Gender equality in sport isn’t quite at the front of the equality fight. Soccer, American football and rugby are all seen as predominantly male sports. What’s more, the successes seen in the female equivalents of rugby and soccer are rarely given the accolades and celebration that successful male teams are given.
This sexism within sports may be about change, however. A group of school kids, who have a mixed gender team, decided to forfeit their place within the league. But why were they being asked to forfeit their games? Because the game organiser said that the girls couldn’t be part of the team.
The fifth grade students, from St John the Apostle school in Clark, NJ, had been in a mixed gender team for four years. The squad is made up of nine boys and two girls. Their record was wiped for participating in games “illegally” by allowing female players into the team. This sounds like an archaic rule if ever I’ve heard one. Understandably, the team wouldn’t stand for such a sexist rule.
Before a game, their coach sat them down to tell them the bad news. School officials had been recently notified that their co-ed basketball team should never have been allowed, and had to be excluded from the league. The coach, Rob Martel, told NJ.com that: “One parent told me it’s my decision, but I said no way, I’m not making this decision for 11 ten-year-olds.”
So, Martel spoke to his team. The decision was unanimous – they would leave the league. For this team, they are nothing without their core members. Their coach was incredibly proud: they’re just trying to get better, and I think they got better today.
One of the girls on the team, Kayla Martel, spoke about the decision: “It has a big impact on me because it shows that they care. I’m part of them just as they’re part of me and they don’t want to break that bond just like I don’t want to break that bond.” To celebrate their decision, the team played one last game together – with some players wearing T-shirts saying #unitygames – and then had a pizza party. An apt celebration, I feel.