With sports teams and tryouts back in full force this fall, there has been a lot of talk about fairness. Two stories have caught my eye.
On the one hand, just before Labor Day, I saw this article about 9 year old Jericho Scott, a pitcher in Connecticut who was not allowed to play in his local baseball league with his peers because he was “too good”. He had the pitching arm of a teenager and could whip in an accurate pitch at 40 mph. Concerned parents and coached felt that a pitch of that speed was intimidating for beginner baseball players in a developmental league. They did offer him a place on a league with older kids who could handle a pitch of that speed but his mother and current coach turned that down. He was also offerred to stay on the current team but in a different position but his coach and mom would not allow that and continually put him on the mound. Other teams responded by forfeiting because their players simply could not hit the ball against him. As an aside, I found it intriguing that the article didn’t mention any concerns for the health of his elbow – overuse injuries with wear and tear of the UCL. I see this as a set up for a Tommy John injury.
Today, Ellen interviewed a 14 year old who can kick a football 50 yards! Check this out with your own eyes. She was the kicker of her middle school football team and tried out and made her high school football team as the kicker. However, the Georgia league commissioner would not allow her to play for the sole reason she was a girl. Kacy’s mom told Ellen no reason was given other than Kacy was a girl. In fact, the coaches had let her on the team. Her team mates had accepted her on the team. The day Kacy found out was team picture day and on that day both Kacy and the team thought she was a full member of that football team.
These situations may seem similar at a quick glance. Each situation has a talented young athlete. Each situation has a league not wanting that athlete to play for reasons they feel are valid. But, are those reasons valid?
In Jericho’s situation, the odds were not even while he was pitching. Jericho’s team always won but not because the teams were well matched. Jericho’s team always won because no one on the opposing team could hit against him. The goals of the league were to build skills, confidence and teamwork none of which could occur if every time a batter faced Jericho, that batter struck out. The league was not discriminating against Jericho at all. They were doing what more leagues should do and attempt to preserve the fun and developmental nature of that particular league.
So, this wasn’t discrimination at all. This was a situation about a family and a coach becoming a bit too caught up in winning, and loosing sight of what was best for the rest of the kids in the league as well as the future development of Jericho’s skill. Hopefully when the dust settles they will all realize that he can’t just toss strikes. He needs to be challenged by players who can actually hit his pitches some of the time.
In the second situation, Kacy Stuart is well matched with her peers and earned her spot on the team. If she wanted to be a quarterback or a linebacker, I would understand the league’s concerns. Her body size against boys her own age could be a concern for her health. But, as a kicker, there really shouldn’t be an issue.
According to the National Federation of State High School Associations, 1073 girls played HS football in 2006-2007 nationwide. The breaking of gender sterotypes doesn’t stop at football. A few years back, a neighbor son went out for field hockey in high school and made the team. He not only loved the sport he wanted to show it wasn’t just for girls.
Ellen was very moved by Kacy’s story and didn’t want her to become discouraged by the small minded thinking of the league’s decision to not allow her to play the sport she loved just because of her gender. So, Ellen surprised Kacy with a couple treats: a $10,000 scholarship from Dove and season tickets to her local college football team.
This is true discrimination because the only reason Kacy was not allowed to play on that football team was because of her gender. This is the type of discrimination that needs to be stopped and this is the type of discrimination that needs to be fought at all levels in all communities.
So, two situations that at a glance may have looked a similar but in the end were really very different. As parents, we need to learn which battles to fight and how to fight them. And, to only use words like discrimination when it is truly present.