In March, attempting to limit boys' effect on field hockey in Massachusetts was a rumored objective. In April, it became a reality.
According to the Boston Globe, the Massachusetts Interscholastic Athletic Association Field Hockey Committee universally approved a rule change which will dramatically limit the ability boys players have to impact field hockey games, which are traditionally all-girls affairs.
"I'm sick of boys dominating the game," Gloucester field hockey coach and athletic director Kim Patience told the MIAA Field Hockey Committee, according to the Globe.
Unless the new rule is rejected by the MIAA Board of Directors at its next meeting June 9 (and it is not expected to be), all of the following limitations will be placed on boys field hockey players:
• No boy is allowed to play inside the 16-yard semi-circle surrounding each goal (the striking circle).
• No more than two boys can be on the field for any one team at a given time.
• If a tournament game goes to overtime, only one boy at a time can take part in that 7-on-7 extra period.
• No boy can play as a goalkeeper.
Naturally, the rule changes are completely unprecedented, as they directly and intentionally discriminate against one group of people who are legally allowed to compete in a sport. Massachusetts isn't the only state where boys competing with girls in field hockey occurs, but the Bay State is the first to take organized action to limit their impact.
Even if the new Massachusetts rule is put into effect, there's no guarantee it would be in place for the start of the 2011 season. MIAA assistant director Sherry Bryant told the Globe she expected a legal challenge would be made against the ruling on the basis of the Equal Rights Amendment, and such a challenge would likely delay the rule's implementation to a time period beyond the start of the 2011 campaign.
Male high school field hockey stars have been a hot-button issue for a number of years, but gained additional traction this fall due to the exploits of a few different stars in the Northeastern United States. In Massachusetts, brothers Ben and Chris Menard starred for the South Hadley (Mass.) High team, nearly leading the Tigers to a state title. According to MassLive.com, Ben Menard, pictured above, led the entire Western Massachusetts region in scoring, netting 43 goals in just 21 games.
In Pennsylvania, a male star did lead his team to a state crown, with Cornelius Tietze completely dominating the 2010 season for Wyoming (Pa.) Seminary, including a long run through the state tournament that culminated in a state title.
No one in Massachusetts has openly advocated to completely bar male field hockey players … yet. Still, given the MIAA committee's willingness to openly campaign for such radical change, even an outright ban of all male players may not be off the table in the future.
"This is an issue of safety, equity, and liability," Reading (Mass.) High field hockey coach Mim Jarema told an earlier MIAA meeting at which the prospective rule change was brought up. "It's time for us to take up this challenge."