Fifth-grade basketball team forced to end season due to "no girls" rule
For several years, a boys' basketball team in New Jersey has included two girls. Recently, the team of fifth-graders was given a difficult choice. They had to drop the girls, or give up playing for the rest of the season.
The team's decision was brave and inspiring.
Before a game last week, the players from St. John the Apostle school voted to skip their final two games and the postseason. They decided they would rather do that than play without two longtime teammates. "It's not fair that we get to move on but they can't," one of the boys said.
"It shows that they care," one of the girls said. "I'm part of them just as they're part of me."
"I think the rules are ridiculous," she added.
Girls Get Cut From Boys' Basketball Team
The team is part of the Catholic Youth Organization league, which includes teams from Catholic schools. Catholic schools and churches are divided into archdioceses. Each archdiocese is led by a cardinal, a Catholic church leader.
The head of the league met with the kids two weeks ago. The rules should have prevented the basketball team from ever having girls on it, he told them. Because the girls played on the school's team, its record that season was erased.
The children were told the girls could not play on the boys' team anymore. Even so, the whole St. John's team showed up for Friday's game against St. Bartholomew the Apostle. The game was delayed as parents and coaches tried to figure out what to do.
Team Votes To Stay Together
Eventually, a parent asked the question to the fifth-graders: "Is your decision to play the game without the two young ladies on the team? Or do you want to stay as a team as you have played all season, with the girls on the team?"
The children were asked to vote with a show of hands. All 11 hands went up in favor of staying "as a team."
The mother of one of the girls is also a coach with the team. She reminded the team that "this would be the end" of its season, including the playoffs. "It doesn't matter," one boy said.
After the St. Bart's team left the gym, St. John's players split into two sides, girls included. The game they played did not count but was filled with meaning for everyone there.
"These kids are doing the right thing," said a parent, who added that she was feeling "pure pride" in their decision. "We don't have to tell them what to do. They just know. It's amazing."
They Just Wanted To Play The Game
A spokesman for the archdiocese said the rules are clear that girls and boys cannot play on the same team. He said the head of St. John's athletic program had admitted he made a mistake. The man was wrong to let the two girls join the team several years ago, he said.
St. John's used to have a girls' basketball team, but the school got rid of it when not enough girls signed up to play. So the two girls joined the boys' team, which allowed them to keep on playing the game they love. On Friday, however, they had to settle for a show of team spirit.
"Everyone came together and supported each other," a St. John's parent told the team afterward. "That's what Catholic school and being a Christian is all about.
"What I see here is the reason why we send our children here," he said, fighting back tears.
UPDATE The Archdiocese of Newark's archbishop, Joseph Tobin, announced the girls are to be put back on the team, the two regular games that were not played are to be rescheduled, and the team is to remain together for the playoffs.