Field hockey’s gender wars: Boy, 13, can play for girls team

You may have heard of the baseball-playing girl that a conservative Catholic school’s team refused to play. Now meet a 13-year-old boy who plays on a girls field-hockey team.

A New York athletics committee ruled Tuesday that Keeling Pilaro, an eighth-grader, can play on the girls’ varsity team at Southampton High School for at least one more season, the Associated Press reports.

“I was jumping up and down; I was so excited when I heard,” he told the AP. “I can play!”

Boys don’t generally play organized field hockey in the U.S., but Pilaro grew up in Dublin, Ireland, where it’s more common.


His continuing participation on the girls squad had been barred by a Suffolk County, N.Y., committee that oversees athletes who want to play on teams of a different sex.

According to the committee’s handbook, “The purpose of the Mixed Competition Committee is to determine on an individual basis whether or not participation by a particular male student on a sport team organized for females in a district would ‘have a significant adverse effect upon the opportunity of females to participate successfully in interschool competition in that sport.’ ”

“Significant adverse effect” and “opportunity” are the key legal terms there. Officials worried that Pilaro had gotten too good, having been named to an all-conference team after scoring 10 goals and eight assists as an eighth-grader, the AP reported — despite being 4 fee 9 and 82 pounds and smaller than most of the girls he was playing with, according to ESPN.

“I see it as a girls’ sport, they work very hard at their skills, they work very hard at training, and I don’t think it’s right that a boy can just come in and take it,” Michele Fischer, a Fox Chapel field hockey coach in Pittsburgh, told ESPN. (Her team doesn’t compete against Pilaro’s.)


But after hearing an appeal from Pilaro’s school, Suffolk County officials ultimately decided Tuesday that he wasn’t really hurting anything by playing with the girls.

“As far as I know, he’s gotten nothing but support from everyone,” Southampton High School athletic director Darren Phillips told ESPN’s Mike Grimala. “The girls on the team see him as a little brother, and they appreciate what he brings to the team.”

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