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Pittsburgh Tribune Review
The days of boys playing girls sports at area high schools is likely over.
The PIAA announced Friday its decision to approve a mixed-gender participation by-law that will, according to PIAA executive director Bob Lombardi, "expand opportunity for female athletes, protect the ideals of fair competition and conserve the health and safety of our female participants."
The new by-law, which will go into effect July 1, is the product of two years of study, surveys and legal challenges and judicial review. In recent years, there have been instances where boys played on girls field hockey and volleyball teams, which caused some parents and school officials to appeal to the PIAA in regards to it creating an unfair advantage, diminishing opportunities for girls and increasing risks of injuries for the girls.
"It was something that needed to be addressed," WPIAL executive director Tim O'Malley said. "Up until now, the state didn't have a position. They deferred to the schools to develop their own language as it related to cross-gender participation. And, quite frankly, schools were unable to effectively deal with it.
"Is it the cure-all for everything? Time will tell. I'm not so sure. We'll have to wait and see."
The process began when Mary Grenen, a Pittsburgh attorney and parent of a Fox Chapel field hockey player, appealed to the PIAA that something needed to change after watching the Foxes compete against Woodland Hills, which had three boys on its team in 2012.
Under the new rule, boys cannot play on a girls team if the school has a boys team in that sport.
For a boy to play on a girls team, the school principal must determine that: the athletic program provides fewer opportunities for boys to participate than girls; the boy would not displace any girls from the team's roster; the boy would likely not, due to physical size, ability or other characteristics, pose an increased risk of harm to opponents; and the boy would not provide a significant competitive advantage.
Because the PIAA doesn't have a mixed-gender classification, if a principal allows a boy to play on a girls team, that team would compete in that sport's boys regular season and postseason. This would mostly affect field hockey, which is why the PIAA voted to sponsor boys field hockey.
Girls who have played on boys tennis teams also will not be permitted to do so unless the school doesn't have a girls team.
There also have been instances in past years where girls competed on boys football and wrestling teams. That will continue to be permitted because the PIAA does not sponsor comparable girls teams for those sports.