The attorney for a 13-year-old Long Island boy, Keeling Pilaro, says he is confident the boy will be reinstated after he was kicked out of the high school's girls' field hockey team because he was too good to play hockey with the girls.
Keeling Pilaro was removed from the team because he was too dominant in games he played. He was the only male in the all-girls hockey team because the school does not have a team for boys. Daily Mail reports Keeling said: "I play a lot of sports but none of them compare to how much I like field hockey. It's just so much fun." He said the girls on his team were like family to him.
According to Fox News, Frank Scagluso, Pilaro's attorney, said: "We are confident that a court will see the discrimination in this case."
Pilaro plays for Southampton High School varsity girls' field hockey team, and after two years in which he was playing for the team, he became so dominant that Section 11, the group that oversees Suffolk County's high school sports decided that the fact that he is male gave him an unfair advantage over the girls. According to Fox News, Section 11 said: "(Keeling is) having a significant adverse effect on some of his opposing female players. The rules state he would be allowed to play if he wasn't the dominant player."
Ed Cinelli, executive director of Section 11, explained: "As a sport, it's a girls sport. When a boy plays, it leads the way for other male players to come in and take over."
Andrew Pilaro, Keeling's father, said his son was raised in Ireland where the sport is very popular with both sexes. On Long Island, however, there are no hockey leagues for boys and Pilaro had to join the girls' hockey league to play. Keeling's father said that the reason why his son developed skills at the game was not because he is male but because of his upbringing in Ireland where the game is popular among boys.
And his father may be right because at 4 feet 8 inches and 82 pounds, Keeling says he has no physical advantage because many of the girls he plays against are bigger, stronger and faster than he is.
His father said: "In my opinion, my son is comparable to any of his teammates. He fits in well with the team’s dynamic." Daily Mail reports he added: "If he was 6ft 2, 200 pounds we wouldn’t be having this conversation."
However, Tina Moon, head coach of the team at Sachem East High School on Long Island, said that having a boy on the team who has international experience and talent, and who consistently swings the dynamic of a game posed problems for the league because it could affect the opponents psychologically. He said: "It's not that I'm trying to discourage his passion of the game. But just because he's not much taller or heavier than his competition, doesn't mean he doesn't have a significant strength advantage over the girls.”
But Chris Clements, head coach of Team USA Field Hockey disagreed with Moon. He said that boys and girls have similar strength in their early teens. The coach said: "From my experience, the boys are seldom the aggressor when they play with girls. More girls will go after the guys." He insisted: "Like any team sport, one player doesn't make the team."
Huffington Post reports that other commentators feel the decision is fair. Zack Stiron, a ward Melville High School athlete, said: “At a certain age, it’s not fair. Boys are getting bigger and stronger. They have an advantage."
But Pilaro says it was mostly his ability and not his age or physical strength that influenced the decision. He said :"The past two years they've let me play. I didn't see why I didn't have the advanced skills then but now they're there now." His father added: "He feels like he's being punished for getting better."
Keeling's attorney says his client will challenge the decision to remove him from the team because the decision does not comply with Title IX, a federal law that states both men and women should have equal opportunity to play a sport if the school offers it to the opposite sex.
According to Dana Edell, executive director of SPARK movement, a girls' activist group: "If he's not allowed to try out for the team, that opens up the door for all kinds of discrimination." Edell insisted the school should allow Keeling to play with the girls or create a boys' team. If, however, the school does not want him to play with the girls then it should create a boys' team. She said: "It's the coaches responsibility to make sure the players are safe. And a boy should not be penalized because he's good."