Boys playing with, and against, girls on field hockey fields has been a contentious topic in Massachusetts for decades, mainly because of safety and competitive reasons.
There could be an equitable solution.
In its first meeting of the fall season, held virtually Tuesday morning, the MIAA’s field hockey committee approved, by a 13-0 vote, a rule-change proposal allowing the creation of boys' field hockey teams, in a 7-on-7 format. Rule 34 still needs to be approved by the association’s Board of Directors next spring. The proposal already has been approved by 11 other MIAA sport committees, as well as sports medicine and sportsmanship.
If approved, the rule would go into effect for the 2021-22 school year, but MIAA associate director Sherry Bryant does not expect an immediate creation of teams.
“I think we know with COVID and issues in schools, I don’t think any of us are going to believe that we’re going to see a large number of boys' teams to be created immediately in the upcoming fall,” said Bryant, who wrote the proposal. “But I think supporting this opened that pathway for those schools that are ready, or at least have that now highlighted, and they can start supporting a movement forward.”
Committee member Katherine Hennessy said the rule change would not prohibit boys from playing on girls’ field hockey teams.
“There was some interpretation, and I think among some superintendents I’ve had conversations with . . . they were feeling that we were going to be discriminating against boys and not allowing them on girls' teams. That does not change,” she said.
The committee also voted, 11-0, with two abstentions, against a rule change proposal that would have banned boys from playing on girls' field hockey teams.
The committee also approved a motion to stop running time in the second half of games with a five-goal deficit during the 2-minute break between quarters.
Gymnastics waits on winter
Five gymnastics programs in Western Massachusetts are successfully, and safely, competing in the Fall I season, Agawam, Chicopee Comprehensive, Hampshire Regional, Minnechaug Regional, and Westfield.
“It’s been an adventure, but overall it’s going OK, and it is getting better,” said John Plourde, director of athletics at Hampshire Regional in Westhampton. “Initially, the gymnastics team felt like it was in its own bubble.”
Following COVID guidelines, competition is limited to dual meets with no spectators. Equipment and mats are constantly sanitized, and each competitor must use their own chalk box.
But what is the outlook for the winter season for Eastern and Central Mass. programs?
“We are waiting for the state [for guidance],” said MIAA assistant director Ann Tryko.
The state’s office of Energy and Environmental Affairs (EEA) is expected to release its guidelines for winter sports at the beginning of next month.
Staff writer Craig Larson also contributed to this story.