A 13 year old boy, originally given permission to play field hockey for Southampton High School girls’ team , has been denied permission to play next season. He started playing for his High School hockey team 2 years ago after moving to the county. He had played growing up in Ireland, but there are no boys’ high school field hockey teams on Long Island. He was granted permission to play originally by Suffolk’s mixed-competition committee but heard in March that he had gotten to good and would be denied permission from next Fall.
His school is supporting him:
“The decision to support him represents our commitment to provide meaningful opportunities to each of our students,” Superintendent Dr. J. Richard Boyes said in a statement. “Our community, including the girls on our field hockey team, embraced Keeling Pilaro and we couldn’t be more proud of him.”
The panel’s appeals committee met in April but upheld the original decision to prohibit Keeling’s continuing participation:
“Stick-play, quickness and agility are the ingredients of superior play and those are the characteristics of Keeling Pilaro relative to those girls with and against whom he participated,” the committee wrote.
Keeling, the only boy in the league, earned all conference honors last season with 10 goals and eight assists. It’s this skill, something he has actively worked on improving in the way you would expect from any promising young sportsperson, which has resulted in his exclusion. However his parents and the school note that he is far from being the best player in the league. The appeals committee specifically noted that he was evaluated based on only his skill level not on size or strength.
“It’s really annoying,” the eighth-grader said in a recent interview. “I’m just 4-foot-8 and 82 pounds, so I don’t see why I shouldn’t be allowed to play. I don’t really care if I’m on a girls’ team or a boys’ team, I just want to play.”
While allowing boys to compete on girls teams in sports where they have a natural physical advantage is a tricky area that clearly isn’t the case here. The current decision makes a mockery of the current sports system. Boys and girls compete separately in some sports precisely because of natural physical advantages associated with a gender. In the absence of these factors it’s difficult to argue a case for segregation. Keeling is being excluded for being too good, and it’s somewhat hard to imagine a mirrored scenario where a girl was thrown off a boy’s wrestling or football team simply for excelling.
Keeling is appealing the decision and his family’s lawyer indicates that they are prepared to go to court to fight for his right to continue playing hockey.