Teen misses senior season by birthday 12 hours too early

Cameron Smith
December 6, 2010

Adam Sisson is a high school senior. The teenager has spent his entire life dreaming of his senior seasons in high school sports, where he expected to be a star for the Eastern Montgomery (Va.) High football, basketball and baseball teams. Then, just days before his final high school year began, Sisson was given a shock: He was told that he was too old to play in Virginia high school sports by exactly 12 hours.

As a result, the senior -- who turned 19 on July 31, the cut-off date to be within an age deemed eligible -- has spent his fall semester on the football sidelines and in courtrooms, trying to challenge the Virginia High School League statutes in hopes of re-gaining athletic eligibility for at least some of his final high school year.

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According to WSET, WDBJ and the Roanoke Times, the senior had hoped to regain eligibility in time to play in at least one of Eastern Montgomery's football games, but a temporary restraining order filed by Sisson's father, Allen, to get the senior back on the field in time for the undefeated Mustangs' state semifinal game over the weekend was delayed Friday until Dec. 10, a date which officially ruled him out of the remainder of Eastern Montgomery's football season.

At the heart of Sisson's dispute against the state athletic association is the belief that the senior is being persecuted against for a learning disability. Sisson was forced to repeat the third grade because of that disability, which he and his father claim is justification for him to receive a unique hardship waiver that would allow him to continue playing despite his age.

Throughout the fall season, Sisson has sat on the sidelines in his No. 20 jersey, a part of the team essentially sidetracked into what would amount to a healthy scratch in hockey. The 19-year-old has practiced with the team, and was confident he could fit right in if he'd been granted the opportunity to play.

Since he wasn't given that chance, Sisson said he will keep cheering the Mustangs on from the sidelines, a fate which he and his father greeted with mixed emotions.

"Even if I don't play I'll still be on that team as a champion," Adam Sisson told WSET-TV. "No matter what. I'm still part of it, the team tells me... which I pretty much am. But I want to be a big part of it."

"I'm a little disappointed. But now we don't have to worry about the team being jeopardized, so that's OK," Allen Sisson told the ABC affiliate.

Now the duo will await the scheduled injunction hearing later this month, with the hope that Sisson will be given a chance to play on the Eastern Montgomery basketball team, at least until the state can challenge his application for a hardship waiver again.

"I think anybody would do the same thing for their son," Allen Sisson told WSET. "I'm fighting for my son... me and my wife both."

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