Published April 26, 2012
The attorney for a 13-year-old Long Island boy who was kicked off his high school’s girls’ field hockey team for being too dominant says his client will most likely be reinstated.
"We are confident that a court will see the discrimination in this case," Frank Scagluso, the attorney for Keeling Pilaro said.
Scagluso said Keeling has support from his school district, other coaches and players in the league and that he has not heard any criticism about the boy’s participation in games.
Keeling, who played for Southampton High School's varsity girls' field hockey team for the past two years, was told he could no longer play next year after becoming the team's star.
Section 11, which oversees Suffolk County's high school sports, determined that as a boy, Keeling had too significant an advantage over the other players.
"(Keeling is) having a significant adverse effect on some of his opposing female players," Section 11 claimed, according to MyFoxNY. "The rules state he would be allowed to play if he wasn't the dominant player."
Section 11's executive director, Ed Cinelli, told MyFoxNY, "As a sport, it's a girls sport. When a boy plays, it leads the way for other male players to come in and take over."
Andrew Pilaro, Keeling’s father, said his son was raised in Ireland and played field hockey most his life. In many European countries, the sport is widely popular. But on Long Island, there were no field hockey leagues with boys available for Keeling compete, his father said.
At 4 feet, 8 inches tall and 82 pounds, Keeling says he does not feel he is at an advantage, or that he is even significantly better than his opponents. He says some of the girls he has played against are faster and stronger than he is.
"In my opinion, my son is comparable to any of his teammates," Andrew Pilaro told FoxNews.com. "He fits in well with the team’s dynamic."
The boy's father said he's never heard a negative comment from teammates or opponents and said if his son was "6'2, 200 pounds we wouldn't be having this conversation."
But, nonetheless, it has stirred up some controversy in the field hockey community on Long Island.
Tina Moon, the head coach of the varsity team at Sachem East High School on Long Island, said a boy playing with international experience and the talent to swing the dynamic of a game could be problematic for the league.
"It's not that I'm trying to discourage his passion of the game," she said. "But just because he's not much taller or heavier than his competition, doesn't mean he doesn't have a significant strength advantage over the girls.”
Moon is hopeful field hockey popularity will grow and Keeling will have the chance to play with other boys.
Chris Clements, the head coach for Team USA Field Hockey, told FoxNews.com that the strength level in the early teens between boys and girls are similar, and oftentimes, a boy playing among girls is at a disadvantage because he is often singled out.
"From my experience, the boys are seldom the aggressor when they play with girls,” he said, comparing the sport’s physicality to soccer. "More girls will go after the guys."
Clements said this often opens up teammates and allows a distributed scoring effort.
"Like any team sport, one player doesn't make the team," he said.
The decision to remove Keeling from the team raises questions about the school’s compliance with Title IX, a federal law that states both men and women should have an opportunity to play a sport if the school offers it to the opposite sex, Dana Edell, the executive director of SPARK movement, a girls activist organization.
"If he's not allowed to try out for the team, that opens up the door for all kinds of discrimination," she said.
Edell said the school should allow Keeling to try out for the team or create a boys field hockey team. She said, worst case scenario, under the law, if he's not allowed to play the girls team should be disbanded.
"It's the coaches responsibility to make sure the players are safe," she said. "And a boy should not be penalized because he's good."
Keeling and his parents have already lost his initial appeal, but they will plead their case again in May.
"As a dad, I'm trying to be as supportive as possible to my son," Andrew Pilaro said. "I'm trying to protect him a little bit from what's going on."