Friday, June 20, 2014

PIAA's 'mixed-gender' rule asking for problems

The PIAA announced a new set of rules today regarding boys participating in girls athletics. The changes are the latest made by the state's high school sports governing body after a heated debate two months ago regarding charter schools, which did not result in a ruling.

Under a new mixed-gender rule, a boy cannot play on a girls team if a school as the same sport for both boys and girls. If a school does not have a boys' team in a particular sport, a boy can play on the girls team, but only if the school principal determines the follow:

  • The boy would not displace a girl on the team
  • The boy would likely not, because of his physical size or other characteristics, pose an increased risk of harm to opponents.
  • The boy would not provide a significant competitive advantage.
  • The overall boys program at the school provides fewer opportunities for boys to participate than girls.
A catch 22 is that if the principal deems that a boy can play on a girls' team, that team must participate in the boys' regular season and playoffs.

The set of rules makes little sense and seems like a waste of time for those who attended the meeting. There are few instances where a boy must participate on a girls team. When a school drops a sport, players are able to join another school's program, which was the case with Sto-Rox's now-defunct softball program.

Putting these guidelines in the hands of a principal, who rarely attend sporting events and mostly are unaware of the athletics in their respective schools, is asking for problems. The PIAA is allowing one person to determine a boys' athletic fate. If a boy plays a girls sport, such as soccer, and injures a girl on the other team, who will be punished? You can bet the principal will take the brunt of the criticism with the PIAA's latest ruling covering its back.

The principal surely can't answer for following a PIAA ruling. What about regulations for girls playing boys sports? That issue is more likely to come to the forefront without football or wrestling programs for girls. Those two sports are the most popular in the state of Pennsylvania and are starting to draw female athletes.

It doesn't make much sense to create rules for one without the other. As is the case with most high school sports rulings, not much will be said until someone gets injured.

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