I Was That Girl
Published on May 13, 2012 by Sara Foss

Out of Arizona last week came the story of a high school baseball team that decided to forfeit a state championship game rather than play against a team with a girl, second baseman Paige Sultzbach. The fundamentalist Catholic school Our Lady of Sorrows decided that playing in the game would violate the school's mission to teach boys and girls separately - a mission they apparently seek to impose on everyone else. After all, nobody is forcing Our Lady of Sorrows to add girls to their roster.

This is a maddening story for numerous reasons, but I find it maddening on a personal level, because I was once Paige Sultzbach. Through much of middle school, I played on a boys soccer team. Sometimes I was joined by a few other girls. Sometimes I wasn't. In eighth grade, I was the only girl on my team. This meant I had to work twice as hard as everyone else, for less respect on the field. Was I the best person on the team? No. But I was OK, and sometimes even better than that. 

Let's back up a minute, though. Why did I play on a boys soccer team? Well, because I lived in a small town, and there weren't enough girls to field an all girls team. If girls wanted to play sports, they sometimes had to play with boys. I didn't live in a particularly liberal community - you could actually characterize it as fairly conservative - but nobody raised a fuss about the town's co-ed sports teams. They weren't a bunch of neanderthals, like the creeps at Our Lady of Sorrows. And this was over 20 years ago, when you might expect attitudes to be a little less evolved

Paige and her school are far more diplomatic about Our Lady of Sorrows pigheadedness than I would ever be. According to the news story about the controversy, Paige sat out two regular season games out of respect for Our Lady of Sorrow's medieval sensitivities. Paige's coach, Amy Arnold, said, "I respect their views, but it's a bit out of the 18th century." That's a nice thing to say. But completely unnecessary. There's no reason to respect Our Lady Of Sorrow's views. They're stupid. If the prospect of playing a team with a girl is so alarming, the school should quit the league, rather than demonize a 15-year-old girl.

As I said before, I used to be that girl. One of my happiest moments came during a double overtime championship game in middle school, when league rules required us to play five on five to break the tie. Normally I wouldn't have been selected to take the field, but our fifth-best player was having a subpar game, and I had been playing very well. When my name was called, I felt very proud. I had played better than most of my teammates that day, and my coach had recognized it. We lost the game, but we gave it all we had. Nobody objected to my presence on the field. I belonged there, and people knew it.

Good thing we weren't playing Our Lady of Sorrows. Of course, I would have loved to beat a school like that. Not that they'd ever give me the opportunity, but still.


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