Girls Team Barred From Tourney Because of Boy Member Goes to Court
CHATHAM, Mass. (AP) _ He has gotten used to the taunts and snickers. He has learned to ignore the fans who call him names and make fun of his skirt. He has tried to forget that his tires were slashed.
But what hurt Niles Draper the most was when other schools forfeited to Chatham High School, refusing to play the girls’ field hockey team because he’s on it.
Under state rules, the forfeits knock Chatham out of the state tournament. But the school is set to challenge that decision before the Massachusetts Interscholastic Athletic Association, and, if they have to, in court.
″I didn’t know it was going to be this blown up. I never suspected it,″ Draper said. ″It’s kind of uncomfortable. I just want to play the game.″
The 16-year-old junior has been on the girls’ team since the eighth grade because Massachusetts public schools don’t offer boys’ field hockey teams.
Although he has played baseball, ice hockey and golf, he prefers field hockey and hopes eventually to participate in the U.S. men’s field hockey program or on a college club.
Draper is not the only boy playing girls’ field hockey in Massachusetts. And the concept of mixed-gender sports is not new, with girls playing football and baseball at several schools.
Yet he and his female teammates at this small school on the eastern end of Cape Cod have become outcasts.
Opponents say they have forfeited because Draper poses an injury risk and warn girls’ sports could be overrun by boys.
″He drives the ball so much harder than a girl,″ said athletic director Donald Herman of Martha’s Vineyard, which has forfeited twice to Chatham. ″Last year, the girls were intimidated by this guy; they cleared a path for him when he came down.″
Chatham field hockey coach Kathy Andrews says the 5-foot-6, 145-pound Draper poses little threat to female opponents, and several girls in the league hit the ball harder.
″It’s basically a game of skill and finesse,″ she said.
Under MIAA rules, teams that have forfeited to Chatham for safety reasons do not get charged with a loss.
But MIAA rules say any mixed-gender team that receives a forfeit becomes ineligible for the state tournament in a single-gender sport like field hockey.
Chatham has appealed for a waiver and a place in the state tournament in early November. MIAA executive director Dick Neal said Chatham will present its case to the board on Tuesday.
If the MIAA fails to grant the waiver, the school will go to court Wednesday seeking an order to allow them into the tournament.
″The MIAA rule authorizes other teams to engage in sex discrimination,″ said Sarah Wunsch, staff attorney for the Civil Liberties Union of Massachusetts, which filed the claim on Chatham’s behalf.
Wunsch said the Civil Liberties Union won a similar case in 1989 involving a girl, Nikki Wing, who played fullback for the boys’ soccer team at a Huntington high school.
There is one other girls’ field hockey team in Massachusetts with a boy member. Peter Dallaire, a wrestler during the winter, is playing field hockey this fall for Haverhill High School. No team in his conference has forfeited, so Haverhill is eligible for the state tourney.
Despite their disappointment over the abbreviated season, the other 12 Chatham Blue Devils say they strongly support Draper’s right to play.
″I was looking forward to this year,″ said Chatham senior Carolyn Connelly. ″It just seems like the adults are getting in the way of our fun.″