matter. It needs to be a viable team and league. That’s why you can’t just make a girls football team with one girl as the kicker and say “welp… we tried…”

  2. tedwards56 - Apr 26, 2012 at 2:24 PM

    here’s an idea grow a pair and join a boys league

    • cpmustang - Apr 26, 2012 at 3:32 PM

      There is no boy’s league, T. That’s the point of Title IX. Thats why you don’t see boy basketball players playing in girls basketball leagues (there are boys leagues). However, this is why you see girls playing in boy’s football leagues; becuase there are no girls football leagues.

      Title IX exists so that, if there is only one league, it is gender neutral.

  3. metalhead65 - Apr 27, 2012 at 1:22 PM

    can’t imagine all the harrasment he will get for wanting to play on a all girls team but if girls can play boys sports then he should be able to play on a girls team. what is the point of girls playing on guys teams when they are not good enough once they get older? my son played in little league and there were always girls trying out and those that did make it never played more than 2 years as the boys got better and they didn’t and quit. the boys did not mind the ones who did if they could play but just to let them on the team because they were girls is just wrong.

  4. worldwidebleater - May 3, 2012 at 7:57 PM

    I was kicked out of synchronized swimming at 12, when I could no longer hide my twig and berries. Or to quote a noted child advocate, Joe Paterno-” Life’s hard.”