4'8'', 82 pound 13-year-old Keeling Pilaro was kicked off his high school girls' field hockey team for being too "dominant" — except his teammates don't feel all that dominated.
Pilaro grew up playing field hockey in his native Ireland, where the sport is popular among boys. But on Long Island, where Pilaro now lives, there aren't any male field hockey leagues, so he started playing for the high school varsity girls team two years ago. Now, Section 11, which oversees his county's high school sports teams, is saying that Keeling has an advantage over and is "having a significant adverse effect on some of his opposing female players," and "the rules" (which rules?) state that he can't play if he's the dominant player. "As a sport, it's a girls sport," Section 11's Executive Director told MyFoxNY. "When a boy plays, it leads the way for other male players to come in and take over."
That logic would make sense if Pilaro towered over his teammates and got in the way of their hockey sticks, but, as you can see in the above video, the girls are the ones towering over him — and, according to Pilaro, some of them are actually faster and stronger than he is. Plus, they really seem to love him, and are pissed off about the decision. "I think the girls are my family now," he told Fox, adding that he hopes they let him play one more year because "it's been so much fun." Awww.
Pilaro and his parents lost his initial appeal, but they will plead their case again in May, and may have a stronger case now that advocates for Title IX, a federal law that gives both men and women an equal opportunity to play any sport if the school offers it to the opposite sex, have become interested in his case. "If he's not allowed to try out for the team, that opens up the door for all kinds of discrimination," said Dana Edell, the executive director of SPARK movement, a girls activist organization. She said the school should create a boys team, or else disband the girls team to make the situation completely fair for everyone. "It's the coach's responsibility to make sure the players are safe," she said. "And a boy should not be penalized because he's good."
I'm sure Pilaro wouldn't want the team to disband without him, because that sounds like a bummer for everyone. And the Section 11 director clearly thinks he's acting in the girls' best interests. But it seems like he's doing so without actually listening to what they want. If the girls felt dominated and self-conscious because of Pilaro's presence, the decision would make more sense, but the only person whose self-esteem seems to have been affected is Pilaro's. "As a dad, I'm trying to be as supportive as possible to my son," his dad said. "I'm trying to protect him a little bit from what's going on."