Keeling Pilaro: Title IX Takes a Hit as Boy "Too Good" to Play Field Hockey

Gabe ZaldivarPop Culture Lead WriterMay 9, 2012

Photo Credit: Newsday
Photo Credit: Newsday

Keeling Pilaro will not be playing field hockey next season with the Southampton (N.Y.) High School field hockey team because he is too good, which makes little sense when you consider the spirit behind Title IX. 

ESPN's Mike Grimala reports on an intriguing story that has a wealth of controversial subjects tied to it. Among them: a little boy playing with a junior varsity girls' team, questions surrounding the evolution of Title IX and the segregation of the sexes on any field of competition. 

The Story

Photo Credit: Newsday
Photo Credit: Newsday

Keeling Pilaro is a 13-year old with a passion for field hockey. Many reading this can relate to having an unrelenting need to play their favorite sport, only his hobby isn't as ubiquitous as basketball leagues or baseball organizations. 

Pilaro was born in Southampton but raised in Ireland, where field hockey is considered a boys' sport. He found a treasure trove of opportunity with the Southampton High School junior varsity field hockey team, where he began playing in 2010 as a seventh-grader. 

He will not be allowed to play next season because the local high school athletics governing body, Section XI, ruled that he has a:

significant adverse effect upon the opportunity of females to participate successfully.

In layman's terms, he is just too good.

The Debate

Pilaro was promoted to the varsity team, where he posted a team-high 10 goals and earned All-Conference honors. 

That was enough for the district to pull the plug on a boy living out his passion in life. 

On one side, you can say that Pilaro was doing well in a sport that is driven by young women hoping to make their mark. 

In the video featured in the ESPN report, Fox Chapel coach Michele Fischer claims that the girls work hard, and it's not right that a boy come in and "take it."

ESPN columnist Jemele Hill offers her opinion that Title IX is about creating opportunities and she sees Pilaro and his talents as working to the detriment of that. I don't agree. 

Level Playing Field

Photo Credit:
Photo Credit:

I choose to side with ESPNW writer Sarah Spain who issues that Title IX is about balancing the playing field. For those uninitiated, ESPN describes the section as the following: 

...which mandates that girls and boys should have an opportunity to play a sport if a school offers it to the opposite sex. 

Pilaro is 4-foot-9 and all of 82 pounds, and as Spain relays, there is no cutting of players and there are multiple awards in the league. 

So, in a sense, Pilaro is not taking a spot form another girl wanting in on the team, and he would not hog the one accolade offered. 

What really bothers me about all of this is the presumption that segregation of boys and girls is wrong, just as long as it is a girl who wants to play. 

I fully agree that we are far from a level playing field, and that women are well warranted to demand more prominence and opportunity in all sports. 

Why does it have to stop there?

The impetus should be to further women's sports and the competition that lines up on the field. Just as Spain offers, Pilaro would both raise the level of play and fulfill his passion. 

There may be a day when men and women can share an equal part on a competitive field, but it will not happen if little boys are told they can play, just as long as they don't outshine and outperform the others, or play to their fullest capabilities. 

That's not what Title IX is all about, and that is precisely counter to why we play sports. 

This is an ongoing debate, let me know what you think in the comments section below. 

Follow me on Twitter and we can hash it out.