Boys and girls competing in sports can be tough call
BY MICHAEL OVERALL World Staff Writer
Monday, January 14, 2013
1/14/13 at 6:47 AM
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The Catholic Archdiocese of Philadelphia is taking a lot of flak for telling an 11-year-old girl that she can't play football anymore.
But it's not a religious issue. And it's not a simple one, either.
Caroline Pla spent the last two seasons as a defensive and offensive lineman in the Catholic Youth Organization's football league. And the coaches wanted her back next year for the varsity squad.
But the rulebook says "boys-only." And after an opposing team made an issue out of it, the league had no choice but to enforce its own policy.
Officials let Caroline finish the season, but that was the end of her football career.
Or maybe not.
More than 7,000 people have signed an online petition to change the rule. And the archdiocese has promised to reconsider in time for kickoff next fall.
At 5-foot-3 and 110 pounds, the girl is big enough and fast enough to keep up with the boys. So let her play, right?
I mean, why not?
Well, the locker room comes to mind. But surely the league can find ways to ensure everybody's privacy.
On the field, however, things get personal.
Most spectators wouldn't notice that she's a girl unless she takes off the helmet - which, apparently, she makes a point of not doing.
But football involves quite a bit of grabbing and holding and manhandling. Never mind the padding, boys might notice something different about Caroline.
And then, if a girl can play football with the boys, what if a boy wants to join the girls' field hockey team?
Let him, I suppose.
But as nature takes its course and the kids get older, Caroline will find it harder and harder to compete against the bigger and stronger half of the species - while a teenage boy might dominate the competition on a girls' team.
There's a reason men and women don't go head-to-head in most sports.
Of course, for now, Caroline can compete. So is it fair not to let her?
The archdiocese will have a lot to think about over the off-season.
Michael Overall 918-581-8383