11-year-old youth banned from football league


Let’s say you had an 11-year-old athlete on your football team. They have dedicated about half of their young life (six years) to the sport and making themselves the best they can be. This player’s work was even recognized with a place to play on the league’s all-star team.

They also gained all the awesome benefits sports are about – making friends…taking pride in their accomplishments on the field…learning how to be a part of a team. Overall, this player seemed like a nice kid and a promising player to coach.

Now let’s say they were told they weren’t allowed to play in the league anymore, due to some ambiguous rule no one in the league knew about, and with one phone call their participation in the league has been revoked.

Sucks, right? Maybe you feel a little sadness when you hear about this. That large muscle in the middle of your chest, it aches a bit. You wonder, what’s this supposed rule that didn’t even matter enough for the league’s administrators or coaches to know about? Why is it stopping this boy from playing football?

Wait…this is happening because it’s not about a boy.

Source: The Pla familiy's online petition to let girls play at www.change.org

It’s about a young girl, Caroline Pla of Philadelphia. Have your feelings about this story changed any?

After two seasons of playing for the Romans, Caroline was banned from the Junior Varsity Catholic Youth Organization (CYO) team because of an archdiocese rule that prohibits girls from playing CYO football as it’s a full contact sport for boys and they don’t think it’s safe for girls to play. Attention was drawn to this rule (which a CYO spokesperson admits is ambiguous) due to a complaint they received.

I can understand the CYO’s perspective. Safety is important and it’s the responsibility of the league administrators, coaches and parents to make sure each child is safe– but here’s why I think Caroline should be able to continue playing with her Romans teammates:

  • Caroline started playing flag football when she was five. This girl has a grasp on the fundamentals thanks to her coaches over the years that have taught her how to play the game correctly and safely.
  • Over the past six years she has been playing against boys. She has learned to adapt to her male counterparts and meet them in speed and strength. Caroline is 5’ 3”, 110 pounds and 11 years old. Girlfriend can hold her own.
  • She knows she is not invincible. The boys don’t give her a pass just because she’s a girl. She admits there have been times they kicked her butt, but she can dish it out too.
  • Most importantly, she is on the same page as her coach and parents. She wants to be out on the field, and they want her out there too.

So, what do you think? Should Caroline be able to continue playing CYO football? Do girls at this age play with the boys in your league?

Editor's note: On Thursday, March 14, 2013 the Philadelphia archdiocese reversed its boys-only rule for CYO football. You can learn more about the resolution of this story here.

The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of the National Alliance for Youth Sports.

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