It has not been unusual in recent years to see high school boys playing on girls field hockey teams in Pennsylvania or see a few boys playing on girls volleyball teams.
But the PIAA passed a new "mixed-gender" rule Thursday that, among other things, pretty much eliminates boys from playing on girls teams and also curbs girls from playing on boys teams, except football. The PIAA also voted to start sponsoring boys field hockey beginning in the 2014-15 school year.
"There were some issues that needed to be looked at," said WPIAL executive director Tim O'Malley. "Is what has been adopted going to be effective? We'll have to wait and see. I'm sure it's going to be met with disdain by some people."
PIAA executive director Bob Lombardi said a statement from the organization will be issued today.
Under the new mixed-gender rule, a boy can't play on a girls team if a school has 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 following:
The boy would not displace a girl on the team; a 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.
In other words, the PIAA has made it virtually impossible to meet all the above criteria.
Even so, a very important part of the new rule 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. This new rule could affect some field hockey teams in the WPIAL that regularly use boys. That's why the PIAA voted to start sponsoring boys field hockey. The move, in theory, might deter legal action by someone who claims a boy might be denied a chance to play field hockey because boys field hockey was never a sport before.
Girls playing on football teams are not affected by this rule because the new rule states that girls can play on a boys team if the school does not sponsor a comparable girls team. Football does not have a comparable girls sport (also the PIAA does not consider baseball and softball as being comparable sports).
Numerous girls have played on Pennsylvania football teams in the past 10-20 years, mostly as kickers. A few girls also have fared well in WPIAL boys tennis, but mostly because their school didn't have a girls tennis team.
Those girls who attend schools without girls teams would still be allowed to play on boys teams.
There no longer will be cases like that of North Allegheny's Kylie Isaacs, a girl who qualified for the WPIAL boys tennis championship tournament this season.
Under the new rule, Isaacs would not be allowed to play on the boys team because North Allegheny has a girls team.
She could play for the boys team only if the principal decides the girls team does not provide "meaningful competition for the girl."