Catholic Youth Basketball Team Wins Fight to Keep Female Teammates in Playoffs
There are many positive reasons for playing sports in school. Coed teams in particular create a great social environment for kids and can counter the notion that females can’t be as competitive as their male counterparts.
At St. John The Apostle Parish School in New Jersey, that philosophy was slam dunked when two girls on the 5th Catholic youth grade basketball team were told they couldn’t play in the playoffs.
The team’s T-shirts may say #unitygames, but the decision to break them up was anything but that.
On January 27, the team was informed by the league’s director they had broken the Catholic youth rules by playing as a coed team. Jim Goodness, spokesman for the Archdiocese of Newark, told NJ.com that there are rules which specifically state the teams could be coed only through 4th grade. St. John’s athletic director Jack Cajuste admitted he made an error in allowing the team to exist this way at the 5th grade level.
Despite playing 10 games as a coed team without objection, officials said the team had to forfeit those games citing league rules had been broken, according to parent Matthew Dohn..
The boys and girls — some who have played together since the second grade — refused to be benched from the playoffs, and on February 10, showed up in unison to play against St. Bartholomew the Apostle. Referees had been instructed not to work if the girls played, but the coaches and parents left the final decision up to the team.
In this video taken by NJ.com, Cohn questioned the team, “Is your decision to play the game without the two young ladies on the team. Or to stay as a team as a team as you played all season with the girls on the team.”
Unanimously 11 hands shot up in favor of forfeiting rather than losing their female teammates.
Parents and coaches applauded the kids’ decision.
One parent concurred, “These kids are doing the right thing. We don’t have to tell them what to do. They just know. It’s amazing.”
Another parent said, “The positive thing that we saw was that everybody came together and supported each other. At the end of the day that’s what Catholic School and being Christian is all about.”
Parents weren’t ready to throw in the towel just yet. Seeing their sons’ commitment, they took up the fight and gave St. John’s pastor Rev. Robert G. McBride a letter to deliver to the Archdiocese of Newark’s newly installed archbishop, Cardinal Joseph W. Tobin, pleading for the team to remain coed.
Victory was theirs when on February 16 the decision regarding Catholic youth was reversed. Tobin said, “We want the children to play for the very reasons CYO sports leagues were established: to provide a source of both recreation and reaffirmation of our Christian faith.”