Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Youth Sports: Should Boys be Allowed to Play on Girls Teams?

In the past, I have tried to answer the question should girls be allowed to play on boys teams?

I determined that the answer to that question was a resounding maybe. 

The question came up when my daughter, CC, tried out for a boys basketball team in 2nd grade. She wanted to play basketball, but there were no 2nd grade girls teams. She made the team and did fairly well. She was not the best on the team, but she was not the worst by far. The team had an outstanding former NBA coach, Ronnie Grandison, so she learned a lot. The following season, CC played with girls. The experience helped set her apart from other girls.

I concluded that girls should be allowed to play on boys teams if they can 1) compete safely against the boys, 2) grow in confidence and self-esteem, 3) improve their skills from the experience and 4) have fun. 

This is especially true if the girl does not have an opportunity to play the sport in a girls league. Chelsea is a standout baseball player in Florida. She proves the point that girls should be allowed to play on boys teams.

It's when a girl wants to wrestle that the once easy conclusion gets a bit grey. 

Last year, an Iowa wrestling standout, Joel Northrup, denied himself a chance at an Iowa State wrestling title by refusing to wrestle Cassy Herkelmen. He refused on religious grounds.
"I have a tremendous amount of respect for Cassy, however, wrestling is a combat sport and it can get violent at times. As a matter of conscience and my faith I do not believe that it is appropriate for a boy to engage a girl in this manner."
The wrestling situation is very complex. I could be persuaded by both sides of the argument, but in this very close contact and often violent sport, I personally think that girls should have their own competitions. 

So what happens when I boy wants to play on a girls team. A boy, named Keeling Pilaro from Southampton, NY, grew up in Ireland where field hockey is both a mens and women's sport. When he he moved to the US, he wanted to continue playing the sport he loves. There was one major problem, however, field hockey in the US is a girls sport. He pursued it anyway and was allowed to play at first, but he dominated so much that they eventually banned him from playing. The kid is hardly an imposing figure at 4 foot 8 inches and 82 pounds for varsity high school player, so safety was not the issue. It was because he was dominant due to his training.

Chelsea Baker is dominant too thanks to a knuckleball that she learned to throw. Should she be banned?

The Main Point

Can the girls argue for equality and fairness at the same time deny a boy a chance to play a sport he loves but has no opportunity to play here in the US?

Title IX is suppose to be an anti-discrimination law. 
"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,"
Does it not work both ways?

Let's be honest. Title IX is an anti-discrimination law for women. As a dad of an athletic girl, I applaud Title IX because it will provide my daughter equal access to scholarships. training and equipment as boys. As a dad of an athletic boy, I question Title IX. I see how men's programs have been cut in the name of equality. The law is clearly not perfect.

In the case of Keeling Pilaro, I determined that the answer to that question is a resounding maybe. 


  1. This makes me rethink everything. I do not think that Keeling should be allowed to play because if that door is opened and men are able to compete with women for spots on the Field Hockey team then eventually the sport would be a men's sport. Although women can be amazing athletes, men are just stronger and faster.

    But if that is the right call for Keeling, then Chelsea should not be allowed to play baseball and that girl wrestler you refer too should not be allowed to wrestle.

    If we let Keeling play - we will need to allow male soccer players attending colleges, where men's soccer was dropped due to Title IX, play on the women's teams, we would need to let women into Augusta National where the Master's is played, we must have white women compete for Miss Black America, we must give Lady Gaga a country music award, and we must allow a Nigerian be our president.

    1. I think that there is a difference between discrimination for exclusion and separation for a fairness. Men being denied a chance to play on women's team is separation for fairness. Miss Black America was initially separation for fairness. I am sure some see it as reverse-discrimination at this point. Regarding Augusta, that is just separation - I don't see why women and men cannot have their own separate clubs or functions.

  2. I'm sorry, some will probably not care for my opinion but I'm going to give it. Let me say first, I am a woman and second a mom to three boys. I am all for women having equal rights and opportunities. But, I think this country is starting to breech a line. Men and women can compete in many venues but I don't feel athletics is one of them. For one, our bodies are created differently, that is obvious. Second, it is not fair at some point in age for boys to have to compete with the same girls they are supposed to 'never hit' and possibly date. I think it's very difficult for a boy to give their all and not hold back when playing against a girl. I feel it is ok to have some seperation in some areas. You wouldn't want a 15 year old boy sharing a locker room with your daughter would you? Boys and girls are different, it's ok for them to have seperate activities in some things. It's not only ok, it's the right thing (in my opinion)

    1. It is such a complex - issue but I think that more people will agree with you than not. Thanks for adding to the conversation.

  3. If you want to know more about Title IX, suggest you read a blog I wrote in 2011 that highlighted Wendy Parker's 10 part series on the subject.

    Wendy plans on expanding & updating her women's sports series from last year. She will be regularly blogging on the subject in May & June. Here's a link to Wendy's blog -

    You can also follow her on Twitter - @wparker

  4. Here's an update on Keeling - League reverses itself, says boy can play on girls’ field hockey team

  5. First let me state that I referee volleyball. I have seen this in action from both sides. One local school does not have boy's volleyball and has a boy on the girls team. Another local school has the reverse situation with multiple girls on the boys team.
    In the first situation, most teams expect a level playing field, and the rules take into account that boys are more physical and can jump higher. Therefore in the boys game, the net is 8" higher. Having a boy on a girls team gives that team an unfair advantage. Also, the boys can hit harder and are generally faster. The girls on the opposing teams have trouble competing.
    In the second situation, the girls know what to expect in all games --i.e. hard hit balls. This team is not competitive with the other teams because of the speed and power of the boys. However, I do not have a problem with this.
    I agree with the author of the article with a definite maybe.

    1. Thanks for adding to the conversation - it is a complex issue for sure with lots of viewpoints.

  6. My son was convinced by his mother (the team coach) to play volleyball with his sister's team. They are 11 year old twins. The application for the league makes no mention of boys being unable to play. When we showed up for the first game, we were told boys couldn't participate in the fall league. They could participate in the spring league only. Thoughts?

  7. I assume that there is boy's volleyball in the fall, so he cannot play for the girls, but in the spring there is no boys VB so he can?




Related Posts with Thumbnails