Boy Field Hockey Star Wins Appeal to Play on Girl's Team

Charlene Prince Birkeland, Team Mom
Team Mom

Thirteen-year-old Keeling Pilaro scored a huge goal Tuesday night, May 15, when he won the right to play on the South Hampton High School girl's varsity field hockey squad in Suffolk County, Long Island. "I was jumping up and down; I was so excited when I heard," the boy told the Associated Press after the decision was announced by an attorney for the athletics committee. "I can play!"

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The teen grew up playing field hockey in Ireland, where it's a popular sport for boys and men. In the United States, the sport is played almost exclusively by females, although there is a men's national team.

In late April, Pilaro was banned from participating in the fall 2012 season because school officials determined he was too dominant a player. His mother, Fairley Pilaro argued to 1010 WINS, "He is not a physical dominating presence on the field by any stretch. In fact, he's far below the girl's varsity height and weight." The youngster is 4-foot-8 and weighs 82 pounds. He's the team's leading scorer.

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Pilaro's attorney appealed the decision to Suffolk County's Mixed Competition Committee, which evaluates players who want to compete on teams of the opposite sex. Fox News reports that a number of girls have been allowed to play on boy's sports such as football, but Keeling is the first boy to play on an all-girl's team.

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."

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The members of the Mixed Competition Committee, which oversees public school athletics, heard arguments by Pilaro, his mother and their attorneys. The boy’s field hockey coach was also in attendance. According to Kevin Seaman, the committee’s lawyer, the deliberations took about 40 minutes and the results were not unanimous. The panelists decided that Pilaro’s participation would not have a “significant adverse effect”—the same criteria that were used when he was initially banned. The proceedings were closed to reporters and Seaman did not elaborate.

Last week, Chris Clements, the national men's coach for USA Field Hockey, told AP he believed the committee should allow Pilaro to play. "Maybe by the time he gets to be a senior, it could be argued that there is a difference, but I would say right now he fits in just fine."

Pilaro's attorney said he was considering filing a federal civil rights lawsuit had he not won the appeal.

What do you think? Is it fair for boys to be allowed to play on girl's teams?