Come the fall, girls will be allowed to play full contact football with boys on Catholic Youth Organization (CYO) teams in the Philadelphia Archdiocese, the archdiocesan Communications Office announced March 14 in a statement.
Despite the recommendation of an expert panel to continue the current CYO policy that prohibits girls from playing football, Archbishop Charles Chaput decided to allow girls to participate after also weighing feedback from individuals who were “both critical and supportive of the policy,” said the statement.
He also considered factors such as “the expectations of coaches, parents and pastors, common current practice, legal circumstances and the CYO polices” of other dioceses.
The panel consisted of coaches, parents, pastors and experts in sports medicine and pediatrics, which was formed earlier this year to review CYO rules on gender participation.
“By a wide majority,” the statement said, “members voted to continue the policy as written.”
(See related story: New panel to study girls playing football, management of CYO system)
The decision to allow girls to play football is “provisional,” according to the statement, and may be revised in coming seasons “as judged appropriate by the Archdiocese.”
The process that led to Thursday’s decision stemmed from the controversy over Caroline Pla, an 11-year-old girl who played with her Doylestown-based CYO football team last season in violation of the organization’s rules.
The Archdiocese said the policy banning girls’ participation reflected concerns over “the distinct needs and abilities of male and female athletes and to ensure safety,” the statement said.
But because of the ban the Archdiocese also faced a possible discrimination law suit under the federal Title IX statute that aims to open up opportunities for girls to play sports.
“Alternate options” to girls’ participation in football that were studied by the panel, according to the Archdiocese, “had merit and may be revisited in the future to ensure that any CYO sports program fosters an enjoyable and safe atmosphere providing for proper human formation, sportsmanship and Christian maturity.”
One of those options may be flag football, which eliminates tackling and reduces the risk of concussion and other trauma from full-contact football.
The light-contact version of the sport is offered in other dioceses including those in Texas and Southern California.
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I think the crutch of this is Title IX. Title IX has out lived it’s usefulness and is starting to have a negative impact on males. For example non-Catholic example, the University of Delaware (where I went to college) has reciently been forced to drop Men’s track and Men’s Cross Country as varsity sports because Title IX requires the percentage of female athletes to be at least equal to the percentage of female students at the school. Since the University is now almost 60% female, almost 60% of the atheletes had to be female. The only possible way of bringing the school inline with Title IX was to eliminate men’s track and cross country. Simply adding a female sport was not going to bring the numbers into check. And adding several sports was neither financial possible or practical. It’s time for Title IX to elminated or modified to protect male sports too.
Regarding Archbishop Chaput’s decision to allow co-ed participation in CYO football, I have a serious moral dilemma. I have been coaching CYO football for 22 of the past 29 years. In all of that time I have never had one kid where I didn’t form fit my hands on his chest to demonstrate proper technique in delivering and/or countering a blow to the chest – Not one! Unless a kid practices and plays exclusively as a placekicker or a quarterback (very rare in CYO) using his open hands to deliver a blow to the chest is one skill that is absolutely required learning. And the ability to counter such a move is also vital. For me, teaching this has become natural. But now I am faced with a quandary. What do I do when I have a 13-year-old girl in front of me and I have to teach her how to counter a blow to the chest? Do I start by putting my hands on her chest just like I have with every boy I have ever coached over the past 29 years? I hope the answer to that is obvious. So what do I do? Tell a 13-year-old boy teammate to put his hands on her chest?
Over the years, being involved in CYO as a board member, an athletic director, a head football coach, and an assistant football coach, I have been confronted several times with the prospect of allowing girls to play contact football with boys. In each instance, I have not had to go any further than a short presentation of the case above. After demonstrating the technique and required forcefulness of a properly executed hand shiver to the chest, I tell them, “I don’t know about you, but I just feel that young boys should not be allowed to do that to young girls.” In every case, as soon as that is said, the discussion ends. I have never gotten a counter argument. Not once did I have to take the next step and ask, “Are you okay with me demonstrating that on your daughter?” or “Are you okay with me allowing every boy on the team to do that to your daughter?”
Even in this “enlightened” world we live in, I still think you would be hard-pressed to find a parent who thinks it is okay for a coach and/or any boy on the team to form fit their hands on their daughter’s chest. But even if such a parent exists, could any decent man (one fit to be a CYO coach) ever feel comfortable teaching a young boy to do that to a young girl? What about the parents of a boy on the team? Do you think they should be okay with their son thinking nothing of this?
It seems that every time this issue comes up, the arguments center on the girl and what she is capable of handling and accomplishing. For now, let’s concede that there are girls who can handle the rigors of playing football and are capable of succeeding. But what is the cost to the boys? Aside from the hand shiver problem, what kind of boy has it in him to think nothing of pummeling a girl? And what kind of man does it take to coach boys to think nothing of forcefully putting a girl on her backside? I know for sure that I do not have what it takes. And I know for sure I would never want my sons to have what it takes.
Please tell me what happens when a girl sustains an injury after a boy runs her over her on his way to a touchdown – a score that proves critical in winning the game. The obvious easy answer is that the girl takes the necessary time and works to get healthy just like any boy would do. Not a big deal! But what about the boy? How is he supposed to feel? Great for saving the game? I have to think that if he has even a sliver of decency, he would feel awful! And how do you think his peers might react toward him? For me, it’s just plain wrong to put a boy in this position. It’s simply a no-win! The vast majority of boys, I sincerely hope, do not have it in them to really haul off and smash a girl (even in a controlled environment). And for those boys who do have it in them, I really don’t think we should be encouraging such a tendency – certainly not in CYO!
I am okay with girls playing contact football. I am not okay with girls playing contact football with boys! Psychologically and emotionally, it is far too harmful to boys! Physically, it is flat out improper!
Assistant Football Coach
Saint Dorothy CYO, Drexel Hill, PA
Since this issue is not a matter a faith and morals, it is a matter in which the faithful can genuinely disagree with His Grace and still remain in good standing with the Church. But that good standing also requires that the faithful remain obedient and respectful towards their Prince. My views on this issue mirror those of most social conservatives and can be read in the comments section of the following CatholicPhilly.com Article: http://catholicphilly.com/2013/01/local-news/local-catholic-news/new-panel-to-study-girls-playing-football-management-of-cyo-system/comment-page-1/#comment-3916
Archbishop Chaput is our Bishop and as such has a right to, and indeed deserves our respect, obedience, and patience. Although we may disagree on this matter we must keep in mind that it is not a potentially serious error relating to a matter of faith and morals. We must also accept the fact that His Grace is doing what he honestly believes to be right. Notice that he has kept the door open to further revisions of this policy, which reflect his own humility in acknowledging that he may have to amend his own decision in the future. I would also support parents withdrawing their sons from the Philadelphia CYO football program as a respectful form of protest, and in the interest of teaching their sons their socially conservative and traditional family values. Refusing to allow their daughters to play will also serve this purpose to their daughter’s benefit.
We can in good conscious disagree, but we must remain obedient, respectful, and supportive of our Shepherd whom God has deemed appropriate to place over us. Beyond this issue, Archbishop Chaput has stepped into an extremely difficult and taxing position when he came to the Archdiocese of Philadelphia. Some of us may feel that he is wrong on this matter, and that is fine. But above all else we should pray for and support him.
The new Archbishop pick what he believes are professional, knowledgeable people for a committee and then says their decision is wrong. We now know that although he said he wouldn’t; He caved to outside pressure and he did!!
One last comment why do we allow any PUBLIC School child to take a position that a Parish school child might want. And don’t use the tuition argument, They live in a McMansion and chose to send there girl to public School. The Archbishop should return the CYO program to the parish school and give our school children a chance to play on THEIR TEAM I would like to see since she is completing 6th grade for her to take a religion test to see what she knows about the Faith I would bet she would FLUNK!!!!!
I am extremely disappointed with the Archbishops change on this. This is really ridiculous & wrong on every level! If the girls want to play, then let them form a girls team. Now the boys are going to most likely drop out from it, or there is going to be tons of law suits claiming that they were inappropriately touched, stared at, or sexually harassed by both the boys and the coach.
Parents and girls, GROW up! You are girls, or your kid is a girl! Deal with it & rejoice! Stop forcing this ridiculous sex envy agenda. What is next, letting the girls join the Boy Scouts? Or maybe the boys can wear the girls school uniform & skirt to school, because one kid wants to, and their goofy parent takes it to court?
Well said, Barbie. This is utter insanity!
I have also entered a post on this site. If you get a chance, please give it a read.
Thanks for your concern! This decision just has to be reversed.