It wasn't easy being a boy on a high school field hockey team.
Aside from the occasional ribbing I took from classmates, friends and family, which honestly didn't come nearly as often as I expected, I was under increased scrutiny from referees during games and probably didn't get the recognition I deserved from the athletic department.
Although to this day, when it comes up in conversation, the first question I get asked is if I had to wear a skirt. For those wondering, I didn't have to. However, it was due to no lobbying of my own. If that's what it took, that's what it took. While I would have rather participated on a boys team in a boys league, I just wanted to play.
In my senior year, I was looking for a fall sport to complement my year-round athletic activities and being the hockey fanatic I am, I didn't have much of a choice.
If I wanted to participate in any type of hockey at Dieruff High School in the fall of 2006, I had to join the girls field hockey team. The school didn't have a scholastic ice hockey team and it certainly didn't have a boys field hockey team.
Our athletic director didn't like it, some of the parents didn't like it but the team and coach accepted me as one of their own and that's all I needed. It did still make it tough at times, which is why a more fair system that gives both genders more of an opportunity to be a student athlete or multi-sport athlete in a sport that is typically played by the other gender should be welcomed.
For the most part, I applaud the new PIAA "mixed-gender" ruling, released Friday, because it comes closer to doing just that. The PIAA has even announced it will begin sponsoring boys field hockey, which is mostly a men's sport around the rest of the world anyway. That decision gives guys like myself, greater opportunity to play the sport and become more well-rounded athletes. The decision should also take the focus off of gender, when all the student-athletes really want to do is get out and play a sport they enjoy and a sport that comes natural to them.
It sounds as though I would have still fit the long list of criteria that needs to be met in order to cross gender lines but the PIAA is ultimately leaving the discretion up to the school's principal. In all sports that is except for football.
Girls will still be allowed to play football on male teams, the PIAA announced. Why though, did the PIAA stop at sanctioning field hockey as a boys sport? Would it not have been more fair to go one step further and give girls a comparable team in a sport like football? It's already been done in other states.
According to USAFootball.com, Florida became the first state in the country to recognize girls flag football as a varsity sport when it did so in 1998. By 2010, the number of female athletes grew from 860 to over 5,000. The PIAA could have sponsored that or the exact equivalent to male football, in which the only difference is a slightly smaller football.
By giving girls an alternative to the all-male teams when it comes to football, the PIAA could simplify the ruling even more and possibly attract a large number of potential student athletes that just want to play but don't want to deal with the hassles and distractions that come along with playing on a mixed gender team.
Legal action and rulings by adults can complicate things beyond belief, but if the PIAA keeps in mind who it is supposed to be serving as it puts the new rules into place, students can simply get out and play, which is all they really want to do.